By Nadine Kam
A garden of jade flower rings by Nikolai Tsang of Jade by Nikolai. — Nadine Kam photos
We can always trust jewelry designer Nikolai Tsang to come up with the best theme parties. Her latest invite came in the form of a weathered-looking swatch of fabric offering a date, time and password: Jade by Nikolai, for entering her Speakeasy.
Apparently, nearly a hundred years since the era of Prohibition, some people don't know what a speakeasy is. As guests arrived, some asked, "Were we supposed to dress up?"
Yeah! In Roaring '20s style consistent with the gangster era, when a nationwide ban on the sale, production, importation, and transportation of alcoholic beverages from 1920 to 1933 led to a boon in illegal alcohol sales by the likes of Al Capone and Bugs Moran.
Speakeasies were underground establishments that illegally sold alcohol.
The theme was appropriate for a year that seemed to be marked by a fascination for the 1920s, beginning with the anticipation for Baz Luhrmann's film interpretation of "The Great Gatsby," and ending with the start of the TV mini series "Bonnie & Clyde," set to begin airing Dec. 8 on A&E, Lifetime and the History Channel.
Tables were draped with pearls and white plumes, while in the back there was a makeshift bar and barrels for decor.
The prohibition movement, also known as the dry crusade, was led by religious groups that gave rise to temperence groups that associated liquor with moral decay and prostitution. If all of this seems far and away, it should sound very familiar. It's interesting to note how similar the 1920s are to this time, from the economy to the religious fervor over same-sex marriage and saving our souls from marijuana. Never mind that the current war on drugs has only led overseas thugs to profit from our misery. History does repeat itself for those who never learn its lessons.
Interestingly, I read a study of the politics of alcohol a while back, and it was noted that cultures who view alcohol as a normal, accepted part of life, such as enjoying a glass of wine at the dinner table, have no problems with alcohol. It's only those nations that look at it as an evil that have problems with alcoholism, because by casting it in an evil light, it is construed as something to seek, covet and hide when in such judgmental company.
Nikolai Tsang helps one of her clients trying on a lariat of leather and black pearls. They are both wearing her jade watch and jade bead bracelets.
But, this party was about fun and raising funds for the Laulima Giving Program, not politics, and guests walked into a cavernous warehouse whose entrance was blocked by Hank's Haute Dogs truck, offering Chicago or lobster dogs to party goers. For those on the outside though, the giveaway that something special was going on withing the industrial space was the presence of valets and umpteen cars.
There was lots of food from Hank's, The Pig & The Lady, Kau Kau Grill and pizza, but women mostly spent hours poring over Nikolai's jade, diamond and gemstone pieces for the holidays. As I looked at the jewelry, many one-of-a-kind pieces, I was told to get them before someone else does.
I was thinking, "What are the odds someone will have the same taste as me?" Though I should know by now my taste, though eclectic, is not unusual. As one boutique-owner friend noted, everything I touch sold immediately afterward, and she always invited me to come to her store and touch stuff.
As it turns out, I was eyeing an unusual diamond ring that formed an X on the finger. At $1,500, I didn't think it would be snatched up so quickly, but sure enough, by my second round, it was sold! I didn't even get to take a picture of it.
Joanne Koyanagi tries convincing her husband Mike that she needs this pearl necklace.
Nikolai with KHON's Trini Kaopuiki, who heads the television station's Laulima Giving Program. Proceeds from sales at the event will allow Jade by Nikolai to adopt 12 to 20 families in need, and fulfill their Christmas wishes.
Multi-color pearls with jade dragonfly.
A Bollywood-ready piece.
Tara Chang shows some of her Jade by Nikolai pieces.
Arthur Murray Dance Studio instructors Jacob Himoto and Jessica Dzienkowski showed their moves to 1920s-style jazz rhythms.
J.R. Guieb with Malynne Simeon.
Anjanette and Kapena Gilding.
I never wear jewelry to Nikolai's parties, so I can try on pieces like this pearl lariat without getting tangled.
The Pig & The Lady's famous pho French dip.
Ribs and garlic shrimp from Kau Kau Grill.