Designer Spotlight: An Interview with Jewelry Designer Wendy Brandes

I have been stalking following jewelry designer Wendy Brandes for over 2 years now, ever since I typed “Jewelry Blog” into a search engine in 2008 and she came up as number 1 or 2 (try it, she’s still right up there). I was immediately laughing my way through her entertaining blog, about such diverse and riveting subjects as her personal heros, metal prices and greed, and engagement ring redesigning (consider yourself warned: allow yourself a weekend marathon through her archives).

Then I clicked through to her website where she actually sells her jewelry, and, WOW. Do you know how rare it is to see designs that are totally creative in inception AND perfectly executed? Trust me, in a veritable sea of “crafty” jewelry it’s harder to find than, well, a leopard print Dolce and Gabbana dress. I especially love the intricate pieces that move, since I know how hard this is to do in fine jewelry metals.

Wendy Brandes Siobhan Stacking Rings in 18kt Gold and Diamond, Pink Sapphire and Ruby, $5500 Retail

Browsing her collection, mostly inspired by interesting, powerful, (or fallen) women from history, I’m not sure I can choose just ONE design that I would personally like to have. I am partial to the jewelry with moving parts/conversation pieces, so I think that in my future I WILL have a poison ring. I just can’t decide between which bad-ass chick from antiquity: Agrippina or the Livia in Aquamarine. There is something about the Chrysanthemum necklace that speaks to me. And I like the Fulvia ring just on principle and description alone.

Wendy Brandes Marie Antoinette Ring in 18kt with Amythest and Tsavorites, $12,500 Retail

I was initially an admirer of afar. After all, this is someone who has been photographed for fashion magazines, has been featured in a video interview for the Washington Post and is outspoken enough to be recognized as a threat by a major search engine that is two letters away from Poodle. Her Cleopatra earrings were just featured in a little film you may have heard of: Sex In The City 2. Oh, it’s not enough that she’s talented, incredibly smart, and well-written; she’s also gorgeous and trend-setting.

The lovely Wendy B with Henry in a Stacy Lomman dress, her own Cleopatra earrings and ring designs

I decided that it was time to find out more about the incomparable Wendy B.

The Interview

idazzle.com: This may be old news, but I’m wondering what prompted the leap from WSJ and Lehman Brothers to creative jewelry designer? Since you now have the benefit of hindsight, is anything radically different than you expected? What was most surprising to you entering the jewelry/design industry? Would you do it all over again?

Wendy Brandes: I did love being an editor. That was my job at CNN and People as well as the Wall Street Journal. (The job at Lehman Brothers, as managing editor of the websites, utilized the same editorial skills.) But the newspaper, TV show and magazine were full of stories about people’s accomplishments and I started to want to be one of those people doing things, instead of being an observer. I was always interested in fashion and entrepreneurship and I had started to design jewelry for my personal use, so jewelry it was. I expected the new direction to be challenging, and it was. Not designing and being inspired. That’s easy. Making a name for yourself is what’s hard. People think that fashion is all about the hot new thing, but it’s much more conservative than that. It’s difficult to pitch products that are very different from what’s on the market. I sometimes wish that I went for the big bucks and started a software company or a social-media business or a hedge fund. But that’s not me. If given the choice, I’d do the jewelry all over again. It’s in my blood.

Wendy Brandes Tortoise Locket in 18kt Gold with Diamond, $2800 Retail

We’re all glad you went for jewelry! I think a lot of designers would say that there is a decidedly un-sexy side of marketing, distribution, etc.

Is getting your designs recognized and on people your biggest challenge as an independent jewelry designer–you’re also at the mercy of commodity markets, and manufacturing economies of scale?

The manufacturing is a big challenge, especially because of the high cost of my raw materials. I wrote about that here. But, as I said, getting the word out is difficult too. If manufacturing and publicity had to arm wrestle for the title of Toughest Challenge, it would probably be a draw.

Wendy Brandes Diana Necklace in Sterling Silver, $450 Retail

What is the biggest reward?

Seeing my ideas become reality — and emails from happy customers like this one.

What jewelry are you wearing RIGHT NOW?

None! I’m at home and I take off all my jewelry as soon as I come home. I recommend that to everyone. When I go out later, I’ll wear my one-of-a-kind “She Sells Seashells” ring. It’s a good summertime ring.

Wendy Brandes One-of-a-Kind carved Rose Quartz and 18kt Rose Gold Ring, $15,000 Retail

Gorgeous ring, strong yet feminine. Anything you’re working on right now that makes your palms sweat (and can you show us?)?

I’m SO excited by the fun new designs I’m adding to my swear-ring line. The swear rings are multi-finger ring sets that give you a brass knuckles look. But you can still move your fingers freely, unlike with a single multi-finger ring that looks cool but feels uncomfortable. The original sterling-silver swear rings read F@#! Then I made them an asterisk friend. But people kept asking for more, so now I have OMG, LOLZ and NYC sets. To make those sets affordable, I need to make them in Asia, in quantity. It’s the economies of scale situation I wrote about in the post mentioned above. So I’m using Kickstarter to take pre-orders on the rings. The pre-sales will pay for production. To pre-order, just use your Amazon account here.

NEW Wendy Brandes Swear Rings in Sterling Silver, LOLZ, OMG, NYC Click Image to Pre-Order

Love the Kickstarter premise! If admirers are jonesin’ for a glimpse of your collection, where in the country can you find it on display?

If you’re in the Los Angeles area, you can check out my work at Broken English Jewelry in Santa Monica. And if you’re in New York, I’m having a sample sale with my clothing-designer friend Zang Toi on August 17. Hope to see everyone there!

Thanks a million, Wendy! For more information on Wendy’s designs, you can visit her jewelry website here, or go to her blog here.

Wendy Brandes Jewelry Sale at House of Toi, August 17th, Click for More Info

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