For over a century, Virginia Robinson's extraordinary gardens have delighted all who stepped across the threshold of her now historic home. The Friends are no strangers to how dazzling the gardens are throughout the year, from the bucolic Rose Garden to the tranquil Australian King Palm Forest to the inspiring Italian Terrace Garden, whose vibrant hues in every shade imaginable entice the eyes and soothe the soul.
For Beverly Hills jeweler Douglas Kazanjian, whose mother Virginia has been a Friend of the Gardens for over two decades, the Virginia Robinson Gardens offers an abundance of inspiration. At the 2010 VRG Patron Gala: “Jewels and All that Jazz,” the Friends honored the family. The Kazanjian Foundation, represented by Michael, Virginia, Douglas and Michelle Kazanjian, was the recipient of the “Spirit of Beverly Hills” Award.
In April 2020 – for the second time – Doug ventured into the gardens with his Nikon D850 camera and an abundance of fine jewels with the intention of capturing Kazanjian gems showcased in creative ways. “As a photographer taking pictures of gems, there’s not a better place in the world to go,” he said.
The result of his most recent photographic forays – which he calls his “Quarantine in the Spring” project – is a photo book of gems and jewels artfully posed against the Gardens’ unique and colorful flora. The book, “Garden of Jewels,” which he gives free of charge to clients and friends, deftly juxtaposes gemstones like rubies, emeralds, diamonds and sapphires, against the backdrop of the Gardens’ sublime natural beauty.
Doug highlighted how last year’s rains had made the Gardens' bloom particularly colorful. Indeed, the wildflowers outside the entrance – which VRG Superintendent Tim Lindsay spearheaded planting to replace the water-thirsty front lawn several years ago – had a particularly robust bloom last spring.
A photographer since high school before the dawn of digital cameras when developing photos meant hours inside a cocoon-like dark room, Doug has steadily cultivated his eye toward beauty. And he is hard-pressed to find a more beautiful setting than Virginia Robinson Gardens. “Gems in the Garden are so unusual, and it’s so eye-catching,” he said. “It was amazing because I was out in this beautiful garden taking all these pictures.”
Doug still recalls fondly his first experience at the Gardens when his mother was honored a decade ago. But it wasn’t until he started photographing there that he realized just how deeply he loved the Gardens. “Without the photography, I never would have appreciated it,” he said. “The variety of flora there is just unbelievable.”
Doug began his journey of photographing jewels in nature while visiting Aspen five years ago and letting the sun’s natural light illuminate the depth of the gems amidst plants, flowers, logs and stems. Shortly thereafter, he created his first book from a photoshoot in the Gardens which he donated to the Friends as a fundraiser. The books are simple – just beautiful photographs with a description of the jewelry.
“Jewelry obviously looks the best on a woman or a man, but sometimes that’s very distracting (for a potential client) because the person doesn’t look like them,” Doug said. Plus, a studio setting is markedly less interesting than the backdrop afforded by nature, he added.
Over the years, Doug’s thirst for beautiful settings has only continued to increase, and amidst the lockdown last spring, the Gardens offered not only the perfect canvas, but a soulful refuge from the pandemic.
In photographing the Kazanjian jewelry, Doug tries to pair the gems with flora of complementary or similar coloring. In a particularly satisfying match, Doug photographed violet sapphires (his favorite) with violet and blue cornflowers in the Gardens.
For emeralds, which Doug characterized as the most challenging gem to adroitly capture in a photograph, pairing the stones with pink or orange backdrops allows them to showcase their inherent tendrils of blue and chartreuse which flicker in the sunlight to enliven the jewels.
Doug, who grew up in the world of fine jewelry and now helms the century-old Kazanjian Jewelry empire, opened Kazanjian Beverly Hills in 2019 on Camden Drive – currently open by appointment – which he characterizes as a gem gallery.
“Gems last for generations, so when you give somebody a gemstone, the memory of the gift goes from you to the person, then to their children, then to their children, and on and on. And that’s something very unique when you give gems,” he said.
Likewise, the Gardens showcase nature’s jewels and provide everyone who visits with memories for a lifetime.
Post by Laura Coleman
Friends of Robinson Gardens Member
Photos by Doug Kazanjian