On a recent train ride to Toronto, I was lucky to be seated next to a charming goldsmith who’d been in Montreal for the weekend teaching a jewellery workshop.  After exchanging mutual admiration for each others trinkets and baubles, my traveling companion gushed about Montreal’s flourishing scene of talented local designers. I had to agree! One of our city’s best is Julia Vallelunga, who launched her La Raffinerie Spring / Summer collection at Boutique Unicorn during a cheerful and bustling 5 à 8 on March 8th. The store’s elegant black and white decor provided a perfect backdrop for the bold and vibrant colours of this season’s line, aptly named Frida, because it was inspired by the brilliant hues and style of Mexican artist Frida Kahlo, along with the vivid scenery of South America.

While the dangling drop earrings are lovely, the necklaces are the standout pieces. Hanging from a gold chain that clasps behind the neck, wound ribbon or glossy rope provides a burst of colourful contrast to the warm brass rings that anchor a delicate cascade of deep blue and green gemstones, turquoise, or opaque crystals. In keeping with the season’s theme, each necklace is named after a South American place, the brass rings and beads create the impression of ancient Aztec gold, and the crescent shape of gems and stones makes a girl feel like a Mayan goddess. Though these necklaces create a striking impression, you don’t need an Amazonian stoicism to wear them; basically, you can make a statement comfortably without feeling like you’re carting around five pounds of jewels.   

The Frida — arguably the star of the collection — features a cluster of ruby raw silk flowers that might have been plucked from the tropical lushness of Kahlo’s own aesthetic. The designer smartly sported this piece with a simple, creamy lace shirt and jeans, demonstrating the versatility of her jewellery: it can be paired with a casual outfit as easily as a cocktail dress. I couldn’t resist buying The Medillin, with its glacial blue gemstones dangling between brass rings on a light silvery white ribbon. The flashier Lima necklace is my next big temptation; I love the energetic turquoise stones set against shiny brass and bright red ribbon.  A simple pair of gold hoops provides the perfect complement to these stunning pieces. 

You can check out the collection on Julia’s website, where you can also buy online or discover which boutiques sell these trendy and local designs.  Prices range between $80.00 to $140.00.

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