Theresa Bruno traded a piano bench for a jeweler’s bench when she launched her Jordan Alexander line last year. Though the Orlando native received graduate and undergraduate degrees in the performing arts and trained to be a concert pianist before a medical condition stunted her career as a pianist, Bruno gravitated to jewelry design because of “a love and appreciation for beauty and artistry,” she explains to JCK. “My [music] training helped define me as a person and influenced my life’s creative journey as a musician, arts educator, film producer, and now, jewelry designer. I don’t think one can have better design inspiration than to live a life filled with art and beauty.”
Three years ago in Los Angeles, during the filmmaking leg of her career journey, Bruno found herself inspired by the jewelry department in Barneys, eventually sourcing materials and having her own pieces made. When people started offering to buy her designs right off her person, Bruno took 30 pieces to Janet Goldman, president of Fragments showroom in New York City, for review. “Janet said, ‘Can you get me 60 more by tomorrow?’” Bruno recalls.
Bruno couldn’t move that quickly, but that request did place her on the serious design path to where she is now: the designer behind Jordan Alexander Jewelry, a name that reflects the names of the oldest sons of Bruno and her business partner.
The company is headquartered in Birmingham, Ala.
Jewelry designer Theresa Bruno of Jordan Alexander Jewelry
Editor’s Take: Theresa’s predominantly pearl jewelry line gives the category a fresh and inspiring look at a fair price, particularly in silver. Pearls suffer from a stodgy reputation, but a line like this can get consumers excited about a product that offers a much healthier margin than diamonds. Plus, it’s hard to price-shop because of limited distribution and lack of similar looks in the marketplace.
JCK: In a sentence or two, describe your signature style.
Theresa Bruno: Growing up in the South, I was deeply influenced by my beautiful and sophisticated mother and grandmother, whose Southern styles are reflected in my pearl jewelry designs. Southern woman have a soft, glamorous approach to dress, wear more color than Northerners, and many are given pearls in their teenage years.
JCK: Many people think of pearls, they think of the Barbara Bush white strand look; what do you see in them that others don’t?
TB: I adore pearls. I love the way they look against the skin and the luminescent quality of them. The first pearl I designed with was peach in color—I’ve never wanted to wear traditional pearls. I always make my designs more bohemian in appearance, and have strived to create a look that combines a classic approach with my edgier sense of design. I often refer to my look as boho chic.
In fact, my first pearl ever owned was given to me by my father in the fourth grade; it was a black pearl ring, and I think that started my love of Tahitians. I loved it so much! Then my mother gave me a short 16-inch strand of Mikimoto pearls; I still have them—though I lost the ring as a teenager. But now, I pair big, baroque pearls with rose-cut diamonds and knot them on cord, and I’ll be debuting a whole new line of sliced pearl jewelry in November. These designs give me the elegance and hipness I’m looking for in the collection.
JCK: What kinds of materials do you work with?
TB: I am constantly on the search for the new materials or metals that will inspire my designs. I love the organic qualities of bone and lava, for instance, mixed with diamonds and pearls, and all are set in 18 karat gold or silver. I also like items that are a little out of the ordinary—like 300-year-old prayer beads or big, rough-cut Burmese rubies. When I find that inspiration, I’ll often begin pairing the newly found element with other materials and will create a prototype from which my designs are crafted.
JCK: Tell me about your design process.
TB: I do use sketches from time to time if I’m working with a completely new material or designing something I’ve never done before, and I have just begun designing my own clasps and am working toward designing my own findings in the near future. Our custom lobster clasps feature a carved tulip design motif, which is found in our logo. We also use cast and fabricate pieces, depending on the style.
JCK: Where is your jewelry made?
TB: While I use materials and findings from around the world, all of my designs are hand made in the United States.
JCK: How many U.S. accounts do you currently have?
TB: I have 28 including Bernie Robbins, London Jewelers, and the Marissa Collection, as well as one in Canada.
JCK: What jewelry shows do you exhibit in?
TB: We haven’t exhibited at a show yet, but we might try Couture next year.
JCK: What is your starting retail price for each metal you work in?
TB: In silver, we start around $300 and in gold we start at $670.