Dana Bronfman: Quietly Bold
Dana Bronfman continues to challenge the status quo with her unique storytelling, conscious jewelry choices, and signature quietly bold designs.
In a few words, how would you describe your style the “quietly bold” theme that runs through your collections?
A “quietly bold” person is one who doesn’t want to wear the same thing everyone else has but takes pride in having their own unique sense of style that expresses their personality. However, they express themselves in a quiet way. Instead of choosing the loudest, largest, or most ostentatious pieces, they choose an unexpected design—the way something feels, the craftsmanship, and the durability/life cycle of the piece. They shop consciously and like pieces they can wear every day, that pair well with everything already in one’s closet and jewelry box. I like adding a subtle detail that can be a surprise, almost like a secret between the owner and the piece.
Why is your ultimate goal to redefine luxury as doing good, rather than as a status symbol? Could you explain the motive behind the cause?
I have always been disenchanted with traditional status symbols since I was a kid. I didn’t understand why people aspired to own simple diamond studs or basic pearl necklaces, for example— I thought they were boring. It always bothered me how the media and popular culture portrayed luxury as being excessive bordering on wasteful, wearing fur coats, and mistreating people who were “less than” as symbols of luxury. I loved Native American jewelry and my grandmother’s collection of unique pieces from her travels, which is what inspired me to create jewelry. I started my career in the non-profit sector, and when I transitioned to jewelry to pursue my lifelong dream, I knew I would remain an advocate and involved in philanthropy, which are a part of my life, and not limited to my work.
How do you incorporate responsible jewelry into your style?
It’s about the integrity of our ethos that we choose to use the word “responsible.” I cringe a bit when I hear people describe something new being made as sustainable, and ethical has lost any meaning with how it is overly relied on. The stories behind the journey of a gemstone or a piece of gold before it reaches my studio is important to me. I look for materials where we can tell our customers with confidence that their piece is responsibly-sourced but also choose materials where we can make a positive impact. That’s why we incorporated Fairmined gold in addition to recycled gold, as well as investing in industry initiatives such as the Mercury Free Mining project. It’s also important for me to know where the gemstones originate, where they are cut, and what the conditions are like there, and prefer working with vertically-integrated companies or dealers with direct and close relationships with the source, and even miners directly when possible. We make every piece locally in New York in our studio, including many one-of-a-kinds, or we make one of each piece, and the rest to order after that, to avoid any waste.
However, rather than relying on any blanket statements or claims like this, I prefer to tell the story of each piece individually, as each has its own unique story.
Do you have a creative process when you are coming up with a new collection? How does the process of designing and making a new piece start?
I look for stones I absolutely love, and I play with layouts and sketches, and study the current body of work to notice gaps. This also comes from customers’ feedback. I try to make sure I’m fulfilling my own creative impulses in line with my principles, while making sure I’m also listening to what my clients want. Once I start creating a new concept, I often have a hard time cutting myself off from developing that concept in depth.
Where do you draw inspiration from? Has your move to NYC changed the way you think about jewelry?
My first collection was very inspired by New York, because it was new and novel to me, and everything was inspiring. Over the past few years, my travels or urban wanderings increasingly inspired my collections. It’s the visual inspiration from a place, but even more so the feeling I have when I am in a place, and at times it has included wandering around my own adopted home city. New York has influenced me, as our pieces tend to have clean lines, structure and a bit of glamour, but also a bit of toughness and grit. The longer I have been in New York, the more I am drawn to color, and gemstones with unique and beautiful inclusions that remind me of nature.
How do you want people to feel when they wear the jewelry you design?
I want people to feel special, that they are worth investing in, and connected to their unique mission as a human being. I want them to look at the piece and think of how it came from the ground, but has become something very luxurious.
You have expressed a deep connection to the Earth, how would you describe your relationship with the materials you use, and do you have a favorite?
I love yellow gold. I love silver. I love textured metal. I love cabochons. I love turquoise, emeralds, and lavender gemstones like purple opals and chalcedony. I love stones with golden inclusions like rutilated quartz and lapis lazuli (Chilean, please). I could go on— I guess I have a lot of favorites!
The oculus is a prominent motif in your work. What is the explanation for that?
The oculus is open space, something that opens up channels of connection between people, as jewelry is a symbol of love, but also self-expression. It creates dimension by allowing the light to shine through and highlights the individual light of the wearer. The layers of what’s being shown through the oculus reflect the layers of who the owner is.
What is one lesson that you have learned during your travels that still comes to your mind when you make jewelry?
I am always conscious not to take inspiration too literally, and to be culturally appropriate.
What did winning the prestigious Rising Star Award from the Fashion Group International mean to you?
It was totally unexpected, but an honor. As someone who started out a total outsider to the jewelry and fashion world, it was an honor and affirmation of having chosen this path.
What plans do you have that you’d like our readers to be knowledgeable of? Any new collections launching or events taking place?
I’m working on a bridal collection that I’m so excited to launch soon! You can follow me on Instagram, Facebook and subscribe to my email newsletter on my website to be the first to hear when that happens!
To see more of Dana Bronfman’s excellent work and unique design, please visit https://danabronfman.com/.