Coreen Cordova's San Francisco charm
Coreen Cordova shares an insider’s itinerary of Fog City and talks about her inspired designs
Coreen Cordova has been making her tiny charms — from cowboy boots and bucking broncs to feathers and Buddhas — for the last nine years. These aren’t the trinkets on your mom’s charm bracelet: Cordova backs hers with sterling silver and hooks that allow the charms to be moved from bracelet to necklace and then back again. The mix-and-match idea, Cordova says, is to “have the jewelry be a self-expression of the wearer rather than the person who made it.” She lives in a city that encourages self-expression: San Francisco, a never-ending source of inspiration. C&I recently sat down with Cordova in the City by the Bay to get her take on her town and her charming line of jewelry.
Cowboys & Indians: Before you got into jewelry, you were a well-known makeup artist, with your own cosmetic line, Coreen Cordova Cosmetics. You appeared on Geraldo, Sally Jesse Raphael, and Joan Rivers, and then became the national spokesperson for Amway’s cosmetic line. You were at the top of your game. Why did you quit?
Coreen Cordova: For 14 years, I woke up in a hotel room nearly every day. I got tired of it. I had no life. So I quit. I was 54.
C&I: Why charms?
Cordova: When I was 6 years old in the 1950s, my parents gave me a charm bracelet. Every time there was an important event in my life, they gave me a charm. It was a symbol of my life and what I loved. My favorite charm was one I got when I was 8 years old. It was a teeny little eyeglass case — an oblong case that opens in the middle, and on top of it, it says, “Love is blind.” When you pop it open, there’s a teeny pair of glasses inside.
C&I: Your personal style, like your jewelry, is eclectic. ...
Cordova: Yes, I’m an eclectic dresser and end up shopping when I’m on the road somewhere in the world. What I love most is combining looks that have nothing in common but strong color. Mexican huipils under cowboy shirts with vintage hand-painted skirts with sequins. Hand-embroidered Chinese jackets — I collect them — paired with Guatemalan vests with my Western necklaces, jeans, and cowboy boots! Big belts worn on the hip and layers of long beads with charms is my favorite look of the moment. If I’m going subtle or sophisticated, then I usually shop Saks Fifth Ave in San Francisco; the “basics” that I wear come mostly from there. Since I dress a bit unusual, I often will wear my chunky necklaces over bright colors and patterns. But to really show off my colorful and expressive jewelry, it’s best paired with solid color.
C&I: How does the jewelry people wear reflect who they are or how they feel about themselves?
Cordova: The clothes we wear tell others who we are. With style and color choices, we give out a lot of information about who we are, our personalities, and how we want others to relate to us. Jewelry does the same thing. I’m in pearls, so it’s business. I’m in brown wooden spheres, so I’m casual and relaxed. I’m in colorful plastic beads, so I’m playful. Charms have meaning. Each charm I create tells a story, and when you put them together in a collection, you have a book — an open book about who you are, what you like, and where you are going.
C&I: Why do charms never seem to go out of fashion?
Cordova: Most charms are small and there’s something about miniatures that women just love. Beyond that, there’s an element of memory and keepsake that keeps charm collecting alive. We love being reminded of what was, and is, important to us — our first love, wedding, a new house, a new baby boy, the great vacation. With one glance at a treasured charm, we’re transported back to that special time. Charms not only have meaning in our lives, but they can tell the world who we are, what we like, and what’s important to us.
• Info: Coreen Cordova Jewelry www.coreencordova.com
The Golden Gate Bridge spans 1.7 miles, including approach structures.
Jack Hollingsworth / San Francisco Convention & Visitors Bureau
The Charm Of San Francisco
Coreen Cordova shares an insider’s itinerary of Fog City.
• Five things Every Visitor Must See “The new [California] Academy of Sciences — completely rebuilt with sustainable architecture. Chinatown. The famous cable cars — take a ride down to Fisherman’s Wharf and then back to Union Square. The Ferry Building on the Embarcadero. And either the de Young Museum or the Asian Art Museum [of San Francisco] — or both! Also, I love shopping Union Square, Hays Street [in Hays Valley], Fillmore Street, Sacramento Street, and Union Street. Each has its own special flair and flavor.”
• A Favorite Romantic Spot “One of the finest and most romantic places in San Francisco is [Restaurant] Gary Danko. Not only is the food the best in all of San Francisco, but the service makes you feel like royalty!”
• Best Place To Hike “Probably the best is leaving the City and going across the Golden Gate Bridge to Mount Tamalpais. There are endless hiking spots there, but the Matt Davis Trail is one of the best, with breathtaking views of Marin and the City. And there’s the Mountain Home Inn (www.mtnhomeinn.com) to stop in on the mountain for good food and more great views.”
• Best Brunch “The [Garden Court at the] Palace Hotel has a magnificent Sunday brunch with every kind of food — from Chinese dim sum to crab Louie — that San Francisco is famous for. It’s in the old ballroom, which is so beautiful and elegant, and they have a jazz band performing to top it all off.”
• A great Sunday Afternoon “I’d let the early morning fog burn off and then head for the farmers market around the Ferry Building on the Embarcadero. Grab a high-octane coffee drink and check out the local vendors and then mosey around the Ferry Building, checking out the latest food and wine samplings, the newest books and kitchen gadgets, ending up at The Slanted Door for a spectacular lunch. Afterwards, I’d head for the North Beach area and check out the local beat and see the matinee of Beach Blanket Babylon at Club Fugazi; every local should see this crazy and wacky satire at least once every five years! After that, head over to Tosca [the famed cafe depicted in the movie Basic Instinct] for a decaf cappuccino and brandy. Decaf? Yep, you’ll need to go to bed soon!”
• Best Newsstand “Fog City News has more than 700 foreign periodicals — Italian Vogue, Paris Match, and Hello! among others — and lots of artisan chocolate bars to nibble on while you’re there. With your magazines, you just might need Askinosie [Chocolate’s] Davao ... white chocolate bar with pistachios; Amedei’s Porcelana bar, made with Venezuelan chocolate; and Valrhona’s Manjari Orange bar with chocolate from Madagascar.”
• Best Thing About Living In San Francisco “First of all, San Francisco is probably one of the most beautiful cities in the world. When I was traveling extensively and told people where I was from, I always got ‘Oh, yes, the most beautiful place I’ve ever been!’ So, there’s universal agreement with that. Besides all the unique restaurants and sights, you also have, within close proximity, the Lake Tahoe area for winter and summer sports, the Carmel area for ocean and art, and the wonderful wine country of Napa and Sonoma. Land, ocean, mountains, good weather, friendly people — what’s not to love about living in the Bay Area?”