Personalities

Meet Laurie Kaiser and Her Rustic Romantic Feminine Style

New York City. Jan. 30, 2020. Designer Laurie Kaiser has been turning out gorgeously executed gold designs with noticeable stylized nature motifs—think lemongrass leaves and bark-like surfaces—for the past 14 years. Previously, the Nashville, Tenn.–based artist headed up her own advertising agency, but when a jewelry-making class taken with a friend opened her eyes to a different type of creativity, she shifted gears to jewelry design.

Nature plays the biggest role in her work, with flora and fauna dominating themes and finishes. Expressive gemstones like agate, jasper, and azure-malachite, with their gloriously eart-tone veins and impressionistic portraits of color, blend with aquamarine, topaz, diamonds, uniquely shaped pearls, and dreamy rainbow moonstones, among other gems.

“I love the unusual gems that are fine but casual in appearance and can’t be reproduced. “You’ll see leaves and vines in my work—sophisticated, precious versions of nature.”

And while Kaiser loves to sketch out designs, goldsmiths bring her largely fabricated or hand-crafted and hand-engraved works to life. Pieces are made in Jaipur in 18k gold and sterling silver.

Merchant Mary Leppert, co-owner of Metalmark Fine Jewelry, with stores in Carmel, Ind., and Denver, says she and her staffers fell for Kaiser’s styles at a trade-only Melee jewelry show in New York City last year.

“The jewelry is so well made and beautiful,” she says. “We love that it is designed for women by a woman, and how she frames the stones with leaf work or branches. We even just had someone buy one of the crisscross rings as a wedding band.”

Another purveyor of Kaiser’s work also has high praise: Sundance recently put a pair of her earrings on a catalog cover.

Retail prices start at $500.

Lemongrass Bar necklace in 18k yellow gold and blackened sterling silver with 26.50 cts. t.w. azurite malachite cabochons and 0.10 ct. t.w. brilliant-cut diamonds, $1,900; email Laurie@lauriekaiser.com for purchase.

Lemongrass Bar necklace in 18k yellow gold and blackened sterling silver with 26.50 cts. t.w. azurite malachite cabochons and 0.10 ct. t.w. brilliant-cut diamonds, $1,900; email Laurie@lauriekaiser.com for purchase

Lemongrass ring in 18k yellow gold with a 0.61 ct. rose-cut diamond center and 0.04 ct. t.w. brilliant-cut diamonds, $2,370; email Laurie@lauriekaiser.com for purchase.

Lemongrass ring in 18k yellow gold with a 0.61 ct. rose-cut diamond center and 0.04 ct. t.w. brilliant-cut diamonds, $2,370; email Laurie@lauriekaiser.com for purchase

Fresco Stripe earrings in 18k yellow gold and blackened sterling silver with 75 cts. t.w. petrified wood cabochons and 0.25 ct. t.w. brilliant-cut diamonds, $3,840; email Laurie@lauriekaiser.com for purchase.

Fresco Stripe earrings in 18k yellow gold and blackened sterling silver with 75 cts. t.w. petrified wood cabochons and 0.25 ct. t.w. brilliant-cut diamonds, $3,840; email Laurie@lauriekaiser.com for purchase.

Drop earrings in 14k yellow gold with purple garnets and diamonds, $1,300 at K.Jon’s

This content is copyright protected and may not be reproduced.

Personalities

Jewelry Family Creates Foundation to Honor Holocaust-Survivor Father

Livingston, N.J. Jan. 23, 2020. Ann S. Arnold and sister Isabella S. Fiske have much to be proud of in this life. Both are accomplished professionals in jewelry—Arnold is the chief strategy officer of BIG, a merchandising and inventory management solutions firm for retailers and manufacturers, and Fiske heads up her personal shopping and jewelry design business dubbed ISF Jewels—and they are the daughters of Mark Schonwetter, the former owner of wedding jewelry maker Lieberfarb. Their dad is also a Holocaust survivor who shared his deeply personal story of the Holocaust in “Together: A Journey for Survival,” a book inked by Arnold a few years ago. Now the sisters are honoring their dad in a way that can benefit even more people, through the creation of The Mark Schonwetter Holocaust Education Foundation.

The organization’s mission is to expand and support Holocaust education for students around the country and to provide funds for educators to include Holocaust studies in lesson plans. According to Arnold, funds “can be used to purchase educational materials, help subsidize field trips, speaker costs, or host assemblies and programs.”

Schonwetter, along with his mother and sister, survived the Holocaust as child in Poland by hiding in the forest and in the homes of sympathetic families. Schonwetter emigrated to America in 1961 with five dollars to his name and no English-language skills. He obtained work at a jewelry factory where he swept floors, learned English, rose to manager within five years, and bought the company within 10 years. He ran Lieberfarb for over 40 years.

In retirement, Schonwetter has been sharing his Holocaust story, discovering that one of the biggest obstacles schools face with Holocaust education is budget restraints. The Foundation aims to aid schools in bringing these important history lessons to students today.

Learn more about The Mark Schonwetter Holocaust Education Foundation online. Teaching institutions can also apply for grants.

Catch the family tomorrow in the 3rd Hour of “The Today Show” on NBC, where Schonwetter will share his story and talk about the Foundation.

From left: Ann S. Arnold, Mark Schonwetter, Isabella S. Fiske, and Luba Schonwetter

From left: Ann S. Arnold, Mark Schonwetter, Isabella S. Fiske, and Luba Schonwetter

Editor’s Note: I read “Together” and loved it! I highly recommend others read this incredible personal tale of survival. Never again!

Drop earrings in 14k yellow gold with purple garnets and diamonds, $1,300 at K.Jon’s

This content is copyright protected and may not be reproduced.

Personalities

Collector Obsession: Stephanie’s Love of Belle Étoile Jewelry Gave Her Style and, Serendipitously, a Husband

Chicago. Jan. 15, 2020. It was a trip to Sanibel, Fla., with her mom during graduate school in 2012 when Stephanie, now a Chicago-based technical sales consultant for a biotech company, learned about the silver jewelry brand Belle Étoile and the family behind it—a family she would eventually marry into.

On the trip, the pair heard about Lily & Co. Jewelers, a jewelry store with two beautiful large dogs in addition to beautiful jewelry, so the animal (and jewelry) lovers went to visit.

There, Stephanie saw Belle Étoile jewelry for the first time. She loved the bright colors and fun designs, including a Toucan Collection bracelet with a black background that let a vibrantly colored bird and fauna pop with primary hues. Stephanie couldn’t afford to purchase it at the time but went home and online to make a wish list of coveted Belle Étoile jewels. For her birthday and Christmas that year (both are just days apart), her mother surprised her with the Toucan bangle and ring, a domed look with the same fun aesthetic.

From there, Stephanie graduated, started working around the U.S., and eventually moved home to Chicago in 2016, building her Belle Étoile collection in the process. She also bought Belle Étoile gifts for her mom and sister, including a Peacock set, Parrot charms, and Constellation bracelets, from Altobello Fine Jewelers in Wheaton, Ill. To date, Stephanie owns nine pieces; among them are two bracelets and two rings from the Birds of Paradise Collection, a Hummingbird bracelet, and a ring featuring a coral reef and sea turtle.

“I like that Belle Étoile is attainable,” she explains. “Some pieces are pricier, but I would think jewelry this unique would cost thousands of dollars. Somehow, Belle Étoile has taken something that is couture and made it a third of the price.”

Then a truly serendipitous happenstance occurred. Just weeks after returning home to the Windy City, a friend introduced her to now-husband Bill, who—unbeknownst to Stephanie at the time—was the brother-in-law of Carolyn Thamkul, the owner of her beloved Belle Étoile jewelry. A month into dating, Bill invited Stephanie to his house for dinner with his five-year-old daughter Scarlett, who was wearing a Belle Étoile butterfly necklace, a piece Stephanie immediately recognized. “I lost my mind—I screamed ‘Where did you get that Belle Étoile necklace’?” Stephanie recollects. That’s when Bill told her about the Belle Étoile connection, a fact that elicited yet another and louder scream from Stephanie.

“OMG—you have no idea! I love Belle Étoile!” she shrieked.

Besides sharing lots of other important commonalities, like a love of kids, the pair quickly decided to marry. In October that year, they had a small ceremony, at which Stephanie finally met Carolyn and husband—brother to her new husband—Bryce, who sang Always by Erasure during the ceremony. (Carolyn and Bryce are part of an acapella group in their home state of California.)

Scarlett was included in the wedding ceremony, wearing her own white dress and an Onda collection necklace from Belle Étoile. “We gave her a necklace with three multicolor loops—the big one is daddy, the rose one is me, and shiny one in the middle being hugged by both is Scarlett,” says Stephanie about the symbolic piece.

Not surprisingly, Carolyn is elated with her newfound family member on many levels.

“They are kindred spirits who were in the same place at the right time,” she says. “And Belle Étoile is a niche product; what are the odds of finding someone who is obsessed with collecting it?”

Stephanie and Carolyn finally meet at the wedding in October 2016.

Stephanie and Carolyn finally meet at the wedding in October 2016.

Stephanie, Bill, and Scarlett on their wedding day.

Stephanie, Scarlett, and Bill on their wedding day.

Daisy chain pendant necklace in sterling with rhodium plating, enamel, and CZ, $175; available online at Davis Jewelers

Daisy chain pendant necklace in sterling with rhodium plating, enamel, and CZ, $175; available online at Davis Jewelers

Jardin ring in sterling with rhodium plating, enamel, and CZ, $210; available online at Sachs Jewelers

Jardin ring in sterling with rhodium plating, enamel, and CZ, $210; available online at Sachs Jewelers

Love Toucan bangle in sterling with rhodium plating, enamel, and CZ, $450; available online at August Stephenson Jewelry

Love Toucan bangle in sterling with rhodium plating, enamel, and CZ, $450; available online at August Stephenson Jewelry

Peacock bangle in sterling with rhodium plating, enamel, and CZ, $625; available online at Hawaiian Island Jewelry

Peacock bangle in sterling with rhodium plating, enamel, and CZ, $625; available online at Hawaiian Island Jewelry


This content is copyright protected and may not be reproduced.

Personalities

Meet Wendy Stauffer of Fuss Jewelry and Her Flirty Fringe Aesthetic

New York City. Jan. 10, 2020. It was 2007 when Sausalito, Calif.-based Wendy Stauffer of Fuss Jewelry unveiled her first attempts at jewelry design, on Etsy.com. The pieces were wire-wrapped flowers with briolettes, pretty enough to start garnering a fan base.

By 2010, Stauffer was watching YouTube videos and hitting up professionals on Facebook jewelry groups about metalsmithing to start incorporating fabricated styles into her mix. Now the onetime biology major, self-taught graphic designer, and longtime lover of crafts was ready to devote all her time to an elevated jewelry look that combined wire wrapping with metalsmithing.

“My style slowly evolved—It took five years for me to get there,” she explains. “It’s amazing how much people online will share to help you.”

Through the process of developing her look, fringed beads with two-tone metals became an obvious choice. Botanical motifs like leaves, a holdover from her early science education, also take shape among her largely freeform and organic creations.

“I like a bezel-set stone with romantic frilly edges of gemstones,” she adds. “I love 22k gold for bezels with wire-wrapped silver around it.”

New designs are always inspired by the gems. These include humble ones like dendritic agates, Montana moss agates, and boulder opal—“They provide such a spectrum of color!” Stauffer exclaims—in addition to vibrantly colored tourmaline or rutilated gems and more.

Sketching, too, facilitates ideas, as does exercise.

“I often get good ideas for designs when I’m running,” she says. “I try not to forget them by the time I get home!”

Meanwhile, components like large chains and clasps are made by Stauffer, while finer chains are purchased from manufacturing outlets with efficient skills to produce tiny links. All pieces are hand-fabricated, though wax carvings may be in her future.

“Casting interests me because the botanical designs I do would adapt well to carving in wax,” she says.

Her favorite metal is, for sure, Argentium silver. “It fuses without soldering in the initial steps,” she says. Accents in 18k gold are another common feature in her jewelry, as are sturdy 14k head pins for beaded accents.

Retail prices start at $500.

Find Stauffer’s work on her website fussjewelry.com as well as at select retailers like J. Mcveigh Jewelry in Stonington, Maine, and the retail component of the American Craft Council show in Baltimore.

Limited edition Kyanite Dangle earrings in Argentium silver with 22k and 14k gold with pearls and lapis are one inch long and a half an inch wide, $690; available online at Fuss Jewelry

Limited edition Kyanite Dangle earrings in Argentium silver with 22k and 14k gold with pearls and lapis are one inch long and a half an inch wide, $690; available online at Fuss Jewelry

Ring in oxidized silver and 22k gold with Aqua Wood Fossil Boulder opal with mixed gemstones, $855; available online at Fuss Jewelry

Ring in oxidized silver and 22k gold with Aqua Wood Fossil Boulder opal with mixed gemstones, $855; available online at Fuss Jewelry

Flowers on a Trellis necklace in oxidized silver with 14k and 18k yellow gold with Boulder opal, pink sapphires and tourmalines, Spessartite garnet, amethyst, and tanzanite, $1,800; available online at Fuss Jewelry

Flowers on a Trellis necklace in oxidized silver with 14k and 18k yellow gold with Boulder opal, pink sapphires and tourmalines, Spessartite garnet, amethyst, and tanzanite, $1,800; available online at Fuss Jewelry


This content is copyright protected and may not be reproduced.