Feature Friday - Q&A with Wendy Brandes Fine Jewelry

I'm super excited to have had the chance to get to know an amazing designer - Wendy Brandes of Wendy Brandes Fine Jewelry.  If you're like me and you love nontraditional jewelry, then you are going to adore Wendy's pieces!  And, don't say that I didn't warn you - but you're going to have a heck of time picking out just one favorite piece!

I hope you enjoy our Q&A with Wendy in this week's "Feature Friday!"

Wendy Brandes - Wendy Brandes Fine Jewelry

1. What prompted your passion for jewelry and jewelry design? 
I didn’t start thinking about creating jewelry until I designed my own engagement ring and wedding band in 2001.  Maybe I would have stopped there if only I’d done the engagement ring I truly wanted.  But the jeweler I was working with convinced me that my idea was too radical and that I would get tired of it, so I went with something still cool but more conservative.  It stuck with me that I supposedly had some “out there” ideas.  Once I opened my mind to it, I had more and more of those ideas.  I started to bring them to life for real in 2005.  And in 2006, I redesigned the engagement ring in the style I originally wanted.  Guess what?  I’m not tired of it.  I’ve done some extremely non-conformist engagement rings for customers since then.  If I feel they’re truly passionate about their ideas, I don’t try to talk them out of it.  In my opinion, the only kind of design you get tired of is something you didn’t want in the first place.  It works the other way too.  If a traditional solitaire brings someone joy, then that’s exactly what she should have.  I’m in the happiness business.

Graphic designer Lori Kadezabek wanted a non-traditional engagement ring in the style of Wendy's Edburga poison ring. The original ring was silver and yellow gold, with a cabochon-cut rose quartz over a diamond. Wendy replaced the silver with 18K white gold and the rose quartz with a custom-cut white sapphire set in 18K rose gold.

2. What is your favorite piece or collection? 
I always love the newest things the most.  Recently, for a single piece, it is the custom daisy pendant I did in memory of my client, Serena’s bullmastiff dog, Daisy.  It’s a simple-looking pendant but it was painstakingly done.  Each petal was handmade separately, then attached to the center.  For a collection, my current favorite is definitely my Maneater ring series.  Each 18K gold Maneater ring has an animal on top, and the little “eaten” man inside the band of the ring.  I’ve done three, I’ve got two more in the works, and I’m aiming for a total of eight.  Eight’s a power number!

The third in the series of Maneater rings. An 18K-rose-gold lion with sapphire eyes and a yellow-diamond-studded mane is the king of a tsavorite jungle. On the underside of the 18K-yellow-gold shank is the vanquished 18K-white-gold hunter with diamond eyes.

The Lion Hunter in Wendy's Maneater ring.

3. What would your perfect “jewelry day” involve / be like? 
I would be happy to sit with my favorite goldsmith all day, sketching out the craziest designs I could think of and knowing that I had the money to actually make them!  Oh, what I could do with a few million dollars!

This deliciously heavy ring is one piece that will really keep you grounded. It is modeled after WendyB's own wedding band.

4. Thus far, what would you say is your proudest jewelry moment or memory? 
Winning Fashion Group International’s Rising Star award for fine jewelry in 2012 meant a lot to me.  Every Rising Star winner I’ve heard from, regardless of category, says the award feels like validation after years of struggle.  It’s true.  There’s so much rejection in the jewelry/fashion industry.  When you get recognition from people you respect, you think, “So it was worth it!”  That feeling has helped me keep going.

5. Where do you find your greatest inspiration? 
Women’s history.  I used to be a journalist, so my jewelry concepts are very story driven. I usually don’t see a great gem and think, “What can I make out of this?”  I ask myself, “What story do I want to tell and what gems do I need to tell it?”  I’m fascinated by history.  You can have no true understanding of the present without knowledge of the past.  That said, I’m forward-looking too.  My WENDYB by Wendy Brandes diffusion line is inspired by social media.  I’ve been online for a long time for someone who isn’t a techie and wasn’t a teenager when the technology emerged: I first worked as an online editor in 1995, at the Wall Street Journal.  I started my blog in 2007 - against advice from luxury goods experts who told me being too accessible to customers would ruin my business - partly so that I had a place to explain the historical inspiration behind my pieces.  It was a merging of old and new.

6. In your personal wardrobe, do you find that you gravitate to one particular jewelry accessory (rings vs. necklace vs. bracelets vs. watches, etc.) more often than others?
Rings, definitely, because I can look at them - and play with them - all day!

Based on WendyB's own engagement ring.

7. When putting together an outfit, how do you feel about mixing metals, designs and even new with vintage pieces? 
I mix metals every day because my wedding jewelry is platinum and my other rings are 18K yellow gold, which is my preferred metal for designs.  I’ve done designs that mix metals in a single piece, such as engagement rings in 18K yellow and white gold.  My Frog and Prince Maneater ring has four colors of 18K gold: yellow, white, rose and green.  In my wardrobe, I have a lot of vintage clothes, which I wear with newer pieces all the time.

Blogger Susan felt her engagement ring was no longer her style. She asked WendyB to design an engagement-ring version of the Siobhan perma-stacked ring.

8. Layering seems to be a trend that is here to stay, for now. What are your feelings on the layered look?  How do you like layered necklaces with layered bracelets plus layered rings?  
The more the merrier, as long as you’re not clanking so loudly that people can hear you coming from a block away.  If you sound like Jacob Marley, the chain-rattling ghost in A Christmas Carol by Charles Dickens, you’ve gone too far.

9. What advice would you give to budding jewelry designers? To budding fine jewelry collectors? 
To designers, it takes 10 years to be an overnight success.  Yes, there are a few people who have the right family connections or finances to start at the top, but most of us face a long slog.  You have to be tough.  There’s a saying, “Old age ain’t no place for sissies.” Well...entrepreneurship ain’t no place for sissies either.  

To fine jewelry collectors, break the rules!  Toss those lists of “classic” must-haves - a strand of pearls, diamond studs - unless you have an unlimited budget and can get the biggest, most beautiful pearls and flawless diamonds. The inexpensive versions of those items are so basic, who even notices them?  What’s all that desirable about something that never gets a second glance?  Don’t spend your money on quantity; save up so you can buy quality.  And if you must check off the little boxes on a must-have list, look for versions with a twist.  Wear little diamond studs in snake-shaped bezel settings instead of the standard four prongs.  Try my white agate strand instead of pearls. It’s so easy now to find something special to fit any budget - go online and you can shop all around the world.

A modern Stone-Age twist on the classic pearl strand: gumball-sized white agate beads with one 19 mm rose gold and diamond bead in the center.

Flash Question - Dream trip destination? 
The Maldives

You can follow Wendy Brandes Jewelry on Facebook!

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  1. Thanks for interviewing me! Fun questions!

    1. The pleasure was all mine, Wendy! I am in LOVE with all of your skull pieces! ~ Tiff

  2. Your blog is very valuable which you have shared here about Engagement rings. I appreciate your efforts which you have put into this article and also it is a gainful article for us. Thank you for sharing this article here.
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