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Thursday, June 23, 2016

I’m happy to say that I made two Top Ten lists for the JCK LUXURY jewelry show in Las Vegas! Both times, it was one of my Maneater rings that caught the writer’s eye.

Anthony DeMarco, writing for Forbes, said that, “There was more variety than past years at the ‘Luxury’ jewelry trade show in Las Vegas held earlier this month … In several instances, it was the newer exhibitors that brought a sense of excitement to the show.” He liked my Bull and Bullfighter ring, noting that it is set with 429 diamonds (350 black and 79 white). Some of those white diamonds are set upside-down; take a close look at the ones circling the bull.


The Bull and Bullfighter Maneater ring

Click here to read “Top 10 Designs From The ‘Luxury’ Jewelry Trade Show” by Anthony DeMarco.

Katerina Perez, who already Instagrammed a beautiful picture of my NYC Taxi and Passenger Maneater ring, chose my Dragon and Knight Maneater ring for her Top 10, citing its “element of unexpectedness.”

Click to see the Dragon ring from all angles.

Click to see the Dragon ring from all angles.

Click here to read “Katerina’s Choice: Top 10 Jewels From Luxury by JCK.”

I am in great company on both lists: Anthony’s includes well-known designer Erica Courtney, while Katerina’s includes Karl Lagerfeld himself!. This might be the closest I ever get to Karl.

It’s a little funny that these awesome things came about because, for a long time, I wasn’t sure if I was even going to exhibit at this show. I’d attended the JCK Las Vegas shows before and had always been tempted to show my work there, but exhibiting is expensive. Making my one-of-a-kind jewelry is also very expensive, which is why I’d ruled out the show year after year, reasoning that I could make 1 1/2 Maneater rings for the same cost.  Then, this spring, I declared I would no longer work with retailers on consignment. (As I have previously explained, consignment means that I invest a lot money into manufacturing jewelry and give it to retailers for free, getting paid only if/when they sell a piece.) Well, most of the people who attend JCK (besides press such as Anthony and Katerina) are retailers, and a vast number of retailers sell fine jewelry only on consignment, so it would seem that this was the worst year for me to exhibit for the first time.

See me taking the picture of the display case?

You can see me taking a picture of the display case.

Instead, the timing was perfect! Any other year, I would have been agreeing to consignment deals right and left, just for the “exposure.” Now that I’ve learned the hard way that the only exposure I’ve ever gotten through consignment has been exposure to financial loss, I only discussed the kind of transactions that would benefit me: trunk shows and special orders. With trunk shows, I’m there personally to explain the jewelry to customers. For retailers that have a more conservative clientele, it might not be worth traveling for a show, but, as I told them, it’s worth it to them to keep me in mind when one of their supposedly traditional customers asks for something they don’t have. “What do you do,” I asked one store owner, “when a regular customer comes in and doesn’t buy anything?” He didn’t have an answer, so I supplied one: “You tell her that you know a New York designer who makes one-of-a-kind pieces for special women like her, and that you’ll have the best picks FedExed to the store within 48 hours.” (I’m actually going to write a separate post on that kind of customer service. I’m not a natural-born salesperson myself, so I know it’s hard, but I’ve bought quite a bit from brilliant salespeople, so I got schooled thanks to my wallet!)

Another good thing about my timing was that, last year, I got to know Andrea Hansen of Luxe Intelligence. Andrea got me into Elite Enclave, which was the best room at the show. It was a more intimate space filled with small designers who were all very different but still compatible.  Also, she arranged for me to share booth space with CEEK VR, a virtual/augmented reality company that has gotten support from Richline Group for its compelling ideas for the jewelry industry. For instance: We can all keep bemoaning how attached people are to their phones and how they don’t want to leave their homes to go shopping … or we can create a virtual store that lets them stay in their pajamas while using their phones to explore a lifelike store, see jewelry from every angle, get descriptions and prices, and learn about the designer’s inspiration.


Walk into my store!

How many times have I wished I could wander around Bergdorf Goodman when I can’t sleep at night? Sure, a website is nice, but it’s not the same as feeling you’re really there and I do like to do my clothes shopping in person. How good can it be, you might wonder? People, many of whom were initially skeptical, tried out my branded viewers (just download CEEK’s app and slide your phone right into the viewer) and were amazed. Look at their expressions!


See my Maneater designs on the viewer and all of the amazed expressions? Photo from CEEK VR.

Before I knew I was going to get to work with CEEK, I planned to focus my booth on my Punk Platinum line — the barbed wire and arrowhead pieces — which I felt was well-priced for traditional retail. When I found out that I was going to have my virtual store as well as an augmented reality experience, I realized my over-the-top, one-of-a-kind pieces had to play the starring role. (The augmented reality experience works with QR codes that can be sent to a customer.) I loved that CEEK picked out a movie-announcer narration voice that it deemed grand enough for the Maneater collection.

If I hadn’t made the centerpiece of my exhibit the Maneater rings — which I wouldn’t have done without the CEEK partnership — I might never have ended up on Anthony’s and Katerina’s Top 10 lists, so you see how this all came together like magic? A big thumbs up to Andrea Hansen for making the connection between me and CEEK, and to Richline Group for making it possible.

Here's Andrea!

Here’s Andrea!

Another wonderful aspect of working with CEEK were the CEEK peeps. Mary Spio is CEEK’s chief visionary as well as an excellent ring model.


Mary spent much of her time at CEEK’s other location within the JCK show, so I didn’t get to hang out with her as much as I would have liked. Luckily, I had CEEK executive Akim Millington at my booth for the entire week-long show, and he’s a total delight to be around.

Akim was a big football star in college, and he went on to the NFL with the New Orleans Saints, so usually he works on CEEK’s sports and entertainment efforts. Jewelry isn’t his area of expertise. He just throws on his diamond stud earrings and championship rings and he’s good to go.

That's me wearing Akim's giant championship ring next to my own No Class ring.

That’s me wearing Akim’s giant championship ring next to my own No Class ring.

But, after a couple of days, if we were busy at the booth or had to step away, Akim was able to give the jewelry spiel as well as the virtual reality pitch. He also read us his poetry and secured our delicious Moscow Mules when the 4 p.m. cocktail hour rolled around. Cocktail hour made us a little crazy, to be honest. After a long day in one place, telling the same jewelry stories over and over again, we were ready to live it up.


By “we” I’m not referring only to myself and Akim. Yet another fortunate result of my trade-show timing was the availability of my former right-hand woman, Eryn, who was able to join me as my salesperson extraordinaire. (You saw her mad ring-stacking skillz in yesterday’s post.) Last year she wouldn’t have been available, but this year she managed it, and she was fabulous. People who were initially trying to run in the other direction would wind up listening to her full pitch, testing the virtual reality viewers, and then leaning around her to mouth to me, “You need to give her a raise!”

Eryn would get out allll the rings while talking to potential customers.

Eryn would get out allll the rings while talking to potential customers.

Eryn and I were initially weirded out by the jacuzzi in our hotel room but it turned out to be useful after we got swollen feet from standing all day. There’s no one I would rather bathe with on a business trip!

Oh, just taking a bath with @_eryn_elizabeth … Wyd? #lolz #jacuzzi #whathappensinvegas #feet #sorefeet

A photo posted by Wendy Brandes (@wendybrandes) on

There’s also no one else I’d rather be with while in search of a missing 18K gold ring. One day, we realized the full-finger gold barbed wire ring was not in the case. We ransacked the case and our storage but had no luck. Eryn kept me calm by saying, “I know you left it in the hotel room.” She wasn’t convinced of that at all, but figured it would keep the peace. After we closed up for the night, we went back to the hotel and turned it upside-down and inside-out. I was seriously doing things like checking inside the ice bucket, multiple times. No ring. We decided to go back to the booth and look one more time, but it was after hours, so the armed security guards wouldn’t let us in. We had to speak to several different people until we got to a skeptical guard named Nelson. By “we,” I mean just Eryn because I was starting to fall into hysterical, inappropriate laughter, so I had to stand to the side and let her do all the talking before they called the police on my weird-acting ass. Eryn used all her sales skills to sway Nelson our way and he accompanied back to the booth. We looked everywhere, with flashlights. Eryn crawled into the bottom of the booth to feel around. I was still sitting on the floor, preparing to concede defeat when Eryn stood up … and suddenly spotted the ring blending perfectly into a swirl of gold in the patterned carpet. She let out a sound like “EEP!”, started laughing and crying, hugged Nelson, and then kind of put the ring on his finger. They might be married now. (It’s Vegas, y’all!) Meanwhile, I was literally rolling on the floor laughing with joy. A very shocked Nelson asked, “Wow, were you guys going to be fired?” and I yelled, “I’m the owner of the company!” from the floor.

Obviously, if we knew this story was going to have a happy ending, we would have Snapchatted it (I’m @WendyBrandes on Snapchat) but we were too busy worrying and negotiating with security. We did take the time to make a mini movie, re-enacting the search of the booth and the discovery of the ring. Enjoy!

We figured out that the ring had been in that spot for over 24 hours, as people walked all around it. Its survival is a miracle! I’m going to have to write to the Elite Enclave room organizers about the use of metallics in their future carpet designs. And, yes, we did leave a thank-you card for Nelson.

Wednesday, June 22, 2016

Dang! I’ve been back from the big JCK Las Vegas jewelry show for two weeks now and I still have to do multiple blog posts summing up my adventures! So much happened … writing this up is no small job! While I’m working on it, here are a few jewelry photos taken by the gorgeous people who visited my booth.

Photographer Simon Martner was there taking pictures for jewelry writer Katerina Perez. I love the one he took of my NYC Taxi and Passenger Maneater ring.

Becky “With the Good Hair” Stone of Diamonds in the Library photographed the other side of the Taxi ring.

Geeking out over the perfect details on this ring from @wendybrandesjewelry's Maneater collection. #tinytaxi

A photo posted by Becky Stone 💎 (@diamondsinthelibrary) on

Barbara Palumbo of Adornmentality got a nice shot of two of my other Maneater rings: the Bull and Bullfighter ring and the Pink Elephant and Tipsy Writer ring.

Barbara liked the side view of my JCK Jewelers’ Choice Award-winning anniversary ringnotice the tiny diamonds all around the edge. In addition, for her new, watch-oriented blog called What’s On Her Wrist, Barbara took a picture of me wearing my Hermès watch with two of my barbed wire bangles.

Yvonne Town of Koliero went for three Maneater rings at once.

Love all the details on these @wendybrandesjewelry rings 🚕 #JCK2016 #LuxurybyJCK

A photo posted by Koliero (@koliero) on

Amy Roseveare of Jewelry Fashion Tips chose three Maneater rings as well, but she swapped out the NYC Taxi ring for Jonah and the Whale.

Amazingly intricate, fantastical rings by @wendybrandesjewelry at @jckevents. #jck2016 #eliteenclave

A photo posted by Amy Roseveare (@amyroseveare) on

My jewelry-designing friend Marla Aaron brought over Grace Lavarro of Jewels by Grace and Mia Moross of The One I Love NYC. They had a fun time trying on rings and, as a bonus, Grace inspired me to get serious about completing a design I’ve had in development for quite a while. Check out her caption.

Yes, @marlaaaron, @theoneilovenyc and I fan girls of @wendybrandesjewelry. Beautifully crafted and witty. Plus, a pink pig is coming soon 🐖!

A photo posted by Jewels by Grace | Los Angeles (@jewelsbygrace) on

Of course, I posted tons of my own photos on the ‘gram. I like this one of Eryn Patton’s next-level ring stacking abilities. This might set some kind of record.

There’s much more to come. I’m typing as fast as I can!

Tuesday, June 21, 2016

“… it’s fun to wear, it has lasting value and it connects people across generations.”

Hmm. What could that describe? A top from H&M? The latest iPhone? An app, an antique end table or a even an exotic trip? Nope! It can only be jewelry.


A future heirloom: my Gloriana necklace. Click to shop.

Michelle Graff, the editor-in-chief of National Jeweler, wrote those words in a blog post a week after her mother’s mother died at age 98.  Read “The Real Reason People Buy Jewelry” for Michelle’s thoughts about the emotional meaning of jewelry, as well as her grandmother’s somewhat sassy words of wisdom.

wendy_brandes 4062

Model Tina J models my Gloriana necklace. Imagine getting this piece from someone you love! Click to enlarge.

By the way, the longevity of jewelry doesn’t mean that — when buying for yourself in 2016 — you have to choose the same styles that grandma wore decades ago.  If basics bore you, avoid them! Take inspiration from jewelry blogger Monica Stephenson of iDazzle, whose recent post for InStore Magazine was called “Redefining Heirloom.” As she wrote:

“… modern collectors are buying handmade designer jewelry with a very distinctive style. This is jewelry made with the care of what we have considered ‘important’ or ‘high’ jewelry, using rare and precious materials. It just doesn’t look like your grandmother’s jewelry box. These are the new jewelry heirlooms.”

You can see the type of careful craftsmanship that Monica refers to in this post about my Bull and Bullfighter Maneater ring. I documented all the steps necessary to create what I hope will be a museum-worthy design. Not only do I do work like that for my own line, but one of my specialties is redesigning old jewelry. Don’t be shy about changing grandmotherly pieces to suit your taste; I promise that the sentimental value will transfer to the new design.  As Michelle Graff’s grandma would advise, “Have fun with it.”

Now, because there are so many references to grandmothers in this post, it seems like the perfect time to give a birthday shout-out to my father’s mother Tillie, who turned 100 years old last Sunday.  The whole family got together to celebrate.


Happy 100th, Grandma!

Wait … why does it look like Grandma is eyeing my jewelry in this photo?

Monday, June 20, 2016

I often use my Jewel of the Month posts to introduce new designs, but sometimes I like to feature my classic jewelry. Right now, my Empress Matilda sword designs are on my mind.

Matilda Sword blog

This is one necklace, not two. The sword pulls out of the sheath, so the first image shows how the necklace looks when you’re wearing it normally. The second image shows how it can be taken apart to amaze your friends.

I’ve discontinued plenty of designs over the years, but the Matilda necklace and earrings have stayed in my collection since I introduced them in 2008. That was more than a year before my first Jewel of the Month post, so they never got an “official” post.

Matilda sword earrings.

Matilda sword earrings.

Why am I thinking of these designs at this particular moment? Because gorgeous blogger Becky Stone of Diamonds in the Library visited me at the JCK LUXURY jewelry show in Las Vegas and decided to take a fun Boomerang mini video for Instagram. You know how some people use the term “jewelry porn” when sharing photos of luxe jewelry? This turned out a lot porn-ier than we expected.

It reminds me of the time on Family Guy when Peter got a big red car.

We just need the “bow chicka bow wow” background music for that Boomberang. Sorry, Empress Matilda! We didn’t mean to get kinky with your namesake design.

Model Tina J is NOT being kinky with the necklace.

Model Tina J is NOT being kinky with the necklace.

In real life, Matilda was a dignified 12th-century lady. She was also the rightful heir to England’s throne, but it was stolen from her by her cousin Stephen, his sole superior qualification being that he was a man. He turned out to be a nice guy in some ways — except for the whole usurpation thing — but he was a weak-ass king.

There was a fictionalized example of one of Stephen’s kingly mistakes in a recent Game of Thrones episode, in which the Freys threatened to hang Edmure Tully in order to induce his uncle, known as the Blackfish, to give up the Riverrun castle. The Blackfish called the Freys’ bluff and was basically like, “You do you, boo. I don’t care.” The Freys were like, “Okay, maybe we don’t feel like hanging Edmure right now” and skulked away. (Um, not exact quotes, obviously.) The great thing is that the actual, 12th-century event was much more colorful. In that case, Stephen was holding the young son of Matilda’s super-tough ally John Marshal. When Stephen threatened to hang the kid unless Marshal gave up the castle he was holding, Marshal famously gave him the go-ahead, saying (and this is a real quote), “I still have the hammer and the anvil with which to forge still more and better sons.” Stephen couldn’t bear to hang the kid and while that makes him seem like a sweet, sensitive dude, mercy wasn’t the way for a king to earn respect in the 1100s. By the way, the child grew up to be William Marshal, a renowned knight … who might have had some lifelong daddy issues, but that’s just speculation.

Anyway, Matilda proved she had bigger balls than Stephen by waging war against him for 19 years. She kinda lost in the short term — not that 19 years is a short term — but won in the long term, as I explained in my three 2008 posts about her. Read them here:

Matilda is one of my favorite royal ladies, right up there with Empress Wu and Elizabeth I, so I wanted her 18K gold jewelry design to be worthy of her. Obviously, with the necklace, there’s the sword pulling out of the scabbard, which is pretty fancy. I also made sure every centimeter of the sword was elaborately engraved. The gems for the necklace are set on both sides, so there’s no front or back. There are two rose-cut diamonds and four sapphires in total. The matching earrings are just like the sword without the scabbard. (That would have made the earrings too heavy.) There are still two rose-cut diamonds and four sapphires, but they’re spread out over the two earrings.

I”m more pleased than ever with this design thanks to one of Becky Stone’s commenters on the porny Instagram post, who pointed out that the word “vagina” is from the Latin “vāgīnae,” which literally means “sheath” or “scabbard.” There’s something very satisfactory about that.

I have one Matilda necklace and one pair of earrings available for immediate delivery. After those are sold, the designs will be made to order, so if you’d like to wear either or both this summer, order now via the links below.

As always, if you have questions about these or any other jewelry designs, holla at me at info at wendybrandes dot com.

Sunday, June 19, 2016

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

Friday, June 17, 2016

While I’m in Vienna, my designing friend Stacy Lomman has been petsitting all the “animules,” as we call them. She’s their aunt, after all!

Stacy told me that she took Edward the Dog to the dog run (Gigi the Dog stayed at home, because she hates most other dogs) and, on the way out of the park, he was stopped for a photo shoot. Well, look who is on the awesome The Dogist Instagram/Facebook account today!

And Stacy’s comment is highlarious.

“He’s stubborn. He’ll be in the dog park like he’s ready to go, and as soon as I take him to leave, he pancakes out and won’t move.”

It’s so true. Initially, Edward had what a dog trainer called “street exuberance,” meaning he ran all over the place and up to every single dog during his walks. Due to my own failure to practice the dog trainer’s tips, Edward has recently picked up an additional habit (one that my other Pekes used occasionally too): lying down on the sidewalk, as flat as a pancake, and refusing to budge unless we go in the direction he wants to go in. It’s so embarrassing! Several weeks ago, I vowed that I would get back to the obedience lessons as soon as I’m done with my travels this month. But I have no regrets about my procrastination now, just because it made for a great quote for this beautiful photo!

Friday, June 17, 2016

We had to take our photos at night this time, but yesterday MrB and I managed to recreate our throwback pictures from our long-ago trip to  Vienna.

First, we attended the Data Journalism Awards, held at Vienna’s City Hall, where MrB both presented awards and also accepted the award for best individual portfolio on behalf of winner Sisi Wei of ProPublica.

At dinner, MrB sat next to Executive City Councillor Renate Brauner and an official photographer took this great photo of them.


Source: Global Editors Network

I was sitting on MrB’s other side, under an assumed name (actually, MrB’s real last name).

I was so glad I posted that on Instagram because my friend Monika left this response.

“Nice. When I studied in France and I was already married at the time, they registered me under my maiden name plus “Madame Cornell.” [Cornell is her married name.] When I asked why, they said that woman’s diplomas should always be in her maiden name. Husbands come and go but your degrees are for you.”

That story is giving me life!

Anyway, you can glimpse me trying to have very good posture in this photo of the whole table.

Source: Global Editors Network.

Source: Global Editors Network.

After the awards dinner, we got in a cab and went to Hotel Imperial, where I suspected we had taken the old photo I posted yesterday.


Click for yesterday’s post about this 1999/2000 photo.

I was right! I tried to strike the original pose, but MrB encouraged me to pose like the statue instead.


Why did the sculptor think exposing an elbow and underarm was so sex-ay?

What Wendy Wore
Dress: James Perse (probably from 2002, previously seen here)
Shoes: Prada (2011)
Belt: Random thing I bought online (2016)
Unseen Purse: Sonia Rykiel (2009)

Then we went right around the corner to Dumbass Street (aka Dumbastrasse) to get an update on this old picture.


MrB, back in the day. Click for yesterday’s post.

In the dark, I couldn’t get a good shot from the original angle, so we decided that this would do.


MrB is thrilled to be back on Dumbastrasse.

Afterwards, I told MrB, “I’m so happy!” about 100 times. It truly was one of my life goals to visit Dumbass Street once again. Mission accomplished!

Thursday, June 16, 2016

MrB and I are currently in Vienna, attending the Global Editors Network Summit on media innovation. My No. 1 goal while here is to re-enact a photo from our last visit here, many years ago. This was probably taken in 1999 or 2000.


MrB, back in the day.

I, of course, was the immature individual who decided the sign looked a little like it said “Dumbass Street” and forced MrB to pose there. Since then, whenever one or the other of us has done something foolish, I say, “You/I have to go stand on Dumbass Street.” Maybe I’ll be the one standing there for our 2016 photo.

Here’s another photo from the same trip. Even if this was taken in 2000, it still captures the horror of late 1990s fashion.


At the time, I thought those light-colored, leopard-print pants were the cat’s meow. Looking back, I find the shoes to be even more disturbing than the pants. I’m sure that’s a James Perse t-shirt. I used to wear those all the time. This look is somewhat redeemed by my gemstone necklace, which MrB got me in my pre-jewelry designer days. While I’m generally against closet purges, I’m delighted to say that I rid myself of the hideous pants and shoes long ago. (The t-shirt most likely just wore out.) Obviously, I kept the necklace!

Wednesday, June 15, 2016

Last Thursday, on what would have been designer Ossie Clark’s 74th birthday, I said I would wear one of my Ossie pieces to dinner on the weekend. Here’s the dress I chose for an evening at Lincoln Ristorante at Lincoln Center.

wendyossieresizeWhat Wendy Wore
Dress: Vintage Ossie Clark (possibly purchased in 2006 or 2007)
Cork Shoes: Christian Louboutin (probably from 2008)
Cork Clutch: Diane von Furstenberg (bought same time as the Louboutin shoes)

If this dress looks familiar, that’s because it is. Here are pictures of it from 2007 and 2014.


Collecting Ossie Clark designs from the 1960s and 1970s helped me realize that I don’t need to “purge” my closet as so many people recommend. If I can re-wear a 50-year-old dress, I can certainly keep wearing one from last season!

Tuesday, June 14, 2016

I usually don’t share photos of a work in progress because a lot can change while a jewelry design is being completed, especially with intricate pieces that take months to finish. I like to wait till the work is done, then backtrack and show some of the steps I took along the way:  rough sketches, wax models and so on. I’ve even been known to alter designs after I think I’ve completed them, the way I did with the Bull and the Bullfighter Maneater ring. As you can see, I moved the bull up, so that he towers over the bullfighting arena, rather than standing in it.


Click for original post.

At times, I’ve regretted sharing the “before” photo for that Bull ring because people have grabbed it and used it in stories about my work. The final result is so much better than the original look.

Despite that, I’m throwing caution to the wind and giving sneak peeks of new designs (or the gems that will be part of my new designs) over on Instagram. Follow me here to see what’s coming up!



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