Her latest Spectrum Award-winning pieces are featured in Florida International Magazine, Best Jewelry Design of 2009 on www.Brides.com and at the recent Oscars Awards ceremony.
Ashleigh Branstetter grew up in Baton Rouge, Louisiana. A model since high school, Branstetter has appeared in print ads for Southern Comfort and Volvo as well as national commercials for Bank One, Mazda and Sprite. On the big screen, she can be seen in Failure to Launch and Runaway Jury, and even a Harry Connick Jr. music video. In school, she started out as a pre-med major at Louisiana State University.
Branstetter returned to LSU, changed her major to Art, and fell in love with painting and drawing. At the time, LSU had a metals department under Christopher Hentz. Branstetter took an elective course in jewelry-making and has never looked back. Working at the bench has given her more satisfaction than anything she has done.
Branstetter graduated with a Bachelor of Fine Arts in sculpture and a minor in Jewelry and Metals. While working in her dad’s dental office, she began making her jewelry.
She then went on to further hone her jewelry skills at Penland School of Crafts in North Carolina, the Revere Academy of Jewelry Artists in San Francisco and Gemological Institute of America. With encouragement from friends and family, Branstetter began to sell her jewelry at fairs and festivals.
In 1998, she began strictly doing jewelry. Branstetter is building a reputation for her gorgeous hand-crafted jewelry of colored gemstones and pearls. She uses an array of colored gemstones, from amethyst to turquoise, set in sterling silver, 18K gold and platinum. Her designs are sold at high-end art shows and festivals all over the country, from Coconut Grove, Florida, to Aspen, Colorado. Her pieces are also
carried at A.R.T. Worth Avenue. A.R.T. is a combination of high-end jewelry and art boutique, highlighting celebrity designers such as Neil Lane and Ashok Sancheti and art by Andy Warhol.
“I really love colored gemstones,” Branstetter said. Since the early 90’s, she has been coming to AGTA GemFair™ Tucson, and she has not missed a year yet. She adds, “This is the only place you can get all sorts of goodies from all over the world.”
While in Tucson, Branstetter looks for that one gemstone she cannot live with out. She is open to designing with any type of material, and purchases what she likes. “I have a very bad habit of going to the most expensive thing in the case.”
Once Branstetter has purchased the materials the design process begins with a sketch. Often inspired by floral patterns in nature, her work runs the gamut from elaborate custom pieces to casual accent ones. Her designs are very bold and very feminine at the same time.
In 2004, Branstetter’s pearl earrings featuring curvy metal won the Perles de Tahiti North American Pearl Trophy contest. Pulling inspiration from an old-fashioned ruffled dress, Branstetter utilizes the element in a contemporary manner with bold colored gemstones. Many pieces feature her signature Ruffle™ design.
Back to the design that made an appearance at this year’s Oscars. The 2010 AGTA Spectrum Award™-winning cufflinks were featured at the Style Lab Academy Awards® Red Carpet Preview. Maurio Fiore, “Avatar” cinematographer, and his wife selected Branstetter’s London blue Topaz cufflinks valued at $17,000. Fiore rocked the cufflinks on the red carpet at the Academy Awards®, and he took home an Oscar as well.
“This piece was done for the AGTA Spectrum Awards™,” said Branstetter. “I didn’t even know he was going to wear them,” she added. Unlike the high dollared cufflinks, most of Branstetter’s jewelry sells for price points from $125 to $8,000. She does plan to incorporate the Spectrum-winning and Oscar-worn cufflinks into her line. After searching for the calibrated gemstones, and now having found them, she intends to set them in 18K gold and possibly sterling. Branstetter does note
that when clients come in they are often looking for sterling silver, but end up buying 18K gold.
Next for the former model is the cover of Brides magazine featuring a pair of amethyst earrings, and of course designing for the upcoming 2011 AGTA Spectrum™ Awards.
To learn more about Ashleigh Branstetter and her designs, visit her at