By Ashley Davis
Here is one of the Brent Neale’s signature pieces—the medium Rainbow ring in 18-karat gold with an opal, diamonds, pink tourmaline, citrine and blue topaz ($8,225).
New York--It can take years for talented designers to gain traction in their careers but every once in a while, a brand comes along that instantly attracts attention from retailers and editors alike.

Based out of New York City, Brent Neale is the name to know how now in jewelry design.

The eponymous label launched last summer with a joyful menagerie of flora and fauna—think rainbow tassel pendants and carved flower open rings accented with gold bees.

Though Neale’s confident and mature design voice might seem out of nowhere, it’s actually the result of working behind the scenes in the industry for years.

National Jeweler chatted with the up-and-comer about where she’s been and what the future holds.

20180507 BrentNeale2Brent Neale’s medium Clover Floral Archway Door earrings in 18-karat gold with diamonds, turquoise and blue topaz ($6,750)

National Jeweler: Can you tell me a bit about your professional background? What led you to jewelry?

Brent Neale: After graduating from Johns Hopkins University, I started working in NYC for a large company doing private-label design. Everything I was doing was self-taught and I decided if I really wanted to be a designer, I needed a proper education. I was accepted to FIT and completed their two-year jewelry design program. I started working for Kara Ross after graduation and was there for eight years.

NJ: How did your experience at Kara Ross inform the launch of your own brand?
BN: I learned so much from Kara Ross I could take up this entire interview talking about it! The bottom line is: She’s a force of nature, and the most important lesson I learned was that you have to listen to your gut about design. Kara would always say “Do you love it? You have to love it!" And now I don’t make one single piece I don’t love. 

NJ: How would you describe the Brent Neale aesthetic?

BN: I think for sure whimsical, fun, happy but also very personal. I try to bottle a little bit of “childhood wonder” as well because I think it juxtaposes so beautifully with the idea of fine jewelry. 

NJ: You have a knack for expressing joy through color. Which gems are speaking to you the most right now?

20180507 BrentNeale3The double Wildflower Bee ring is available in ebony wood (pictured), turquoise, malachite, white agate or lapis. It’s set in 18-karat gold with diamonds ($5,535).

BN: I’m working with rainbow moonstone at the moment and while it’s a really hard stone to work with in large scale because of all of the inclusions (I’ve cut one of the mushroom pieces four times), it’s so beautiful when you get it right that it’s worth it.

NJ: In less than a year since launching you’ve landed at Barneys and had trunk shows at Moda Operandi. What are your other retail goals? Ideally, how many and what kind of stores would you like to be in?

BN: For me, it’s not about numbers. I want to be in stores that really love the aesthetic and will place the pieces with clients that will treasure them. All my current retailers, which also include Forty Five Ten and Fivestory, are fashion trendsetters, and they know their customers exceedingly well. Clearly I gravitate towards doors that know how to dress a woman from head to toe. 

NJ: Your recent press preview celebrating your Barneys launch featured a virtual reality component. What are your plans for virtual reality—will Brent Neale customers be able to experience it in some way? What was your inspiration for the project?

BN: I’m showcasing the virtual reality at my trunk show at the Moda Operandi Townhouse in mid-May, and that will be the first time customers will be able to interact with it. Jewelry doesn’t often have the same ability as fashion to create a world around it, like a runway show, so this was my way to let the public feel immersed in the aesthetic of the jewelry. The first reactions have been fantastic so I’m excited to see where we can take it.

NJ: Over the past year you’ve added new motifs to your oeuvre, like the doors and mushrooms. Are there any symbols or motifs you have your sights set on next?

BN: I’m focusing on new palettes at the moment and having lots of fun with some new stones. Sometimes I have too many ideas and I need to pull back and focus on growing and nurturing what’s already there.

NJ: How often will you introduce new collections and/or pieces for retailers?

BN: Two times a year, with some special capsules from time to time.

NJ: What’s the retail price range of your offerings?

BN: The collection starts at around $550 with studs and currently goes up to $16,000, but the majority of the pieces fall in the $1,500 to $7,000 range.

20180507 BrentNeale4Wildflower earrings in 18-karat gold with emeralds, citrine and diamonds ($16,095)

NJ: Do you have any trade show aspirations?

BN: I will be debuting at Couture this year with For Future Reference—come see us in booth 601!

NJ: At the moment, what’s your favorite piece to wear and why? 

BN: That’s so hard. But honestly, that rainbow mushroom pendant I talked about before is currently in the lead. Not only is it so magical to look at, but the difficulties in getting the piece made remind me to keep at it because all the hard work will be worth it in the end.

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Since 1906, National Jeweler has been the must-read news source for smart jewelry professionals--jewelry retailers, designers, buyers, manufacturers, and suppliers. From market analysis to emerging jewelry trends, we cover the important industry topics vital to the everyday success of jewelry professionals worldwide. National Jeweler delivers the most urgent jewelry news necessary for running your day-to-day jewelry business here, and via our daily e-newsletter, website and other specialty publications, such as "The State of the Majors." National Jeweler is published by Jewelers of America, the leading nonprofit jewelry association in the United States.