Editors’ darling, wordsmith, and jewelry designer Wendy Brandes is as irreverent with her creations as she is with her blog posts. A case in point is the artist’s small but growing series of jewelry called “Maneater,” inspired by strong women, and with female characters literally assuming positions of power over male counterparts.
“A lot of my other jewelry designs are inspired by strong, historical female figures…women some people would call man-eaters,” Brandes tells JCK. Three rings to date portray explicit “man-eating situations with a triumphant animal on top of the shank and a man hidden inside the shank,” she adds. “It’s power jewelry.”
Further reinforcing the force factor: a total of eight rings—per the thought that the number symbolizes power—will eventually round out the collection, which will be limited in production. To date, there are no plans to add other styles, but that could change.
“Rings are the best way of executing this concept,” she continues. “The hidden man is a secret detail for the wearer to enjoy and the wearer can best view that detail when it’s in front of her, on her hand.… Rings are the pieces that can be enjoyed the most by the woman who wears them.”
The idea of concealing cool details in her pieces stems from a vintage purchase she made in the 1980s in New York City: a dragon-themed bell in brass with a knight hidden in its belly. The vendor told her it was a “happy dragon,” and when asked why, he replied: “Because he had a really good knight,” turning the dragon over to reveal a tiny knight-shaped bell clapper. “I thought that was the cutest thing ever!” Brandes wrote on her blog. She bought it, and it continues to inspire her and drive the concept of hidden treasures in her line.
So far, Brandes has made the Frog and Prince (the first in the series), the Lion and the Hunter, and Jonah and the Whale. Each is crafted in 18k gold with a decidedly antique hue, and features rich texturing—grainy wood for the frog’s log shank, a thick multi-strand mane on a lion nestled in viny brush, and sapphire-accented rough waves for the whale’s sea home—carved into the metal. The hidden companions, meanwhile, are masterfully captured in diminutive forms, with no choice but to await viewing from wearers by way of their subservient posts: a starry-eye and suited-up prince looking for love, a quasi-cocky hunter posing with a shotgun that will never fire, and a helpless Jonah cowering in a fetal position inside the belly of his massive mammal captor.
“The people who have seen the Frog ring keep turning it over and over and over, looking at all the details, and getting out their reading glasses or loupes so they don’t miss anything,” says Brandes. “That’s the kind of jewelry I like to make: something as un-put-downable as a good book.”
Frog and Prince ring in 18k yellow, rose, green, and white gold with 0.3 ct. t.w. colorless diamonds, 0.23 ct. t.w. brown diamonds, 0.08 ct. t.w. tsavorite, and 0.05 ct. t.w. pink sapphires, $25,000
Lion and Hunter ring in 18k yellow, rose and white gold, with 0.25 ct. t.w. tsavorite, 0.14 ct. t.w. colorless diamonds, 0.09 ct. t.w. yellow diamonds, and 0.03 ct. t.w. blue sapphires, $26,500
Jonah and Whale ring in 18k white and yellow gold with 0.86 ct. t.w. blue sapphires, 0.50 ct. t.w. colorless diamonds, and 0.04 ct. t.w. tsavorite, $26,500