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My Favourite California Gift Shop

Vicki Arkoff goes to Gold Bug for her silver-dipped walnuts and trilobite necklaces.

Without question, my favorite gift shop in California is a phenomenal little place called Gold Bug. It’s an eclectic, eccentric and divine treasure box tucked away in Pasadena in the Old Town shopping district just off of the Rose Parade route/Colorado Blvd.

It’s a curiosity cabinet filled with wonders no one can refuse — I went in as a window-shopper and walked out with domed silver and crystal ring encasing a peacock feather, a gold key pendant necklace with a mysterious inscription, and a bowl full of “good luck” sterling-silver-dipped walnuts.

Gold Bug is also within walking distance to the amazing Norton Simon Art Museum which is an apt counterpart to this jaw-dropping shop-gallery. Stepping through the shop’s front door is like entering another realm filled with fantastical handmade jewellery, original art, antique scientific artifacts and decorative items gathered as if curated by a slightly deranged Victorian museum director or botanical/zoological artifacts collector. (In fact, yes those stunning wall posters over there are antique scientific school charts.)

Incredible, hand-wrought jewellery by contemporary artists around the world is the star here but they’re not for everyone. Gold octopus rings are an acquired taste, to be sure. Or the intricate trilobite & gold necklaces. Even non-jewellery items here shine. Giant irridescent insects are preserved, museum-mounted and framed. Silver-plated sperm whale ornaments hang from naked tree branches. Ceramic baby fists in mesmerizing colors line tabletops. Found objects both archaeological and biological are transformed into fascinating dioramas, statues and wall mounts. Strangely beautiful, glossy art photographs of dead things the artist’s animals brought home from the woods…

It’s a collection so unique, so carefully sought-out and selected by the passionate  shop owner and his wife, that it is literally unmatched anywhere — and the combination of wearables, home decor items and a regularly rotating art gallery is intoxicating. Especially on gallery opening nights when the wine flows and the crowd is as interesting as the displays. I want to live there.

Gold Bug: 22 E Union St., Pasadena, CA 91103.


Photo: cc.

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