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