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All That Glitters

Jewelry. This is the month when everyone needs some for gala nights on the town, for souvenirs of your Florida visit, for ways to make your everyday wardrobe zing with New Year optimism and passion. Jewels, both genuine and fun-faux, will do it every time. There is just something about all that sparkle and luster that carries over into one's attitude.

Jewelry Crafted for a Cause: Jewelry designer Claudia Strong lovingly manipulates lacquered recycled paper and thin copper wire to fashion magical, lightweight little butterfly pins that rest on a dress or jacket as lightly and as gracefully as, well, a butterfly. The inspiration for the collection was Strong's mother, Mamie, who loved butterflies and, when she was battling cancer, often talked about her admiration for the winged creature. The butterfly became her symbol of fragility and resourcefulness overcoming adversity with poise. Mamie told her daughter that when she died, she'd like to come back as a butterfly.

Today, Strong makes the pins, not for profit, but in loving memory of her mom. A portion of the proceeds of the butterfly pins supports a variety of breast cancer research and education. Strong herself was diagnosed with breast cancer four years ago. She began making the pins in 1995 and to date has crafted upwards of 7,000 of these chic little messengers of hope.

Find this joyous gathering of colorful butterflies at Bourne Jewelers, Gladiolus Gateway Mall, Fort Myers. 482-3501.

Clothe Your Eyes. That's the clever slogan of Cazal, a German eyewear company that creates high-fashion, daring, modern jewelry for your eyes in the form of fabulous frames priced at $300-$400. The look is jet-set sophisticated and anything but traditional. You'll covet Cazal for your prescription lenses and for your non-prescription sunglasses, too. But there's more stunning eye jewelry at Sterling Optical. Mark Schafe, manager of the store and licensed optician, told us that the champagne series from Caviar with crystals and fake animal skin on the frames are also fast sellers in the price range of $250-$400. Another Caviar model features rhinestone butterflies on the temple of the frames ($100).

But maybe the trendiest eyeglasses right now are those made by Silhouette. Crafted of titanium for the frames and polycarbonate for lenses, these rimless eyeglasses are practically weightless. They are the ultimate in artistic minimalism when it comes to eye jewelry. The look is so popular that virtually all the CNN-TV reporters have switched to wearing Silhouette glasses. When you try on a pair of Silhouette glasses, you will honestly forget they are on your face-except for when you catch a glimpse of yourself in a mirror. Then you'll be able to confirm just how chic and modern you look. See all the Silhouette frames at Sterling Optical, Edison Mall, Fort Myers.

Shell We Adorn Ourselves With Nature's Jewels? Shore thing. Ever since ancient times, people lucky enough to collect a fistful of shells have been crafting these natural jewels into necklaces, pins, earrings and headpieces.

At Island Shells, you'll have your pick of shell jewelry that's funky, fun and downright chic. And all of it is a bargain. The highest-priced jewelry item in the store is a $39 abalone necklace from the waters of New Zealand and Australia. Abalone from that region is a deep, rich blue with a mother-of-pearl luster that is quite amazing.

Employee Barbara March reminded us that we could get abalone from the Gulf of Mexico, too. Our Southwest Florida abalone is more greenish because of the warmth of the water and what the little critter feeds on. Abalone shells, you know, don't look like anything much when you haul them up from the water. Sort of like a crusty, ugly oyster shell. It must be acid-dipped for the rainbow colors of the shell to reveal themselves. At Island Shells, you can see what the abalone looks like before and after if you want to. Fascinating.

You'll also find cowrie necklaces and anklets ($4.95), conch shell rings ($1) and charms fashioned from various shells that have been dipped in liquid gold. They're only $1.95 each. Make your own bracelets, original earrings, or wear just one shell charm on a chain as a pendant. March says one of the most popular items in the boutique is a collection of coin purses made from scallop, moon or purple cowrie shells. Just $3.95 each and really good-looking.

The owner of Island Shells, Scott Ritchie, is a diver; and he personally harvests many of the shells that are for sale in the shop. Of course, government restrictions prohibit taking any Gulf of Mexico shell that still is inhabited by a living creature. Ritchie also has arrangements with diving families in the Philippines who collect for him as well as shrimpers in the local area who bring him shells.

And March does her part. She walks the beaches, selecting perfect shells that have washed up on our shores in Sanibel, Captiva and Fort Myers Beach. She cleans the shells with bleach and uses a dental pick to tenderly remove any debris. Then she sorts them by type and size and makes beautiful mirror frames for sale in the store. March also makes a lot of the night-lights you'll see.

Additionally, Island Shells features a handsome line of shark's teeth necklaces crafted by a young man who gets his fossil shark teeth from Venice Beach. Mixed with beads and strung on black cord, these one-of-a-kind necklaces sell for $7.50 and are extremely popular with male shoppers.

Some people regard shell jewelry as humorous, tacky-tourist stuff. Honestly, it is more. Each shell is a work of sculpture individually and naturally colored and patterned as if it were signed and numbered by some incredibly gifted artist. Browse the aisles and glass cases at Island Shells, 19170 San Carlos Bvld., Fort Myers Beach.

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