Thursday, August 9, 2012

Belle Etoile Shines Like A Design Star

Almost everyone knows that Belle Étoile means "beautiful star" in French. And the reason is Cher Tae.

As a second generation master jeweler with more than 30 years of experience, she was inspired during her travels to Milan and Paris. Instead of looking to the outside world to create a new brand of jewelry, she looked for something that could connect with the inner self.

In 2004, she launched what already feels like a timeless line under the Belle Étoile brand. And every year, it seems, the designs continue to shine brighter. Many of them are much more high quality designed pieces. Some of them cut deep enough to touch human emotions like works of art.

The craftsmanship of elegant lace designs is striking.

Over the years, Tae and her designers at Belle Étoile have created some remarkable designs, but perhaps none of them is as striking as the alluring look of lace to express imagination and femininity.

Belle Étoile has carried the idea across several collections, including the Anastacia and Fleur de Lace, two designs that seemed to emanate from the earlier Royale Ball collection. That collection featured hand-painted black Italian enamel with white stones set into sterling silver. It was a great design.

But then it didn't take long for the patterns to change, evolve, and become something even more striking. While many designers were creating fun patterns with stones, enamels, and zirconia (Belle Étoile included), she seemed to elevate the standard by simplifying the designs.

The evolution of an elegant design, all equally timeless.  

The Royale collection. It seems obvious that initial designs from the Royale collection were partly inspired by the mantling or lambrequin that is sometimes associated with a coat of arms. Mantling was a cloth that used to protect a knight's helmet from the elements.

While that may sound masculine, the imagery has taken on new meaning to become associated with royalty. It's easily conveyed as such in the Royale collection by Belle Étoile, which immediately followed the original Royale Ball collection. Cast in several colors, the design generally consists of two enamels and inset zirconia.

The Fleur de Lace collection. Bearing some inspiration from the fleur-de-lis, Belle Étoile takes advantage of the timelessness associated with the stylized lily that became associated with the French monarchy and others. The fleur-de-lis had other symbolic meanings too, specifically representing three classes of society. You won't necessarily find that meaning in the Belle Étoile collection, but it's fun to know.

Instead, the fleur-de-lis styling is recast to incorporate a lace-like pattern, often set in contrasting whites and blacks framed in silver. But like the Royale collection, they work equally well reversed in other colors.

The Anastacia collection. The newest collection to evolve from this idea is called Anastacia. Although it breaks with the simplicity of the earlier pieces, this new design adds a noticeable wave to a resin base and then adds intricate sterling silver filigree accented with zirconia.

The design is still reaching some retailers but has already won awards. While some of the new pieces like the necklace might come across as cumbersome for women who prefer smaller designs, the cuff-like bangle stands out in a unique and interesting way.

Three Collections From Belle Étoile Shine 7.2 On The Liquid Hip Richter Scale. 

What really works well here is that the designs might be striking but are still within reach. Although they look elegant, all of them can be considered everyday wear. Most of Belle Étoile consists of colored enamels, zirconia, and silver rather than more expensive stones. At yet, most people won't notice beyond asking where you found it.

The Royale and Fleur de Lace collections can be found at Reeds Jewelers. The retailer is one of several American success stories, originally founded by Bill and Roberta Zimmer in 1946. Today, it is still family owned, with retail stores in 18 states. The newer design will likely be added in the months ahead.
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