Kent State Alumna Discovers Passion Later in Life: Designing Jewelry for the Stars
If you watched last year’s Emmy Awards or looked inside the Smithsonian Museum of Natural History’s Gems and Minerals exhibit, chances are you’ve seen some of the glittering artistry created by Kent State University alumna Brenda Oros Smith ‘84.
But this success for Smith was a long time coming – and only recently manifested itself through Brenda Smith Jewelry which started in 2009. Since then, she has gained worldwide notoriety from celebrities and major companies such as the Aaron Faber Gallery in New York City.
This year’s Emmy Awards was a big accomplishment for Smith. The “House of Lies” actress, Bridgid Coulter, wore Smith’s one-of a-kind, 18-carat blackened gold earrings to the event. Liza Weil of “How to Get Away With Murder” wore her 30 carat black diamond Celebration earrings in palladium.
This wasn’t the first time celebrities have worn Smith’s jewelry. In 2011, Ella Thomas from “All My Children” wore Smith’s 18-carat white gold earrings to the Oscars.
“I am a member of the American Gem Trade Association that sets the standards for the jewelry industry,” Smith says. “They approached me and asked if I would be interested in a celebrity wearing one of my pieces, and I said, ‘Let me think, okay!”
In addition to having celebrities wear her jewelry, she exhibits her jewelry in Tucson, Arizona, at the largest gem and mineral show in the world.
Smith has also placed every year in the Cultured Pearl Association of America’s International Pearl Competition. “That was my first recognition,” Smith says. “I remember my husband and I were hiking in the mountains when I received the call that I had placed in the competition. I could’ve screamed. I was so excited.”
As if all of that wasn’t enough, Smith was also one of the nine jewelers worldwide who was recognized in the documentary, The Journey of the Pearl, produced by the Cultured Pearl Association of America.
“I’ve won a lot of awards,” Smith says. “I worked so hard to get each and every one of them.” When she says hard work, she means it.
Smith didn’t go to college right after high school. She was married with three children and was a hairdresser for 13 years before she enrolled at Kent State for graphic design.
“The program was tough,” she said. “I remember thinking when I was going to school here, ‘is this really a degree about how much I know or an endurance test?’”
After graduating from Kent State, she took a few jobs including a creative director position in advertising.
“That was satisfying for about a week,” she said. “It was too much repetition, and it just wasn’t creative enough. So I took up gold and silversmithing classes, and it just clicked,” Smith says. “I felt like a sponge, wanting to absorb as much as I could about the craft. Additional classes included stone cutting, stone setting and gem identification to name a few.”
Brenda attended Revere Academy of Jewelry Arts in San Francisco where students learned from different well-known jewelry designers, on a one-on-one basis. It was after this experience, with the encouragement and kudos of the instructors and owner that Brenda felt like she could compete with the best.
“It gave me the push to keep going and embark on a new endeavor, Brenda Smith Jewelry.”
Little did she know that the education, design skills and professionalism acquired at KSU would transfer to yet another satisfying, creative career. After all this success in less than a decade, Smith just goes to show that passion and success reveal themselves at any time, at any age.
By Ashlyne Wilson