My whole drive in life was based on how I could get to live out those [kinds of] experiences,” Brodie told JCK during her photo shoot for this article (which started, at Brodie’s request, several hours later than typical JCK shoots). Even with a reprieve, though, Brodie arrived nearly 40 minutes late; she’d been on the phone with her agent, declining a spot on The Real Housewives of New York City in favor of trying to score her own talk show.
But Brodie’s entrée into the glamorous life wasn’t handed to her. One of her first jobs was with public relations and branding firm Goldstein Communications in New York. It was there she worked as an account representative for high-end jewelers like Henry Dunay.
Former boss and present-day BFF (the godmother of Brodie’s kids) Linda Dunay recalls Brodie’s gusto from day one. “She is a visionary, and fearless,” says the company’s president and founder. Both qualities that, according to Dunay, helped “create [jewelry] brand recognition when it didn’t exist,” 20-plus years ago.
Case in point: Dunay pitched an initially unpopular idea—positioning diamonds for day wear—to Brodie. “She said I was crazy and that it would never work,” says Dunay. But Brodie dutifully took on the task, and developed a consumer-based campaign that positioned diamonds for wear round the clock, from morning dog walks through after-school carpools and beyond.
“She is the diva of luxury—and I mean that in the most wonderful way,” Dunay says affectionately.
Not long after Brodie’s departure from Goldstein Communications, she took a high-profile spot at Harry Winston that arguably launched her into quasi-stardom. Brodie’s plan for the tony old brand: a makeover into the jeweler preferred by celebrities, who were persuaded by Brodie to wear Winston’s jewels in public. The gig also put Brodie on television doing live segments about red carpet jewels and trends during various Hollywood awards shows. Brodie was mingling with A-listers like Kate Hudson and even handled the infamous “J. Lo Pink” prior to the paparazzi-frenzied engagement of Jennifer Lopez and Ben Affleck.
But when competing jewelers started paying stars to tout jewels, Brodie grew disillusioned—a point that she confided, post-Winston employment, to attendees of a Women’s Jewelry Association conference several years ago. “It was no longer about relationships and magnificent gems; it became a business negotiation,” says Brodie. But if she left, how could she top this seemingly perfect post? By creating a new one.
To do so, she called on Bill Curtis, the owner of CurtCo. Media, publisher of Robb Report, an advertising vehicle for Winston. She asked him to breakfast, boldly suggesting over eggs and orange juice that his firm needed help communicating with luxury clients.
“I said, ‘I am not in sales and I am not in editorial, but I can share your story of success with luxury clients by being your spokesperson,’ ” Brodie recalls. Later that day, she got a phone message: “Carol, let’s meet for drinks tonight; I want to close this deal,” said her new boss. Thus, the first-ever chief luxury officer position was born.
This kind of moxie is instinctual for Brodie. “If we don’t continuously reinvent the wheel in our careers, then we’re stagnating,” she says.
Lately, she’s been consulting with high-profile luxury brands (not all jewelry)—still advising others how to grow their brands. But, in quintessential Brodie style, she wanted something bigger and got an opportunity to pursue it when she bumped into Mindy Grossman, CEO of Home Shopping Network at a cocktail party over a year ago. Again, Brodie didn’t hold back, vowing to make fine jewelry the No. 1 category at HSN if only given a chance.
With some persistence and follow-up phone calls, Brodie landed an appointment at HSN, where she clicked with those who ran its jewelry division. “I have sat in the homes and hotel rooms of stars and held the Dresden Green [diamond] in my hand, but never has anything felt as right, real, fulfilling, or exciting as Rarities,” Brodie gushes.
“My whole life I’ve never waited for anyone to approach me,” she says. “I am a big believer in finding the white space and going for it.”
And some say that is exactly what she’s done. Priced from less than $30 to just $999, Rarities is a line of sterling and 10k gold jewelry set with colored stones, in addition to some carved stone pieces. Brodie produces 40 new styles a month that aim to deliver the Rarities promise—fine and rare jewelry at a price point comparable to costume jewelry.
The most distinctive aspect of her line is also the most puzzling: There is no signature style or cohesive look. Of course, Brodie has a reason. “I’m not a designer, I curate merchandise,” she explains. “The only ‘signature’ is that the metals and gems are precious and rare.” For example, some jewelry features blue jade. “When was the last time you found someone working in blue jade?” she asks.
To develop pieces, Brodie sources inspiration from vintage jewelry, like an antique gold tassel and black enamel locket necklace she bought in Paris (the HSN version is $199), present-day designers like Coomi Bhasin (yellow gold glams up many pieces), celebrity style (a lemon quartz ring is inspired by a diamond original worn by Kate Hudson in How to Lose A Guy in Ten Days), and Italian women and how they wear jewelry (onyx rings with bezel-set gems are ideal for stacking). Then she brings her collection of ideas to HSN, which helps her source and manufacture most of the finished product. Her Rarities: Fine Jewelry With Carol Brodie TV program debuted in June.
“Rarities is no different than an online version of a jewelry store,” she says. [Rarities] is about mixing pieces from my show with [a consumer’s own] collection to create a signature style.”
Not surprisingly, Dunay covets at least one look: a rough-crystal-topped amethyst ring carved out of a single piece of stone. “It’s gutsy, like Carol is,” she says. It’s also just $29.90.