Ashleigh Branstetter, wearing her clear quartz earrings set in 18-karat white gold, is making a name for herself in the jewelry business, with appearances of her wares at the Oscars and in national magazines.
Ashleigh Branstetter’s jewelry makes appearance at Oscars
BY KAREN MARTIN
THE ADVOCATE /Assistant People editor
Published: Jun 14, 2010
Jewelry designer Ashleigh Branstetter got her first brush with greatness at this year’s Oscars. But it went by so fast, she almost missed it.
Branstetter, who grew up in Baton Rouge and now works out of New Orleans, designed the cufflinks flashed by Mauro Fiore on the red carpet at the Academy Awards. Fiore took home the cinematography Oscar for “Avatar.”
“I didn’t even know he was going to be wearing them,” said Branstetter, daughter of Dr. R.M. and Joan Branstetter.
So how did her cufflinks make it from here to Hollywood?
The journey began at the prestigious American Gem Trade Association, where the cufflinks won a Spectrum Award, sort of the Academy Award of the jewelry industry.
Winning designs and other pieces were selected for a jewelry preview, where celebrities and their stylists “shop” — meaning borrow — for red-carpet wear. Branstetter also had some diamond-slice earrings, another Spectrum winner, at the preview, but it was the bullet-shaped cufflinks of London blue topaz cabochons and pavé diamonds in platinum valued at about $17,000 that got the nod.
“His wife (Fiore’s) supposedly picked them out for him,” Branstetter said. “I guess because they were the ‘Avatar’ blue.”
For now, things as big as the Oscars’ appearance aren’t the norm. But, given her talent, fame is coming.
Soon a pair of Branstetter’s purple amethyst earrings will grace the cover of Brides magazine, and the diamond-slice earrings that won a Spectrum Award can be seen in the May issue of Florida International Magazine.
Branstetter is building a reputation for her gorgeous jewelry of colored gemstones and pearls, most of which she sells at high-end art shows and festivals all over the country, from Coconut Grove, Fla., to Sun Valley, Idaho, and Aspen, Colo. Her pieces are also carried at A.R.T. Worth Avenue, a high-end jewelry and art boutique in Palm Beach, Fla., that showcases such celebrity jewelry designers as Neil Lane and Loree Rodkin and art by Andy Warhol.
Not bad company for a girl who started her LSU life as a pre-med major.
It took only one summer session in a figure-drawing class at Parsons The New School for Design in New York to change her mind.
“I came back to LSU and went into painting, drawing, sculpting, then the jewelry and metals program,” Branstetter said.
She started graduate school and was working in her dad’s dental office, making her jewelry, but not selling it. A friend suggested she rent a booth at Hollydays, the Junior League’s annual Christmas market.
That was in 1998, and it set Branstetter on a career path that takes her around the country. In 2004, she won the North American Tahitian Pearl Trophy competition for her earrings featuring a curvy metal ruffle, which has become a signature design for her.
In addition to pearls, Branstetter uses an array of colored gemstones, such as topaz, emerald, beryl, opal, tourmaline, quartz, turquoise, citrine, amethyst, and ruby. She works in 18-karat yellow and white gold and sterling silver.
“I love colored stones,” she said. “I’m not really interested in diamonds.”
Unlike the expensive cufflinks, which were done for the competition, Branstetter said most of her jewelry sells for between $125 and $8,000.
She said she’s gathered a following on the festival circuit.
“People at Jazz Fest this year came back to look for me,” said Branstetter. “That happens at a lot of the shows.”
If you want to find Branstetter, go online to http://www.ashleighbranstetter.com.