Jeweler’s ‘Katrina Relief Badge’ gains national attention

A Louisiana jeweler has created a piece of jewelry as a Hurricane Katrina fundraiser that’s quickly gaining national attention, from Hollywood to the White House. It will soon go international, thanks to Stuller, a leading jewelry manufacturer.

Ann Dale, a respected gemologist who directs Gem-A (the U.S. arm of the Gemmological Association of Great Britain) and is the daughter of a well-known New Orleans jazz musician, was shocked by the devastation of “my New Orleans [which] a great force of nature has broken,” and by the “losses suffered by so many.” She was just as “impressed by the heroes who stayed in harm’s way to save so many lives.”

She and her husband, who live in Mandeville, 35 miles north of New Orleans, were hit, too, by the hurricane. It toppled 20 trees around their home, and left them and their neighbors without electricity, water or phone service for weeks. Still, she felt herself “blessed compared to so many others” and wanted to help the recovery, in addition to assisting her neighbors and cooking for them on her barbeque.

So, within days she designed the “Katrina Relief Badge”—wearable as a lapel pin, a pendant or on a chain. Its purpose, Dale says, is “to assist victims of Katrina; to support New Orleans, its people and the surrounding areas as they rebuild; and to remind everyone here, in the coastal region and beyond, that our bloodline flows from New Orleans. It belongs to everyone.”

The design features a crest on top, representing “the mighty Mississippi River as it embraces New Orleans,” says Dale. Beneath it is a heart, “the spirit of love that Louisianans emanate,” with New Orleans written below it. In the heart is a fleur-de-Lis, a symbol of Louisiana’s French culture and religious tradition. On back is inscribed “Katrina 2005 Anne-Dale.”

Dale’s husband cast the first medallions, which quickly gained a following. Dale’s Web site (www.annedale.com) was quickly overloaded by hundreds of “hits” from people wanting to know more or to buy one. Actor Dan Aykroyd ordered 500. Dale, a state Republican committeewoman, sent a badge to President Bush, which the White House accepted and acknowledged. Entertainer and New Orleans native Harry Connick Jr. has one. So do the governor of Louisiana, the mayor of New Orleans and visiting Congressmen who came to see the devastation.

Stuller Inc., in Lafaytte, La., one of the world’s largest jewelry makers and suppliers, has agreed to produce, package and promote the badge (in sterling silver, white and yellow gold), says James Louviere, director of religious and family jewelry. The first production run of several thousand was expected to start by early October. After that, “we’ll gauge demand and produce as many as we need to,” he told JCK. But he suggested interest in the jewelry piece might last for a while. “The rebuilding of this region, which this supports, is going to take a long time,” he said.

Stuller will promote the Katrina Relief Badge on its Web site (www.stuller.com) and in its December newsletter, which goes to 40,000 accounts in 40 countries. It will also be featured in Stuller’s next catalog.

Proceeds from sales of the badge—starting at $29 in the sterling silver, the price for gold wasn’t set at press time–will go to the Stuller Hurricane Relief Fund (c/o the Community Foundation of Acadiana, P. O. Box 3892, Lafayette, La. 70502-3892) and to relief projects in Dale’s community.