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Thursday, July 30, 2015

If you want to shoot a lion, shoot him with your camera. That’s what I did when I visited South Africa’s Thornybush Game Lodge in 2013. Look at this handsome fellow with the huge balls and silky mane!


This is a South African lion. It is NOT Cecil of Zimbabwe.

This dude’s hair was so on fleek. I mean, he was on fleek a full year before the term “on fleek” was popularized by Peaches Monroee. This lion saw me looking at him, so he turned his head so I could get his good side. His lady friends couldn’t compete and didn’t even try.


“We do all the work around here, so we don’t have time to mess with our hair.”

Also not trying was this lazy-ass leopard cub.


“Sooooo tired.”

Our guides told us this young fellow was hanging out — literally — till his mom came back with something to eat.

We saw all kinds of fantastic animals in South Africa: elephants …


… hippos …


… zebras …


… giraffes …


… antelope and warthogs …


… rhinos …


… buffalo …


and the extremely rare swimming monkey.

After seeing all these animals in their natural habitat, I said to MrB, “I can’t ever visit a zoo again.” (Except the Singapore Zoo because of the awesomely delinquent tapirs there.) It definitely didn’t occur to me to shoot any one of these creatures with a bow and arrow or a bullet in order to hang its head in my living room. I do eat meat and wear leather, so it’s not like I can (a) complain about people hunting for food/clothing or (b) marry Paul McCartney.  But killing an animal for the bragging rights and a stuffed head? C’mon, man! The American dentist who killed Zimbabwe’s Cecil the lion is going to be regretting this for the rest of his life, I hope.

For my Maneater ring series, I’ve created designs that show an animal standing triumphant over its human counterpart. One of the rings is the Lion and the Hunter.


Click to see on my website.

Maybe I need to redo the face of the hunter (hidden inside the ring) to look like lion-killer Walter Palmer. SMH. The crazy thing is that when I created this piece in 2013, I thought lion hunting was a thing of the past — a hobby for Teddy Roosevelt, not for random guys from Minnesota. Little did I know.

Wednesday, July 29, 2015

You’ve got until Sunday, Aug. 2, to catch actor Jim Parsons (aka Sheldon Cooper on The Big Bang Theory) in An Act of God at Studio 54.


Parsons plays God, who is wrestling with “wrath-management” issues while he’s in the midst of updating the Ten Commandments. The by-the-book angel Gabriel is played by Tim Kazurinsky and the concerned and questioning angel Michael is played by Christopher Fitzgerald. Highlights include the true story of Adam and Steve in the Garden of Eden (God isn’t anti-gay: “Gay, straight, bisexual, transgender; thou art all equally smitable in my eyes.”). I also liked the stories about God’s three children:  Zach, Jesus, and Kathy. Wouldn’t you know it? Jesus had middle-child issues.

Here’s what I wore to see God when we saw Him last Saturday.

actofgodoutfitresizeWhat Wendy Wore
Leather top: L’Agence (2013)
Shorts: Castelbajac (2013)
Shoes: Miu Miu (2010)
Purse: Prada (2007)
Hoop earrings: My own design

Maybe it was divine intervention, but all my old(ish) clothes felt like new again that night!



Tuesday, July 28, 2015

Big thanks to a gorgeous jewelry-industry friend for sharing a Financial Times article by Elisa Anniss called, “Retailers seem happy to let designers take the financial strain.” (You may need to create an FT ID in Twitter to read this.)

The article, which explains the retail practice of selling fine jewelry on consignment, came out in June. I missed it then, or I probably would have large chunks of the text tattooed on my body by now so that I could enjoy reading them again even when I’m in the shower. It’s validating to see that everyone is struggling with the same issues.

I once summed up consignment as, “Give us all your jewelry and we’ll pay you when this sells … if it sells.” The FT describes the practice less bitchily as “where the retailer pays the wholesale price after the sale, returning any unsold pieces.” You can count on those unsold pieces too because, as designer Melanie Georgacopoulos told the FT: “… if the stores aren’t buying, they simply don’t put that much effort into selling.”

This means the current retail model — so dependent on consignment — does!not!work! for the independent jeweler.


Click to read the story.

That last sentence isn’t exactly true because stores always offer media coverage.  But actually coming through with it? Nope. I’ve been offered many “opportunities” in return for “exposure” that never appears — not from the retailers, anyway. I often wind up generating the exposure for both of us, while thinking, “People can die of exposure in more ways than one.”

Gannon Brousseau, the director of the Couture jewelry trade show, offers a little bit of hope. He said to the FT, “I wouldn’t be surprised if there is a shift in the coming years. Quite frankly, there has to be.” He continued:

“With online becoming more important to designers’ success, I believe [that increasingly] they will pick their partners more carefully and only work with those who truly support and believe in their brand.”

Brousseau envisions any consignment being done only in a “mutually beneficial relationship where both parties are investing in one another’s success.”  That’s my dream: A retailer who wants to work with me to sell beautiful jewelry! Imagine that!

By the way, much love to my direct customers who buy from my website and in person. You’re the ones who have kept me going.


I heart you, customers!

It makes me very happy to get an email like one I received last week:

“Mad props for my excellent gold skull earrings – I just love them so much.  They make my work day feel both elegant and subversive.”

(You can feel elegant and subversive too. Check out the skulls here. And, as always, I appreciate your stopping by!)

Monday, July 27, 2015

When I was a kid, I was crazy for Fruit Stripe gum.

Click to buy some!

Click to buy some!

A photo brings the Fruit Stripe taste back to me instantly.


Click to purchase at Candy Warehouse.

The taste leaves me just as quickly, which makes the whole experience totally realistic because Fruit Stripe gum has only about five seconds of flavor in it. The disappointment of Fruit Stripe gum is so well-known that it was immortalized on Family Guy.


“You’re more of a letdown than Fruit Stripe gum!”

In a fit of nostalgia, I got a pack a few years ago. I really enjoyed the minute I spent chewing through all 12 sticks.

Believe it or not, I was thinking about Fruit Stripe gum because I wore a couple of striped dresses recently. Yep! Dress stripes = gum stripes in my mind. The first dress — which I wore to have dinner with my parents — was the one from Prada that was absolutely everywhere in 2011.

pradadress2resizeWhat Wendy Wore
Dress: Prada (2011)
Shoes: Prada (2011)
Purse: Prada (2007)
Lip color: Lady Danger by MAC

I love this dress for the colors and the fit, but also because it reminds me of that silly old saw about buying “timeless basics.”   Fie on timeless basics! I got an overexposed, very distinctive dress and four years later, I still feel great in it. If any fashion police types have seen me and thought, “Oh my God, that’s that old dress that I saw on Gwen Stefani!” they’ve never said it to my face. And if they did, I’d say, “I know, isn’t it awesome?” I don’t see how this design would have been better in a safe, solid black.

I wore the second striped dress to my anniversary dinner with MrB. We highly recommend the raw bar at Aquagrill.


Mix of East coast and West coast. My favorite one was the fourth from the left.

After dinner, I posed in the nearby subway station, as one does. I think I’ve had this dress since about 2005. I’m not sure because, although I’ve worn it many times, there are few photos of it. I think these are the only two: one from 2010 and one from 2014.

stripes2resizeWhat Wendy Wore
Dress: Possible vintage Michael Vollbracht (2005-ish?)
Shoes: Giuseppe Zanotti (2014, also seen here)
Purse: Prada (2007)

I thought I was being creative when I decided to go with white shoes instead of black, but now I see that I accessorized the exact same way last year. I never was very interested in wardrobe “remixing”! If something works for me, I’ll stick with it forever.

Sunday, July 26, 2015

In case you missed it, here’s what was on the blog this week.

Hey, don’t forget to follow me on Instagram at @wendybrandesjewelry.

Friday, July 24, 2015

Thanks to Cindy Edelstein for including me in Tuesday’s TrendTracker post for National Jeweler. This one was about pets.

I’m represented by my FitzRoy the Cat ear climbers.


Click for source.

How cute do these look on?


Click for original post.

You can get the FitzRoy climbers on my website here. Don’t forget that I also have FitzRoy earring jackets and birthstone studs.  And if you don’t follow my business Instagram, you should, because that’s where I preview coming designs (as well as doing sneaky sales). My next FitzRoy the Cat piece is a pendant that shows Fitz in a position he often gets in when he snuggles in his bowl; here is the wax model of the pendant that I Instagrammed on Monday.


Click to see on IG.

This design has already been cast in gold. I’m just waiting for another 100 orange sapphires to be delivered in order to finish it up.

Thursday, July 23, 2015

Here’s something for Throwback Thursday: I started blogging eight years ago today. It’s my blogversary!

My first post, published on July 23, 2007, was called “Just a placeholder” because I thought I was going to be too busy to devote any time to blogging. Two days later, I found out that Britney Spears had left the set of a shoot for OK Magazine with many borrowed designer items, including my 18K gold and diamond Borgia poison ring. Well, that was something that just had to be blogged!


Click to go to the post with an enlargeable version of this photo and a close-up of the ring.

Once I started writing, I never stopped. Here are the links to my previous blogversary posts.

While I was looking up various posts to link to here, I stumbled onto the one I wrote last year about how the Columbia Daily Spectator — Columbia University’s undergraduate news organization — switched from being a print newspaper with a secondary online presence to an online-first operation. I was chairman of the Spectator’s board of trustees at the time. There was quite a lot of drama and commentary about this break from tradition. It’s kind of unfortunate that I rediscovered this post because I got annoyed all over again that a female Columbia graduate described me on another website as:

“…former editor of the Arts & Entertainment section who has since become a jewelry designer and the wife of Paul Steiger, ex- Wall Street Journal managing editor and the founder of ProPublica.”

All of those facts are true. I was the A&E editor in 1989. I did go into jewelry design in 2005. I married MrB, who is indeed a journalist, in 2001. However, that description left out 16 years of my professional experience, including time as an editor at Dow Jones News Service and the Wall Street Journal. While at the latter, I participated in an early iteration of the Wall Street Journal Interactive Edition — a site that went live 20 years and 12 days ago. Another anniversary!

After leaving the Journal, I ran the markets desk at CNN business news, which was followed by stints as the managing editor of People.com and managing editor of e-commerce for Lehman Brothers. And, as I’ve been saying throughout this post, I began this blog in 2007; at one point, I wrote daily for over a year, right through weekends, holidays and vacations. This was against the advice of luxury-goods experts who told me that jewelry was a product that must seem inaccessible in order to be perceived as valuable. Those experts changed their tune a few years down the road. I’d enjoy a similar attitude adjustment from anyone who cherry-picks his or her facts to make me seem like a diamond-loving bimbo who knows nothing about the media except for what her husband tells her. Believe me, the writer mentioned above wasn’t the only person crafting that image during the Spectator brouhaha, which was one of reasons I wrapped my account of the Spectator decision into a career-spanning post. So, if you want my whole bio …


That’s not to imply there’s anything wrong with loving jewelry, of course. In fact, I’ve got one Borgia ring in stock, size 6, and it’s now on sale, to celebrate the way that Britney unwittingly encouraged me to become a serious blogger. Click here to shop.

Thursday, July 23, 2015

I’ve been meaning to write about the Taylor Swift concert I attended on July 11, when I had to chaperone a major fangurl all the way to MetLife Stadium in New Jersey …


Yes, MrB is the fangurl. Click to see on my Instagram account.

… but I was lazy about getting all my concert photos watermarked. However, there’s no time like the present to get organized, what with Taylor getting into a Twitter feud with rapper Nicki Minaj. It started Tuesday, after the nominations for next month’s MTV Video Music Awards were announced (amusingly enough, on Apple Music’s Beats 1 radio instead of MTV).  Taylor led with nine nominations — two for her “Blank Space” video and seven for “Bad Blood.” One of the “Bad Blood” nominations was for Video of the Year. The other Video of the Year nominees were Beyonce for “7/11“; Ed Sheeran for “Thinking Out Loud“; Mark Ronson, featuring Bruno Mars, for “Uptown Funk“; and Kendrick Lamar for “Alright.”

Meanwhile, Nicki’s “Anaconda” video was nominated only for Best Female Video and Best Hip Hop Video.

“Anaconda” went viral before the video even debuted, thanks to the cheeky cover art, which was released last July.


Illustrating the line “baby got back.”

That shot of Nicki provoked OG rapper Lil Kim to renew her complaints that Minaj was stealing her style. Memes came fast and furious, including one that turned Nicki’s buns into the “OO” in the Google logo. Nicki directly responded to criticism by tweeting the ass-flaunting cover of the Sports Illustrated bathing suit issue, pointing out that those smaller behinds were deemed “acceptable,” while her more ample curves were “unacceptable.” When the  “Anaconda” video came out the following month, it was viewed a record 19.6 million times in its first 24 hours, beating the 19.3 million views Miley Cyrus racked up in 24 hours for her “Wrecking Ball” video in September 2013. A week later, Nicki was on the MTV VMAs twerking to “Anaconda” live. Think pieces and reaction videos abounded. Even Ellen got in on the action.

It all added up to a huge pop-culture moment, so Nicki wasn’t pleased with MTV’s lack of recognition this week. She took to Twitter to express herself.


Click for source.



And then …


Well! Taylor Swift felt that last one was directed at her, seeing as three of the Video of the Year nominees are dudes and the fourth is Beyonce, Nicki’s collaborator on this year’s “Feeling Myself” video. Overlooking signs that Nicki was — for the most part — talking more broadly about race (Another tweet was, “Black women influence pop culture so much but are rarely rewarded for it“), Taylor replied.

taylortweetNicki answered, “Huh? U must not be reading my tweets. Didn’t say a word about u. I love u just as much. But u should speak on this. ” Taylor, possibly realizing she’d put her foot in it, tried to make amends by saying, “If I win, please come up with me!! You’re invited to any stage I’m ever on.” (And Taylor knows something about sharing a stage, after Kanye tried to snatch her VMA Moonman in 2009.)

Twitter went wild, of course, with a lot of people backing Nicki. Other folks said Nicki didn’t deserve any awards for scantily clad twerking, apparently forgetting that (a) hello, these are the VMAs and (b) twerk-loving Miley Cyrus’s extremely naked “Wrecking Ball” won Video of the Year last year (But Miley’s got one of those slim “acceptable” bodies, proving Nicki’s point. And, by the way, Taylor Swift’s own, wildly popular “Shake It Off” video features twerkers.) Nicki took Ryan Seacrest to task for saying she threw a jab at Taylor, while Taylor responded with love … leaving out Nicki’s “Love you too but I wasn’t talking about you” response. Katy Perry waded in to point out that “Bad Blood” is actually a jab at her, weakening Taylor’s initial point about not pitting women against each other.

Yesterday, Nicki took to Instagram makes her feelings crystal clear. Her post says, in part:

“Nothing to do with any of the women, but everything to do with a system that doesn’t credit black women for their contributions to pop culture as freely/quickly as they reward others. We are huge trendsetters, not second class citizens that get thrown crumbs. This isn’t anger. This is #information.”

Today, Taylor apologized.


The big winner? Definitely MTV. For a music network that barely plays any music anymore, MTV has managed — intentionally or not — to generate a lot of interest around the VMAs for a couple of years.  This year could now be as big as 2013, when Miley outraged the audience by twerking all over “Blurred Lines” singer Robin Thicke. Remember the predictions that the performance would mean the end of Miley’s career? Remember how I disagreed? In fact, I said Miley would benefit from the controversy just like other performers had benefited from similar controversies in decades past. And I was right because guess who is HOSTING the VMAs this year? Miley Fucking Cyrus.


It turned out to be sleazy Robin Thicke whose career tanked within a year of that performance. One-hit wonder for real!

Anyway, it will be interesting to see if Nicki benefits from the drama the way that Miley did  … or, for that matter, the way Taylor did in 2009, after Kanye West crashed the stage to try to redirect her MTV Moonman award to Beyonce. All the sympathy went to Taylor. Even Obama stepped in to call West a “jackass.”

Taylor has been all about girl power and female bonding lately (as long as it doesn’t include Katy Perry) so I imagine she’s experienced real agony over her unfortunate “Tweet first, think later” moment. That concert I went to — remember the concert?! — was heavy on advice for building self-esteem and supporting each other. It was all so PG and positive! I hadn’t been exposed to any hardcore Taylor Swift fans besides MrB and I quickly learned all about their energy, enthusiasm, memory for lyrics, and dedication to costumes and in-joke light-up signs.

Don't know who Becky is? Click to find out.

Don’t know who Becky is? Click to find out.

The bus ride to New Jersey was an experience.

People were even decorating their cars in Taylor’s honor.

A photo posted by Wendy Brandes (@wendybrandes) on

I bumped into Columbia Spectator alums Finn Vigeland and Daniela Quintanilla while I was on a hot-dog run.

With Finn and Daniela.

With Finn and Daniela.

Once we got seated for opening acts Shawn Mendes, Haim and Vance Joy, MrB developed some serious appreciation for the third-row tickets I’d gotten him as a Christmas gift. That said, third row wasn’t as great as it would normally be because of how much time Taylor spent on her center-of-the-stadium, elevated and rotating runway. That’s how NICE she is. She wanted to pay real attention to every fan at MetLife, including — and maybe especially — the girls in the nosebleed seats.

How she looked on the runway.

How she looked on the runway.

We still got some good up close and personal moments.


During costume changes, we were treated to videos of Taylor’s celebrity gal pals — including model Cara Delevingne, Selena Gomez, the sisters from Haim and Lena Dunham — talking about female friendship, love and (most interesting to me) cats. Taylor herself spent a long time giving pep talks to the audience about overcoming both self-doubt and external criticism. A loooong time. I’ve cringed over Madonna’s lengthy, incoherent political rantings in the past, but I think I prefer that craziness to this much self-help chat. It gets a little repetitive.

All these Kumbaya moments — oh, did I mention the video that showed Taylor baking cookies for listening sessions with fans? — made the confrontation with Nicki even more surprising to me. On the other hand, as I told MrB before, during and after the concert, it does seem like Taylor feels awfully put-upon for someone who is wildly successful, wealthy, talented, tall, skinny, white, blonde and conventionally beautiful. She has a history of gravitating to the role of underdog, from playing the sneaker-wearing, bleacher-sitting geek of 2009’s “You Belong With Me” …

… to the awkward dancer who gets picked on by the tabloids for her dating habits in last year’s “Shake It Off.”

That victim-y mindset can definitely make a pop star susceptible to taking certain tweets too personally. Sure, the slim body comment was a little swipe at Taylor — let’s be honest! — but it also covers Miley Cyrus and the Sports Illustrated/Victoria’s Secret model types that Nicki cited last year. (Taylor brought some of her Victoria’s Secret friends out on stage with her at my MetLife show; the night before, she had the winning U.S women’s soccer team.) And it was a relatively small part of the point Nicki was trying to make. Taylor would have been better off recognizing her advantages and keeping quiet or, even better, saying something supportive. With Taylor’s business savvy, I’m sure she won’t make a mistake like this again. The shock of coming off as the bad guy must have been terrible, plus it’s so off-brand! I’m going to guess that all the appropriate emergency public-relations and social-media-training meetings have already been held and everything will be hearts and flowers from now on.

Ain't she sweet?

Ain’t she sweet?

To see all my best photos of Taylor, click here for my Flickr album.

UPDATED TO ADD: Nicki graciously accepted Taylor’s apology


… and said it was time to move on.


I can’t wait to see Nicki and Taylor hit the stage together at the VMAs … you know that’s got to happen now!

UPDATED TO ADD: I’ve removed a reference to a video Taylor’s opening number, because IFPI, believe it or not, complained to YouTube that my crap video was violating their copyright. Obviously, I posted the video because I felt strongly it was fair use for criticism/commentary and, specifically, I wanted to show the fans’ ecstatic reaction to Taylor. I didn’t monetize it either on YouTube or here. I also think the recording would encourage people to listen to the original version or go to a concert, rather than deterring them. SMH.

UPDATED AGAIN TO ADD: I shouldn’t have been surprised by the video incident after the contract Taylor and her company wanted photographers to sign in order to cover her show. The contract demands that any news organization use any photos on a “one-time only basis,” and only through the end of this calendar year. On the other hand, Taylor and her business interests would have the “perpetual, worldwide right to use the published Photographs for any non-commercial purpose (in all media and formats), including but not limited to publicity and promotion on their web sites and/or social media accounts or pages.” You can read the whole contract on Consequence of Sound. Don’t miss the part that says Taylor’s people can destroy a photographer’s equipment without compensation.

Wednesday, July 22, 2015

Happy anniversary, MrB!


July 22, 2001.

You can see some other wedding photos in my 10-year anniversary post. Or you can just hop over to Instagram to see a photo of the coolest wedding cake evah.

Tuesday, July 21, 2015

People say that every boxing movie has the same plot and maybe that’s true (except for Million Dollar Baby, because the hero normally doesn’t get killed by adrenaline injection), but it doesn’t mean a movie can’t excel within that range. I was blown away by the Southpaw premiere last night, as was everyone around me in the movie theater; the audience was spontaneously clapping during key scenes.


Thanks to the Weinstein Company for inviting us!

Stars of the film — Jake Gyllenhaal, 50 Cent and Rachel McAdams — were there to introduce it, along with Eminem, who did the soundtrack. Kurt Sutter, the creator of television’s Sons of Anarchy, originally wrote the Southpaw screenplay specifically for Eminem, with DreamWorks acquiring the script in 2010. It was going to be a not-at-all-literal follow-up to Em’s 2002 movie 8 Mile, which was a semi-autobiographical film about a would-be rapper who wants a better life for himself, as well as for his baby sister. In Southpaw, Eminem was going to be a beaten-down boxer who lost his wife and had to get himself together in order to create a better life for himself and his young daughter. However,  by 2012, Eminem had dropped out to focus on his music, and Sutter was like, “Meh, this isn’t happening.” Then Oscar king Harvey Weinstein got interested, with Gyllenhaal in mind for the part. The Wall Street Journal did an interview with Kurt Sutter about how the movie, as it exists, came together.


I believe that Jake, who plays boxer Billy Hope with both intense physicality and heart, is guaranteed to get an Oscar nomination, as is Oona Laurence, who plays his daughter, Leila, with a sophistication way beyond her years. Rachel McAdams is also stellar as Billy’s tackily dressed but forceful and brilliant wife. If she weren’t as sharp as she was, you wouldn’t understand why Billy Hope fell so completely to pieces after her death. Other standouts are 50 Cent as Billy’s sleazy manager, and Forest Whitaker, as the tough trainer who brings Billy back from disaster.

Here’s a short video of Harvey Weinstein introducing the movie and if you hang on through all the shakiness and the big-headed guy in front of me, you’ll catch a brief in-focus glimpse of Eminem. Rachel McAdams is looking mighty beautiful too.

I was psyched to get this hat after the movie.


I was pleased to get this hat after the movie.

The post-movie party was at the 40/40 Club on West 25th Street. How many times have I said that I love a photobooth at a party? This time we got a damn gif!

MrB kept trying to bring me down during the photos and I was like, WTF IS WRONG WITH YOU!! THIS IS A FIXED FIGHT!! FALL DOWN FOR PETE’S SAKE IF YOU WANT TO HAVE A HAPPY WIFE!!! At least I won in the end.

Here’s my full outfit for the evening.

feathers1resizeWhat Wendy Wore
Feather top: Patricia Field store (2015)
Shorts: Castelbajac (2013)
Shoes: Prada (2011)
Purse: Prada (2007)

You can’t see my Shady nameplate necklace in the full photo, but here it is in a close-up. Of course, I had to wear it when Slim Shady did the soundtrack!


Very few people have a necklace like this!

Let me tell ya, feathered tops don’t last forever. I was molting like crazy before I even left my house. This was a fraction of the feathers I shed early in the night.



If I were a real bird, I’m not sure I would have been able to fly home after the extreme feather loss I suffered. On the bright side, I was easy to find all night. If you were looking for me, all you had to do was follow the trail of turquoise, pink and red feathers!

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