By Michelle Graff

Michelle’s pieces first crossed my desk, and caught my eye, a few years ago when she started getting involved at New York Fashion Week as an independent designer. But her history with jewelry stretches back decades.

Growing up in the Cleveland suburb of Mentor, Ohio, Michelle said she made her first piece of jewelry at the age of 5, recreating the power bracelets and tiara worn by Lynda Carter in Wonder Woman. Just to clarify, Michelle came of TV-watching age in ‘80s so she watched Wonder Woman in syndication. She did, however, enjoy the original run of She-Ra: Princess of Power, a personal favorite of mine.

More formal training started in high school, where, luckily, her school’s art department had a small jewelry studio. Michelle got into the program as a sophomore and started with cold connections, riveting, wire work--basically anything that didn’t involve soldering. (Hot tools were reserved for seniors.) “I just took to that class,” she said, “and I loved it.”

She went on to study jewelry design at Kent State University, graduating in 2001. After graduation, she submitted her work to art galleries and found private clients before breaking into New York Fashion Week in 2012, getting her clothes on models as they strutted down the runways.

Last week, the Stow, Ohio-based designer experienced another milestone: her first “large, formal trade show,” as she describes it: the American Craft Council show in Baltimore.

There, she showed her newest collection, “Undina,” which is an overarching term of various water spirits. She said the collection is based on the water goddesses of mythology as well as the imagery of mermaids turning to sea foam when they die, as detailed in the Hans Christian Andersen version of the famous fairy tale The Little Mermaid. “That particular line struck me,” Michelle said. “What would that look like?”

Please enjoy five pieces from the Undina collection while I find some old episodes of She-Ra on YouTube. If you want to see more of Michelle’s amazing work, you can visit her website.

The Undina Collection’s “Luna” necklace, inspired by the moon, yes, but more specifically, calm ocean water at night and its connection with the moon, Michelle said. This 18-inch necklace is sterling silver with faceted, tumble-polished labradorite rondelles. There are 1,000 labradorite stones on this necklace (total carat weight, 676) along with 676 carats of rock crystal spheres, and Michelle hand-wired each one herself. The suggested retail is $5,400.  

The “Galena” earrings also have labradorite rondelles along with seed pearls and oxidized sterling silver ($1,070). Galene is the Greek goddess of calm seas, and coral can grow only in tranquil waters.


This is the “Venus” necklace, 174.85 carats of rock crystal spheres, seed pearls and oxidized sterling silver ($4,420). Michelle’s inspiration was the burst of water and energy as Botticelli’s Venus emerged from the sea.

Nimue-earringsMichelle made only 10 pairs of the “Nimue” earrings, featuring 25.75 carats of raw kyanite with oxidized sterling silver. The suggested retail price is $1,475. Nimue is one of the names for the Lady of the Lake in the folklore surrounding the reign of the British leader King Arthur.

Lacrimae-earringsMichelle said the moonstones she used for her “Lacrimae” (the feminine form of tear in Latin) earrings reminded her of mermaid’s tears and these tears, as legend goes, are said to be magical because mermaids can’t cry. In addition to 22 carats of moonstone, the earrings are tsavorite garnet (7.65 carats) and oxidized sterling silver ($890).

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