Quietly Bold Modern Style - Dana Bronfman
How did you get your start in fine jewelry?
I didn’t like traditional fine jewelry, so I thought it would be the last thing I would get involved in when I was young and thinking about “what I wanted to be when I grew up.” My grandmother introduced me to jewelry I loved when I was a young girl. She has an amazing collection of silver jewelry and pieces she had collected on her travels. She took me to a Native American trading post, and as a young girl who was always writing poetry about nature and drawing shapes and compositions from my imagination, I was fascinated by the colors, patterns, shapes
I realized that jewelry was not just a status symbol, it is the most meaningful of all material things, particularly as it becomes passed through generations or reminds you of the person who gifted it to you, or the place or reason or story behind you buying it for yourself, which is very empowering, and I encourage all women to do.
When I studied to learn the craft of jewelry fabrication, I realized both the environmental impacts of jewelry in addition to deeply knowing the power of jewelry that is high quality and well-crafted enough to last for many, many years to come, I chose to create jewelry that was created from extremely high quality materials so it could be built to last for lifetimes and lifetimes, with a design aesthetic that people could choose to tell their own stories, rather than being a status symbol.
What does ‘quietly bold’ mean to you as an aesthetic?
“Quietly bold” means understated, yet unique. It means pieces that are quiet enough to style well with a wide variety of looks, both for every day and dressed up occasions, but bold enough to still make the wearer feel confident and special through all of those looks. Quietly bold jewelry is not in the least bit flashy-- you can easily wear it on the subway. It doesn’t rely on its bling factor to be classified as “luxury,” but rather earns that stamp through the thought and care that goes into its material sourcing, its design, and craftsmanship.
A part of quietly bold design means there is more than meets the eye to the design though subtle details. I incorporate layers into the jewelry to bring out the many facets of one’s personality. and an element of surprise, such as pieces that look different depending on whether you are looking at them from the side, top, or back, or are convertible and can be worn different ways. These “hidden” details that the wearer gets to keep for him or herself allow them to keep their jewelry fresh and new for a long time because they get to see it and experience it over and over in more than one way.
What does having an ethical brand mean to you?
An ethical brand can mean different things to different people depending on what you value the most, but my top value is authenticity, so I run my business and life by that code above all else. I make sure I am being transparent with my customers, and treat them well. I want to feel confident in the quality and trust so that I can pass that on to my customers, so I only work with suppliers and manufacturers I trust and whose work I respect, and pay them fairly for their great work. All the work happens locally, under my supervision, both so I can control the design and quality, but also to minimize the environmental impact; we also use recycled precious metals and ethically sourced gemstones. Building high-quality pieces helps them last forever, so as to not create waste, as does our versatile design aesthetic, so you can get the highest value out of the pieces, so while the investment is not a tiny amount, the cost-per-wear becomes relatively low. Design-wise, being culturally-appropriate, and not copying anyone else, is also a part of this. We also collaborate with non-profits, contributing pieces to auctions for select non-profits we carefully select to give a portion of our proceeds from events or donate to charity auctions. Sometimes we run campaigns on our website where a percentage of sales from a certain time period contributes to a non-profit as well as we did recently for the TIMES UP campaign. On my own time, I also engage in initiatives about how to make the jewelry industry as a whole more sustainable as well as volunteer work with select non-profits, such as Publicolor.
My ultimate vision is to transform the view of luxury from something that exploits people and the planet to something that is doing good.
As a designer, what are you main influences
I guess you could say Native American jewelry influenced me, since I love it and perhaps some of the colors I like and the ideas of geometric design were first seen in those styles, but on the lines of authenticity, I am careful to make sure I am designing my own point of view and being culturally appropriate. My grandmother was also a huge influence on me, as I previously mentioned. My jewelry education impacted me in terms of creating each design; the process of creating jewelry and hammering metal itself influences me, as it gives me the ideas of the possibilities for design. The gemstones themselves often seem to guide me to know what to do design for them. Industrial imagery seen in my daily life in New York also influences me, as I like to juxtapose glamour and grit together, with which New York is full. But, it is more about the energy and the feeling my influences give me than the literal look of the things themselves.
Tell us about the inspiration behind your latest collection
My latest collection is a collaboration with Muzo Emeralds-- gorgeous Colombian emeralds, and a company that operates under responsible practices. I traveled to India in December, and the architecture of the old palaces, forts and tombs were so inspiring, with their colors, ornate details and patterns (some of which are inlaid with real gemstones!); but to highlight the beauty of these emeralds, be true to my aesthetic and not distract from the stunning emeralds, I chose to take the shapes of the archways atop the entryways and openings in the structures as the forms for the settings of the marquise and biomorphic heart cabochon emeralds. Open space, in the form of negative space, are a theme in my jewelry, which I refer to as the “oculus” (an architectural term for a circular open space), so it makes sense that the outlines of the open space in the structures inspired me. The archways, and the open space, are symbolic portals through which we can connect, since jewelry is a symbol of connection and love. I used my hammered texture to give the pieces a subtle, artisanal shine and pay homage to the people who worked in each step of the process that made the final created piece possible. Some of my signature open space and a sparkle of white diamonds was the final touch to tie the design together and allow the natural light to be reflected and shine through, to inspire the wearer to let their true authentic selves shine.
Do you have any particular favourite pieces?
I couldn’t choose just one, but if I had to, it would be the Hollow Ring because it is the foundational piece of my collection. The layers of it inspired the layers and using mixed metals throughout my collection, and using open space or the Oculus to show what is underneath, playing with natural light and dimension.
The fan favorite is the Holly Pendant, which is a tubular pendant inspired by a pipe that can be worn with the chain slipped through several different openings to be worn in different ways, with an adjustable chain that allows you to wear it at many lengths.
Describe the typical wearer of Dana Bronfman
My wearers range from their mid twenties to their mid-50s, and most of them buy the jewelry for themselves. They like to think of themselves as understated, unique, and chic, and live in the jewelry. Most of my customers wear their pieces almost every day, but it’s not a requirement! Their styles of dressing are usually modern and unfussy, although many of them are industrial, interior designers or artists themselves and like color and pattern in their own designs. They usually live in urban areas but appreciate the outdoors and have an interest in buying from environmentally and socially responsible small businesses; many of them are also philanthropists themselves.