Bejeweling Blitzer

Published 12:00 am Wednesday, November 26, 2008

NATCHEZ — Take a stroll past the bronze deer and bears and walk up the front steps of the Towers to be greeted by a pair of reindeer.

Take just a couple of more steps, and you will enter a showplace of jewel covered trees, garland and tabletops.

Ginger Hyland, owner of The Towers, set out to create a jeweled Christmas. And she accomplished just that with 90 trees and numerous other decorations adorned with her collection of antique costume jewelry and handmade crystal ornaments.

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For Hyland, jeweled Christmases began in 1996, shortly after remodeling a Victorian farmhouse in California.

“I knew I wanted to do a jeweled Christmas, but I wasn’t sure how to accomplish it,” Hyland said. “So I started buying things, and thought I would figure out how to do it later.”

What she figured out was a seamless combination of traditional Christmas décor and fun and unique decorations.

“I like a lot of whimsy,” Hyland said.

Items from her jewelry collection, dating between 1890 and 1950, hang on trees that range in size from a two-foot table top tree to a 12-foot red and gold tree in the entrance hall.

Several more contemporary showstopper pieces used on fashion runways are included in the house.

One tree is decorated entirely with jeweled butterfly broaches in every color in the rainbow. Another features crystal earrings, broaches, bracelets and necklaces that are displayed like traditional garland.

Hyland said the only requirement she has for her jewelry collection is that the rhinestones must be transparent.

“Colored or clear, it doesn’t matter, as long as it is transparent,” she said. “I don’t like the opaque stones, but that is just a personal preference.

“If it sparkles, it is here.”

Every room is decorated including a dining room that has been transformed into the blue room and a bathroom that is Santa’s diamond mines.

“Santa and his reindeer are going through the forest looking for diamonds for the rest of the house,” Hyland said pointing out a crystal Santa Claus and reindeer scene.

Another tree is decorated with a collection of sugared fruit that Hyland credits Towers manager James Wesley Forde with creating.

“I’ve had all these pieces but he was able to put it all together in a cohesive look,” Hyland said.

Forde also designed and created all the mantle pieces and arrangements that hang over mirrors and was responsible for decorating the grounds of the antebellum Victorian home.

“It was probably 90-10 on the outside with James doing 90 percent and someone else doing the other 10 percent,” Hyland said. “But inside it was probably 50-50 between the two of us.”

The decorating process began on Oct. 21, and while work on the inside of the house is complete, decorating continues on the grounds of the home.

“We have to skip Halloween and Thanksgiving,” Forde said.

But Hyland doesn’t mind the hours of labor associated with assembling the jeweled Christmas display.

“I enjoy doing it,” she said. “The work is never a thought. It is all about the joy people get from seeing it.

“If you start thinking about it being work then there is stress involved, but I never think about it being work.”

Hyland did house tours for “A Jeweled Christmas” in houses in California and New Mexico before moving to Natchez and bringing “A Jeweled Christmas” with her last year.

And no matter the house or city, the response has always been the same.

“It just brings joy and happiness to people who view it,” Hyland said. “If it can bring a Christmas spirit to someone who sees it, that is what makes it worth it.”

Hyland said she even had one personal friend who began decorating for Christmas after viewing one of her homes.

“I had a personal friend who said he hadn’t felt Christmas in many years,” Hyland said. “But he told me that after seeing the house he went out and bought a tree and Christmas lights and felt Christmas again.”

The Towers will be open for tours every half hour from 2 p.m. until 5 p.m. on Tuesdays through Saturdays beginning on Tuesday.

Tickets for the tours are $15 for adults and $8 for children 6 and under. They can be purchased at the Natchez Visitor Reception Center or by calling The Towers at 601-446-6890.

The Towers is located at 801 Myrtle Ave.