South Carolina Jeweler Sees Sales Soar After Jill Biden Wears Bracelet


When it comes to U.S. first ladies, accessories are everything. Jackie Kennedy had her pillbox hat. Michelle Obama had hoop earrings and fabulous belts. Now, one jewelry designer is hoping her bracelet can become one of Jill Biden’s iconic pieces.

Natalie Holst, creative director and founder of the Holst + Lee, says seeing her signature gold mesh bracelet on the current first lady, while Dr. Biden visited a Wisconsin school this fall, was a dream fulfilled. Since that moment, the Mesh Classic Gold Everything bracelet has boosted traffic to the Holst + Lee website and kicked the Charleston, S.C.–based studio “into high gear,” Holst says.

“One of my favorite moments was getting a call from an older gentleman who wanted to buy the bracelet for his wife. He was struggling with the Internet,” Holst says, so she walked him through the order. “When we got a call from the local newspaper and saw the story on the front page, we knew it was going to be big.”

Natalie Holst says she finds inspiration for her jewelry all around her, from her sons' toys to the local hardware store.
Natalie Holst says she finds inspiration for her jewelry all around her, from her sons’ toys to the local hardware store.

The whole experience started with a simple email, Holst says. A Holst + Lee customer let her know they were giving the bracelet to the first lady, but Holst says she did not know when or if Dr. Biden would wear it. She watched the news for months, hoping to see that glint of gold around Dr. Biden’s wrist.

“We were freaking out even as we shipped it. All we knew was it was a gift for Jill Biden,” Holst says. “I knew [Dr. Biden] was going to London, and I wondered: Would she wear the bracelet in front of the Queen?… I kept looking up her travel schedule and doing Google searches.”

Then, in September, there it was. The Associated Press ran a photo of Dr. Biden waving to the crowd at Mitchell International Airport in Milwaukee. Holst says she could see her company’s name on the bracelet and recognized her signature magnetic clasp. It was a career high, she says.

“It was epic. [The bracelet] has been a best seller of mine since I started the company. I think that’s because it speaks to all ages. It’s a staple because it goes with everything and complements other fine jewelry—you can wear it casual or you can dress it up.”

Holst + Lee seeks to innovates using unique materials such as colorful climbing rope, metallic thread, brass findings, raffia, leather tassels, and her now signature magnetic clasp.
Holst + Lee seeks to innovate using unique materials such as colorful climbing rope, metallic thread, brass findings, raffia, leather tassels, and the designer’s now-signature magnetic clasp.

Since then, Holst has renamed the bracelet on the website “the Jill.” The designer says she admires the first lady’s classic American style, and she would love to see Dr. Biden wear more of her jewelry in the future.

There is a good chance that could happen—Dr. Biden is said to select all her own clothing and accessories. When the first lady was featured in the August issue of Vogue, she told the magazine, “I like to choose from a diverse group of designers. When I was planning my Inauguration outfits, that’s one of the things I considered.” According to Dr. Biden’s communications director, Elizabeth Alexander, the first lady does not work with a stylist; she told Vogue: “It’s all her.”

Holst hopes people who visit her website, social media, or future retail store look at all of her jewelry, including that bracelet known as “the Jill.” She loves color but also enjoys playing with design, fresh materials, and unusual shapes. Her jewelry is made from climbing rope, brass findings she discovered in a hardware store, even parachute cord.

Natalie Holst says color--the more, the better--also is key to her jewelry collections.
Natalie Holst says color—the more the better—is also key to her jewelry collections.

Holst founded Holst + Lee in 2012, after training with Proenza Schouler and Marc Jacobs. Although her mom was a “diamonds and gold gal,” the designer started making her own jewelry, bringing as much color and texture into her designs as she could. Her fan base is not just local; celebrities including Mary J. Blige, Bella Thorne, Solange Knowles, and Vanessa Hudgens have worn her work.

One of her pieces even appeared in the swimsuit edition of Sports Illustrated, “but no one noticed the jewelry,” she says with a laugh.

Now, with two sons, Holst continues to experiment, especially after the coronavirus pandemic put her more in contact with her playful side. As a result, she carries popsicle or dinosaur earrings, bandana necklaces, and a newly launched Good Vibrations collection, which includes an evil eye pendant.

“Basically, I want to make stuff that I want to wear and hope it resonates with people,” she says.

Top: Natalie Holst of Holst + Lee says there was a rush on her Mesh Classic Gold Everything bracelet after first lady Jill Biden wore it. (All photos courtesy of Holst + Lee)

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Karen Dybis

By: Karen Dybis

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