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Best Handcrafted Jewelry 

Jessica Mendels

Is Jessica Mendels a gifted artisan or a slave laborer? Hard to tell. But one thing's for sure: She's having trouble keeping up with demand for her handcrafted jewelry. Probably because these are not your run-of-the-mill necklaces and earrings. The unique pieces are created from real flower petals, gorgeous specimens of bougainvillea, rose, begonia, and jasmine. The flowers, with all their vibrancy and color, are preserved in a process about which Jessica is very tight-lipped. The petals are then strung together with sterling-silver findings and chain. Like the flowers themselves, no two pieces are alike. If you wear one, prepare to be stopped by strangers on the street. The beautiful blossoms come from her mother's Maryland garden. (Her mom's name is Iris. Go figure.) At first, it was just a hobby, but now Jessica is buried in orders. Her craft appears in about a dozen stores, including Ruby Gallery, Offbeat, and Gallery of Jewels, and at her Web site. She works in her studio, hunched over, painstakingly creating each piece by hand. But she must enjoy it, since she never complains and refuses to raise prices.


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