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Tuesday, August 4, 2015

The Women’s Jewelry Association’s 2015 Awards for Excellence Gala took place last Monday. If you’re in the jewelry biz, it’s a great organization to join. WJA’s mission, as described on its website, is, “To help women in the jewelry and watch industries advance and develop professionally through networking, education, leadership development and the provision of member services.” Men can join too!

All kinds of exciting things happened at the gala. It was great to know that one of WJA’s earliest — and oldest — members was there. Peggy Kirby is now 102 years old! My friend Peggy Jo Donahue posed for an Instagram photo with Peggy Kirby and noted that the latter “remembers what it was like to be a young working woman in the jewelry industry in the 1930s! Peggy endured … and led the way for the rest of us. I am proud to share her name.”

There were two award winners at my table. Deborah Nicodemus, the chief executive officer of online luxury retailer Moda Operandi, won for nontraditional retail, while my gorgeous friend Monica Stephenson won the editorial award for her website, iDazzle.com. I got to celebrate a second time with Monica later in the week, but that’s a story for another blog post. In the meantime, check out the very lovely and true comments from Barbara Palumbo of Adornmentality in this Instagram caption.

Barbara and I met up in the ladies’ room for our traditional duckface pose …

A photo posted by Wendy Brandes (@wendybrandes) on

… and also got in a snuggle.

In yesterday’s post, I shared a close-up of the peridot and diamond earrings that I wore. Now it’s time for the rest of the outfit.

wja2015resizeWhat Wendy Wore
Dress: Vintage Lillie Rubin (acquired 2006-ish)
Purse: Patricia Field (2015)
Shoes:  Badgley Mischka (pre-2005)
Jewelry: My own designs, of course!
Hair: Julie Matos of Warren-Tricomi
Makeup: Josie Torres

My ruffled/feathered/bedazzled 50 Shades of Green look (check out the matching eyeshadow!) was a bit over the top but I was determined to wear this vintage Lillie Rubin dress to something this summer. The last time I wore it was in 2007.  That makes it double vintage: Vintage by nature and vintage in terms of how long I’ve owned it. Here’s how it looked the last time I wore it.


Click for original post.

And here’s how it looked on actress Gina Gershon when she wore it to a theater event in 2005.

That’s not the same style dress on Gina. That’s the actual dress that I now own. Gina borrowed it for her event and, a while later, I bought it. (Gina is clearly much thriftier than I am!) I bumped into her around the time I last wore it and we had a polite little chat about our mutual dress. Hey, Gina! If you ever want to borrow this again, holla at me!

Monday, August 3, 2015

How do the summers fly by, while one dreary month like March always seems to last a year?! At least August has a beautiful birthstone — yellow-green peridot. In celebration, I have a few new photos of my one-of-a-kind Susan earrings, which are back on my website after a hiatus.

Thanks to Megan Knight for photographing these beauties …


Click to purchase.

… and modeling them herself.


Click to purchase.

This ultra-sex-ay photo of Eryn Patton wearing the Susan design is a favorite of mine. Earrings like these definitely deserve some bubbly!


Click to follow me on Instagram.

I took the Susan earrings out for a spin myself last Monday at the Women’s Jewelry Association 2015 Awards for Excellence Gala. InDesign Magazine snapped this highlarious close-up. Look! I’m wearing 16.39 carats of peridot and 1.41 carats of diamonds next to my middle finger emoji stud earring.


Talk about mixing high and low!

I created these 1 1/2″ long chandelier earrings several years ago as part of an auction to help a blogger who had been seriously injured in a small-plane crash. Another gorgeous blogger — Susan of Une Femme d’un Certain Age — was the high bidder who won blue topaz earrings, a specially engraved silver Diana necklace and immortality in the form of a namesake jewelry design. I asked Susan what kind of jewelry she’d want to carry her name and she expressed a preference for earrings and green gemstones. Voila!


Click to purchase.

A lot of experts took a close look at these earrings at the Women’s Jewelry Association event, and all of them raved over the quality of the peridot.  The gems are set in 18K gold, and the earrings were handmade in New York by a jeweler whose work for other designers usually starts at around $150,000. In other words, these earrings are very, very special. You can purchase them from my website, and feel free to email me at info at wendybrandes dot com if you have any questions.

Stay tuned for my next post, which will show the rest of my WJA outfit!

Sunday, August 2, 2015

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

Highlights from Instagram include:

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.

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