Ruiz Necklace. Photo courtesy of Paula Mendoza.

Paula Mendoza’s jewelry is not for the faint of heart. In other words, no wallflowers need apply. With rings showcasing oversize raw semi-precious stones, necklaces of bold silk multi-layered rope chains and medallions, gold Cleopatra-worthy chandelier earrings that measure three-and-a-half inches long, we’re not talking sweet and dainty here.

“They are statements that are going to be conversation pieces everywhere they are worn,” Mendoza says. “They are for the woman that feels very comfortable about herself, and of course, loves fashion!”

Fusion earrings. Gold vermeil over sterling silver accented with labradorite stones. Photo courtesy of Paula Mendoza.

Since moving to the D.C. area four years ago, Mendoza has cultivated and refined her jewelry line,  making a name for herself locally and internationally. Today, she is sold at fine retailers across the country and overseas.

She credits her native Colombia as a major inspiration and sources many of her materials from the Latin American country.

“Seeing the power of each emerald’s green, one can’t but think about how to capture it in a jewel,” Mendoza says.

Her latest Cave of Wonders collection, however, was wholly inspired by a trip to Vietnam.

“I had taken a trip to Vietman last winter and I went to this beautiful place in Halong Bay that for me was the most powerful and inspirational place,” Mendoza says.”The Cave of Wonders cavern is amazing.”

Mendoza translated what she saw on that visit  into chandelier earrings of dripping gold stalactites, rings of claw-like gold stalagmites gripping raw precious and semiprecious stones, and web-like bangles of hammered silver suspending onyx stones.

Muso ring. Sterling silver coated wtih 24K gold vermeil ring with raw emerald stone. Photo courtesy of Paula Mendoza.

The baby of her collection? The Ruiz necklace, and it’s no suprise why. Three textured gold medallions cradling raw emeralds and diamonds clasped together in a what is almost an understatement to call a necklace.

Mendoza works with the finest materials, using semi-precious and precious stones. Her attention to detail and craftsmanship sets her apart from the pack, and this latest collection is no exception.

Although much of her inspiration comes from travel abroad, you can often find her in local D.C. haunts, looking for her next “big thing.”

Enredadera bangle. 24K gold over sterling silver with onyx stones. Photo courtesy of Paula Mendoza.

“I do find inspiration locally in coffee shops, museums and vintage stores,” Mendoza says. And, with a new Commander in Chief, she has found the city reinvigorated, and friendlier to its more fashion-driven and creative inhabitants.

“I absolutely find D.C. welcoming (to creativity), and even more so right now. Nothing is cooler than working in the same city as Obama!” she laughs. “A  lot of young people are moving to D.C., giving it energy.”

There’s no stopping Mendoza either. She has already launched, with a friend, a men’s cufflinks line. She also is working on a new collection, which she coyly says is “inspired by London,” and has two other jewelry projects in the works: a more commercial line and a more artistic line.

Andalucia earrings made of sterling silver coated with 24K gold matte finish. Photo courtesy of Paula Mendoza.

“I started doing it on the side, just in my free time, and then it became a full time job,” Mendoza says.” And of course I’m loving every minute of it.”

So are we, Paula, so are we.

Paula Mendoza jewelry is available online and  locally at Muleh on 14th Street in Washington, D.C. and Saks Jandel in Chevy Chase.