Frida Kahlo: Icon of strength against life adversities

She knew how to recover after a tragic accident that marked her life as a teenager. Back then many people started admiring her because of her bravery. However, the Mexican artista Fidra Kahlo (1907-1954) was much more than just a fighter. Nowadays she’s considered one of the most relevant women over the last century.

She was interesting, close and extremely independent. She actually was the pioneer about women emancipation. For many years people only saw in her the partner of a great Mexican muralist, the painter Diego Rivera, but her over 200 works have left a deep track in her contemporary colleagues as well as following generations.


Her wish of independency, far from Diego Rivera both economically and professionally, is the reflection of her innate artist heart. Of course Rivera and his way of understanding art influenced Frida, but studies showed that without him, she would have succeeded the same way.

Frida had a complicated life specially marked for that accident that kept her on bed for long periods of time as well as under constant surgeries. Her need of analyze herself through her art also was a way of over complicate things.


She left us before she was 50 years old, but the life that hit her also allowed her to enjoy really intense relationships – mainly sentimental- and also let her be witness of one of the most relevant cultural and political times in History.

She shared experiences with Picasso, André Breton or even Trotski. All of them admired her because of her magnetism. She was photographed many times accompanied by the pets she truly loved and wearing her well-known native costume. She used to show that way her love for Mexico. Her art is nowadays universal and her –strongly biographic- work has been showed in the best museums in the world.


In the 21st century Frida Kahlo is already an icon, not only because of her art though but for her humanity. That is what makes her different from Diego Rivera whose influence always was artistic and political.

Going deeper into Frida’s self-portraits is like read a fascinating biography. The accident where she broke her column in three parts would have finished with the wish of living in most of the cases but she went on. “I tried to drown my pains but they learnt how to swimm”, wrote a woman who rowed against adversity.

Artículo escrito por @Esther Ginés




“P” for “Peineta” or Spanish Haircomb

A “peineta” (the Spanish term for “haircomb”) is a female accesory similar to a comb with a convex boday linked to an area plenty of teeth. This accessory is meant to be put in place in a upsweep or low updo.

There’s proof of the use of this piece since Iberian women used it when living in the Iberian Peninsula. The flirty Roman women didn’t want to be less and also used to wear it on top of their complex and worked updo and hair braids.

Did you know they already used hair curlers back then? They were called “calmistrum” and it actually was a metal pipe that they placed over coal to warm it. Then the ointments did the rest of the work.

So yes, the beautiful Roman women used small combs to dress their hair.

The Spanish “peineta” were usually tortoiseshells. These pieces were very popular in some kind of celebrations like weddings, Holy Week processions, bullfightings, traditional parties and flamenco or copla shows.


The “peineta” is the perfect accessory for the laced shawls or “mantillas” since it highlights the beauty of the embroidery.

The most common comb models have ornamental curved (or squared somtimes) forms made in shell. Most of them have beautiful miniatures on them on shell. Nowadays however is mostly made in acetate or similar materials since turtles are in danger of extinction. Today there are only very few authentic shell-made tortoiseshells left.

Even more common today is the use of haircombs in silver to decorate the brides’ updo. Those were popularized back in the middle of the 19th century.

Nowadays you’ll easily find “peinetas” in silver with zircons, enamel, coral, semiprecious stones and even brass or gold.

The most valuable “peinetas” for collectors are those made back in the Imperial time in Golden brass and coral and also the art-nouveau style pieces from the beginning of the 20th century

With O: Object d’Art or Bibelot

An “Object of Art” is a small high quality decorative ítem, very valued by collectors. They are pieces often made in reach materials like gold, silver, semiprecious stones, porcelain, mother-of-pearl, coral or enamelwork.

Some of these pieces are made with the only purpose of staying over a display cabinet and being exhibited. Others, however, are made for the personal use of the owner but ended up in a glass cabinet anyway, due to the fineness of the piece or the high value.


The perfect cabinet to be placed on are elevated, to avoid being touched and covered by glass. These kind of cabinets are closed furniture that back in the past were used to keep safe silverware, porcelains or vintage books.

This way these especial pieces can be exhibited to the public in museums or personal houses, so they are protected against damage, dust or inexperienced hands.

The most frequent collections across the world are fans, little boxes or miniatures in porcelain, silver pieces, golden little statues with semiprecious stones and many other distinguish and exquisite pieces worth of being kept safe and well protected.


With N for: “Nacre

The nacre (also called mother of pearl) is the internal layer of the mollusc’s shells.

The seashells with the most beautiful nacre are the haliotidae and the nautilus. This material is so precious because it has gorgeous iridescent reflexions that make it proper to embellish jewelry, accesories and other very special decorations.

Within jewelry, the nacre is a material used for a long time, since the old civilizations like the iberian, Egyptian and Romans among others, started using it in order to decorate combs, swords handles, buttons or pieces of jewelry.

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It was during the 19th century when the use of nacre was popularised. Soon enough you might find it in bags, powder compacts, frames, cufflinks or missals. Since nacre is a material easy to sculpt many other jewels started coming out like beautiful cameos or delicate sculptures in earrings, crosses and buttons.

By the end of the 19th century and beginning of the 20th, the industrial revolution caused in Britain a boom in manufacture of buttons in nacre. In addition, this material has been always linked to fashion and accesories. It’s been used for ages to make buckles, bags or beautiful set of buttons for men, certainly very appreciated back in the time.

By mid of the 20th century, with the discovery of plastics and the termination of many of the mother of pearls deposits, the gorgeous nacre was replaced by imitations in plastic and acetate.

What you probably don’t know is that nacre is also very valued in cosmetic, since it’s commonly used to make lotions, soaps and to whiten unwanted spots on the skin.

Within jewelry made in nacre we can highlight the hand-sculpted crosses, the flowers used to decorate earrings, bracelets or cufflinks and the different pieces used to make brooches.

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With L: “Lapis Lazuli”

“Blue Gold” – Lapis Lazuli:

Sacred stone for antique Egyptians and commonly used in their temples, decorations and funeral ornaments. They actually thought it was a celestial material. It intense twilight blue and the white spots on it make it look like a starry sky.

After the Middle Age, the dust from the lapis lazuli – commonly named Azurite – became into a pigment very appreciated by artists and the fabric workshops.

However, it was during the Renaissance when this stone reached the condition of “blue gold” – four times as much as the price of gold – when masters started using it as a proper pigment in their paintings. Leonardo da Vinci or Alberto Durero were some of the distinguished artists who inmortalized its delicate colour. Then, the use of it spread out across the workshops of the epoque. There it was used to dye fabrics thanks to the quality and beauty. Among the most well-known cabinetmakings also started using it with decorative purposes.

The name came from the latin “lapis” (stone} and the arab word “azul”, with the same meaning. It was considered as a symbol of purity, health, good luck and nobility.

Let me give you a piece of advice for you not to be mislead when buying an original (or plastic) lapis lazuli: The authentic lapis lazuli doesn’t burn easily, so if you put a lighter on close to the edge of the stone won’t get any damage.




With J: Jewel or “Jewelry”

Today, let me talk from my own experience. To me, a jewel is a piece that given its sentimental value is worthy of being considered such, regardless of the economic price of the material the piece is made of. In addition, “jewelry” is to me the art of creating accessories in gold, silver, platinum or precious pearls.

Traditionally jewels have been used by men and women as a distinctive sign of power and social status. Although females are more likely to wear jewels, men also have many pieces to enjoy like cufflinks, rings, bracelets…

The value of a jewel is determined by the metal it has been made of, as well as the weight, the carve, the purity and the colour of the parts on it.

Within the jewelry I differentiate two categories: It’s not the same talking about an ancient hand-made jewel than talking about newest pieces that include a mechanic process in its creation.


Back in 1805 Napoleon Bonaparte ordered to Etienne Nitot the design and creation of his own coronation jewels. That was the begining of the jewelry in the 19th century, using totally different techniques. That year accentuated the line between the hand-made art and the modern jewelry. Brands like Cartier, Tiffany, Bulgari and Fabergé opened their first stores in Paris, New York, London and Moscow.  It was the beginning of the most fruitful era in jewels design and fabrication.

Over the 19th century it was common working the 9, 12 and 15 carats gold. From 1850 onwards the machines appeared to help reduce costs. Years after, the Industrial Revolution changed materials and techniques, adding stainless steel, titanium, plastics, fiberglass, ceramic or wood.

Further on we’ll talk about costume jewelry and we’ll try to explain the differences between these two concepts.


With “I” for “Inca”

Inca: Ancient’s inca jewelry, from the pre-Columbian era.

Indian tribes used to make this sort of jewelry with different techniques, depending of the region. The most common material they used was gold or tumbaga (name given by Spaniards to a non specific alloy of gold and copper)

They loved making pendant necklaces, accessories for the nose, ears, masks and so on.

Most of the pieces left are in the Gold Museum of Bogota. The pieces were found in archaeological excavations. Sadly, a huge amount of them were melted by the Spaniards conquerors and taken to Spain as a gift to the Royal Family.


Inca Jewelry comes from some regions in Bolivia, Ecuador and the north of Chile. Historians think it lasted from 1200 until the Spanish conquest by Francisco de Pizarro and the fall of Cuzco in 1533.

When the Inca emperor Atahualpa went in 1532 to Cajamarca to converse with Pizarro, was put in jail. Then Pizarro didn’t have enough and hid a huge amount of gold gathered by the Incas to rescue their emperor. That gold also was melted and sent to Spain in ingots.

Fortunately, a few pieces eluded the catastrophe.

This jewelry was manufactured only to be given away to gods and the emperor.

Have a look at the images to know better this pre-Columbian art.

With C: for Coral

My Vintage Dictionary:

Coral: According to the Dictionary, “corals are formed by small animals, the polyps of the phylum Cnidaria. They are marines, either on continental shelves or round oceanic islands. They live in colonies divided by red or rosy limestone.

However, today I would like to focus on the Corallium Nobile coral which is the specimen that master jewellers have been using over the History, the most exclusive and precious coral out of the kind. The development of these sorts of colonies is extremely slow; it grows an average of 2 – 5 millimetres a year. If you take also into account that the collection is nowadays restricted you’ll understand why this material is so expensive.

This precious coral is gathered manually and only the bigger sticks will be used for jewellery purposes, although still they’ll have to let them grow even more. In order to fish it, professionals must go down as deep as 150 metres in some cases.

Nobile Coral is usually red with shades in dark red. It rarely appears in a pale pink. The one called Angel Skin Coral is the most precious amongst them and also, very special. The word “coral” is used as well to name this entire colour range.

Coral jewels have been found in ancient Egyptian and prehistoric burials. Plinio left written that the Gallic population already used it to adorn their weapons. Also romans loved to wear their kids with a collar made with coral to preserve them from any danger. They thought it had curative attributes against snake or scorpion bites.  The belief of coral as an amulet actually went on through the entire Middle Age up to the beginning of the 20th Century. Nowadays Italians keep using it against the bad luck or evil eye. Women also wear it to beat the infertility.

It’s precisely there, in Italy where you’ll find the cradle of the coral craftsmanship, exactly in Torre del Greco, a little town that still today keeps the same tradition over the centuries, even after nine Vesuvius eruptions.

Due to its softness and opacity, coral is either cut in cabochon or used to make beads.


How to care for coral:

  • The only way to clean it at home is to rub it very gently with a cotton cloth either dry or a bit wet. In order to make it more shining you can use neutral soaps and wash it up straight away. Also dry it carefully.
  • In case the coral missed its bright you only will be able to take it to professionals to make it shine as usual.

Let me finish with a collection of photos about jewels made with nobilis coral: earrings, rings, cufflinks and combs. As you can see this precious material can be used to make a huge variety of jewellery work… Don’t miss how many sublime tones Nature gives us.



With B: Brazalete (Cuff Bracelet)

“My Vintage Dictionary”

The use of cuff bracelets dates back to Mesopotamia and Ancient Egypt. It was the period in which men dressed with their arms uncovered, so these served to adorn them as a symbol of power and status.

We know that the Greek soldiers adorned the upper part of their arms, between the elbow and the shoulder, with defensive straps of leather decorated in gold, silver and semi-precious stones called “Bracels”, from the Latin word “Brachium” meaning arm.

Greek women also used this accessory, but in smaller and more flattering versions called “Bracel-ets”.

This fashion began to spread and grow, and with the passing of centuries and the changes in ways of dressing, the cuff bracelet began to be worn around the wrist in order to be able to show it off with long-sleeved dresses. From then on, it simply became known as the bracelet.

Three types of cuff bracelets exist: open ones, closed ones and those in the form of a spiral or serpent.





In Forcall, two surprising things happened to me

In Forcall, two surprising things happened to me. The first was meeting Pep Orti. Pep stopped me in the street, it was 9:00am and I had been taking shots of the small treasures I was discovering around the town. His invitation was direct: “if you like photography, perhaps you would like to photograph my museum”. After passing by the hotel for breakfast I quickly returned, I soon found myself inside a small premise on the street of with traditional town houses of this area.

Pep’s small museum had been created upon his father’s (Florenci Orti) initiative. A wide space with very high ceilings, and a dim and subtle light that encased each piece, different tools of all types and periods including traditional farming tools, which Florencio had been collecting and restoring throughout his entire life. Pep told me how the majority of the pieces exhibited there had arrived in his hands; through small exchanges and bartering with the neighbors in the area. A lifetime of compiling and restoring all sorts of tools traditionally used for slaughters, grapevine cultivation, transport, shoemaking, farming…



Florenci, now retired, is an espadrille expert as was his wife and parents. All of them created the traditional “espardeñas” (– a traditional canvas shoe with a hemp or jute sole secured to the foot by straps). These shoes, worn by all in Forcall and the rest of the region, were used for both parties and work. Pep continues and maintains this tradition, sporadically doing workshops for those interested in this shoemaking craft. That exact same weekend he had planned to do one, and had prepared all the material ready to receive his students who were each going to leave with a beautiful pair of espadrilles handcrafted by them.

The top part of the premises accommodates a very complete exhibition of tools used to treat the fibers and all other tasks carried out by an espadrille maker. Pep’s father’s, mother’s and grandmother’s work seats are all exhibited there, like a small display of espadrilles from different periods.

I left with a fantastic feeling, excited to see how someone had had the sensitivity to select, compile, and classify all those elements that had formed part of the work, culture and life of the town with so much care and attention. It is these little stories that are able to make me happy and give sense not only to one day but to a whole trip. These small stories are the ones that reach me deep inside and it also excites me to hear about the main characters in them.

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I leave you with some images that I captured while Pep explained to me, in full detail, the history of each and every piece displayed there upon his father, Florenci’s, initiative.

Many thanks to Florenci for compiling and ordering all these small testimonies of the life and work of his region, and also to Pep for maintaining, caring for, and spreading his legacy with so much careful attention.

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