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SO SOCAL: The Best...The Beautiful...And the Bizarre

Venerable Beads

April 18, 1999|Shonda Buchanan

The scent of incense immediately unfolds at the door. Embroidered saris sway on the high ceiling. Tucked in the back of her self-named shop, amid antique armoires, African sitting stools and mounds of pillows in wicker baskets, jeweler Aklia Chinn fashions pieces she desired when she first began beading 10 years ago.

"I couldn't find anything unique, affordable or pleasing to my eye and spirit," she recalls. "Everything I could afford was really cheap and would fall apart."

At 28, this former "A Different World" extra has eked out a reputation for her collection of 300-year-old Ethiopian pendants strung on pristine silver strands, vibrant necklaces and semiprecious stones interwoven with delicate metal-smithing into rings. Eddie Murphy, Whoopi Goldberg, Lenny Kravitz and Queen Latifah have all donned her wares, which range from $45 to $400.

After a couple of years working with glass and clay beads, the latter of which she learned to craft on the streets of New York, Chinn returned to her native L.A. and opened shop in Hollywood. Aklia's has evolved into a bohemian hangout in which African, Israeli and Asian percussionists trek from all over to pound out a unifying, multi-lingo beat in a drummer's circle the first Friday of every month.

The evenings remind Chinn of New York, of street performance art and the importance of keeping it real. Yes, Spike Lee donned an Aklia original brass ankh pendant with glass beads on the cover of Essence magazine, and actress Gloria Stuart appeared in one of her Ethiopian pendants while on the "Titanic" search boat. But Chinn doesn't want to limit her "uncommon treasures," as she refers to them, to a high-profile clientele. "Beads are a metaphor for the endless array of beauty and diversity of the people in the world," she says. "Beads connect much like humanity. I like bringing both together."

Aklia's, (323) 461-1810

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