Jewelry Navigator
Nan Fusco’s Versatile Jewelry Designs Redefine  Luxury Jewelry

Nan Fusco’s Versatile Jewelry Designs Redefine  Luxury Jewelry

April 16, 2021

Nan Fusco’s Versatile Jewelry Designs Redefine  Luxury Jewelry


Like many artists, Nan Fusco didn’t start her jewelry career in gem or design courses.


Nan’s former career and formal training are in graphic design.


Skilled with reading a client’s style and needs, Nan’s ability to design around a concept beautifully highlight the fossils and stones she selects as the focal points of her jewelry.


Making jewelry versatile through aspects of changeability and movement is one of Nan’s superpowers as a jewelry designer.


From her Abacus rings and earrings, to jewelry scarves, and her long necklaces designed with engineering aspects, Nan incorporates appealing design concepts with texture and movement for jewelry creations that are classic fun, and had women buying her creations right off her neck!


We talk about how important it is for designers to educate the boutiques where her jewelry is stocked to the versatility of her jewelry.


We also discuss the necessity and struggles that come with social media and how she’s regrowing her Instagram account after an unfortunate setback.


I recently featured Nan on a Beyond Gems segment on The Tundra, so you can see more of her jewelry on the video story on their platform.


Follow Nan on Instagram @therealnanfusco to see and shop her fabulous jewelry!

Celebrating Women as Jewelry Designers with Azra Mehdi, Founder of Au Xchange

Celebrating Women as Jewelry Designers with Azra Mehdi, Founder of Au Xchange

March 28, 2021

Azra_image_for_podcast75ue7.pngAzra Mehdi is a practicing attorney and balances her family life with her passion for fine jewelry as a designer of timeless gold jewelry.


Azra founded Au Xchange, a platform for sharing fine jewelry created by women designers.


In spite of pandemic obstacles, Azra took advantage of the time during lockdowns to apply for the Zales Designer Spotlight Showcase and won as the only woman designer of color for the showcase.


Originally from India, Azra shares how gold jewelry influenced her path as a jewelry designer, and how her thoughtful designs are welcoming to a wide audience and demographic.


Azra is dedicated to giving back as a representative in support of girls and women with CamFED, Campaign for Female Education through portions of her jewelry sales.


While growing her brand through Au Xchange and as a featured designer in the Zales Designer Spotlight, Azra continues to practice law while raising her two children with her husband.

You can find Azra's jewelry on Au Xchange

as well as on Zale's Designer Spotlight


For a detailed look at Azra’s jewelry, be sure to watch her feature on Beyond Gems on TheTUNDRA, "Azra Mehdi's Golden Jewelry Story".

TheTUNDRA is a platform from which I share gem, mineral, and more jewelry stories through video production.


Subscribe to TheTUNDRA to access the full episodes, and you can find the link to Beyond Gems on my IG account @jewelrynavigator and on my podcast website,

Relaunch of Jewelry Navigator Podcast is HERE!

Relaunch of Jewelry Navigator Podcast is HERE!

March 25, 2021

Hrelaunch_graphicamo2m.jpgHi! Welcome to Jewelry Navigator! I’m your host, Graduate Gemologist,  Brenna Pakes.

Here on Jewelry Navigator, and as a Graduate Gemologist of the Gemological Institute of America, and a jewelry professional, I’m in a unique position to share jewelry tips and stories.

More than ever, it’s important to support small, independent jewelry designers and businesses.

It’s my pleasure to guide consumers to smart jewelry choices through an informative and entertaining platform.

For sneak peeks into upcoming episodes and features, follow me on Instagram on @jewelrynavigator


In this relaunch episode, I share my role as curator of content for a weekly video feature on Beyond Gems for TheTUNDRA, an informative platform for enthusiasts and those with a general curiosity for topics, themes, and hobbies.

I share guests featured on Beyond Gems so far. It's been a wonderful way to expand and explore geology, gemology, and other relevant fields of interest.

FYI - to watch the full Beyond Gems episodes, subscribe for a free TheTUNDRA account.


Welcome Aboard, and be sure to subscribe to Jewelry Navigator Podcast on Podbean, Apple Podcasts, Spotify, or Google Podcasts.

Jewelry Navigator Explores What Inspires Jeweler and Artist, Christina Grace, Founder of Tin Haus

Jewelry Navigator Explores What Inspires Jeweler and Artist, Christina Grace, Founder of Tin Haus

July 2, 2020

On a recent Jewelry Navigator Podcast, “Here's to the Men in Our Lives - Jewelry to Celebrate Men and Dads”, I featured jewelry for men. 
One of the rings selected is Tin Haus' Andromeda ring, designed and created by today's guest, Christina Grace, founder of Tin Haus, an eclectic collection of jewelry art.

Christina is a Graduate Jeweler from the Gemological Institute of America, an artist, and is currently completing her Bachelor of Fine Arts Degree.

What inspires me the most about Christina is the unhindered path she creates for herself.

Her expertise is well-rounded through varied practices of art, including performing art, drawing, and set design.
As a first-generation American, Christina lives and creates her collections in California.

Utilizing her education, background, and connections, Christina is creating a path with which to inspire others to discover and celebrate their unique expression through their own self-discovery.

Christina explained that her upcoming collection will be set with gems she's been hoarding. We look forward to watching her collections grow!

You can find Tin Haus at and on Instagram @tin_haus


My intention is always to educate and inform consumers with resources to unique jewelry created by independent designers and makers.

Follow Jewelry Navigator on Instagram  @jewelrynavigator for the latest jewelry stories and tips!







Here’s to the Men in Our Lives - Jewelry to Celebrate Men and Dads

Here’s to the Men in Our Lives - Jewelry to Celebrate Men and Dads

June 18, 2020

Men tend to get overlooked with jewelry -

Watches and wedding bands are the staples for most men, while signet, diamond and gemstone statement rings as signature statements.

Educating consumers with unique selections of gemstones and jewelry has always been a primary focus for Jewelry Navigator.

In this Jewelry Navigator Podcast episode, I'm highlighting designers who've been featured on the podcast, as well as one who will be very soon with jewelry designed to enhance and celebrate the men in our lives.

Designers featured create everything from cufflinks, bracelets, necklaces and pendants and rings.

Tracy Trainor Jewellery

CRASH Jewelry

Mary van der Aa

Tucson Todd's Gems

Tin Haus

Etsy Artisans with featured storage boxes for jewelry and watches:

Buttons and Pearl, Sara Barbadillo, and Fret Work by Darryl.

Questions to Move Forward

Questions to Move Forward

June 4, 2020

This is a brief episode today.

I didn't include my normal introduction, so if this is your first episode, welcome.
To understand what my platform is, please listen to any other episode, and you'll understand.

After feeling paralyzed, not knowing how to move forward with the current chaos, I felt it appropriate to encourage my listeners, and everyone, to ask questions.
Questions of how to move forward with compassion and understanding.
Questions of what to do next, and how to help.
Questions of how we want our future to look like and feel.
And, questions of how we can integrate with live filled with respect, understanding, and inclusion that is natural and normal.

Follow Jewelry Navigator on Facebook, Instagram, and Twitter.

To reach Brenna direclty, e-mail

Missy Graff Ballone of Wellness for Makers Shares How Artists Can Move to Stay Healthy

Missy Graff Ballone of Wellness for Makers Shares How Artists Can Move to Stay Healthy

May 14, 2020

Missy Graff Ballone of Wellness for Makers Shares How Artists Can Move to Stay Healthy

While the COVID-19 crisis and resulting quarantine have challenged many aspects of our lives, finding positive ways to guide us through to the other side have been inspiring.

While scrolling through Instagram one day, I came across Missy Graff Ballone’s feed, Wellness for Makers.

A metalsmith, alignment based yoga instructor, and licensed massage therapist, Missy shares how makers can work more efficiency using healthy movement habits.

She combines her education and familiarity with the body to show makers and creatives how to care for their hands and avoid common injuries with mindful movement.

In Wellness for Makers Podcast, Missy shares tips for makers in and out of the studio, along with inspiring stories of artists and makers who have recovered from injuries.

I’m happy and excited for Missy to share her specialized expertise, and to give back to makers and artists during the COVID recovery, Missy is offering scholarships for her courses, one of which will be donated through this episode of Jewelry Navigator Podcast!

To enter for a scholarship giveaway for a Wellness for Makers Precious Movements Course for jewelers, visit to enter.

Wellness for Makers

People from every walk of life and career are susceptible to injury, many of which happen from repetitive movement, poor alignment and posture.

Combining her education and familiarity with the body and movement, Missy has created a parallel business teaching artists and creators to protect their health and their hands.

Missy also offers helpful resources on her website, which include a free self-care guide, her “Guide to Happy Healthy Hands”, her free Mini Course, “Creating Resilience”, and helpful tools for small businesses.



Retail Survival - Supporting Small Businesses & Indie Jewelry Designers

Retail Survival - Supporting Small Businesses & Indie Jewelry Designers

May 8, 2020

I hope you’re staying safe and well, and I’m looking forward to when we can return to our places of work, get our hair cut, nails done, and get back to all those services and shops that are part of regular routines.

Part of the normal routine this time of year is shopping for the seasonal celebrations, like Mother’s Day and graduations.

But, shopping from our favorite stores doesn’t have to stop.

This podcast is dedicated to all the small businesses who’ve been doing what they can to serve their customers in spite of “closed doors” and customers sheltered in place.

I know it’s easy to swing by Target or Walmart and pick up what we need, but, small businesses need our support, and many are offering similar, and sometimes better, accommodations with deliveries, pick ups, and custom orders.

Milestones and accomplishments are traditionally celebrated with jewelry and keepsakes. The most unique selections are found in small and independent stores.  
The point of this podcast is to encourage you to support the small and local stores near you by reaching out and enlisting their help and services for your gift needs.

But on the flip side, while this may not be the best timing to make a significant purchase, don't forget that most small jewelry stores offer repair services.
Many repairs and remakes are reasonably priced options for refurbishing heirlooms and repairing a favorite item of jewelry stashed away in your jewelry box.

Mother’s Day Poem Sharing Support for Small Business and Indie Jewelry Designers

“Days before Mother’s Day, across the land, moms are busy with work at hand.

Many at home, others away, moms need a break on the 10th of May.

A jewel or a trinket in just the right measure, reminds every mom she’s a rare treasure.

Avoid the crowds, but leave us six feet, small businesses make shopping fun and neat.

Online, curbside, delivery or in person - shop small, buy local, mountains to coastal.

Small business is open with wonderful ways to celebrate Mom on the 10th of May!”

  • Brenna Pakes


Designers and stores mentioned in this episode:

  •  Designers and Small Indie Jewelers:
  • Petite Baleine Jewelry (Pam Waill)
  • Karin Jacobson
  • MINTON (assisting Direct Relief)
  • Emily Kuvin Jewelry
  • CRASH Jewelry
  • Mary van der Aa (assisting - Puppy Love all proceeds going to Best Friends Animal Society)
  • Joyce Morton (Mila & Such face masks


Stores and Boutiques:

  • Beauty Lounge, Summit, NJ
  • Robert Goodman Jewelers  Zionsville, IN




Alain Simic Shares His Story and Insights on Successful Jewelry Branding Narratives

Alain Simic Shares His Story and Insights on Successful Jewelry Branding Narratives

April 17, 2020

My guest in this Jewelry Navigator Podcast episode is Alain Simic, founder of Alain Simic (pronounced Ah-lawn Si-mich) whose specialty is portraying images of jewelry, fashion, fine art, and portraiture.

Alain’s photography speaks through images, allowing his subject’s voice to share stories and impact the lives of those who see his work.

Alain serves his clients and collaborates with his professional community through a unique background based on his perspective gained through professional photography experinece, and first hand life crisis.

Raised in Germany after his family escaped the Bosnian genocide, Alain’s experiences and upbringing enables him to share his client’s narrative through a lens of compassion and understanding elevates his relationships with his clients for successful campaigns and images.

 While his photography is used as a marketing tool to create successful branding and product campaigns, Alain also serves the communities in which he works through collaborative efforts.

Alain has contributed to Jewelry Independent panels which serve emerging and independent jewelry designers on various marketing and business topics.

Most recently, he teamed up with Laryssaa Wirstiuk of Joy Joya Marketing on a Metal and Smith’s Instagram Live presentation to share how jewelry designers and businesses can adapt their efforts through the COVID - 19 crisis.

 While this time of quarantine is restricting for an industry, which relies on personal experience, now's the time to take advantage to review and reflect on your branding messages, visions, and direction.

If you're a consumer, reflect on what jewelry is most important to you. Are there pieces you don't wear, but would like to use to redesign or update?
Explore options with your local jeweler or favorite designer on how to re-make and reuse what you have, or purchase new - afterall, birthdays and anniversaries ignore the quarantine!

I found Alain’s advice a reminder of how an image says so much without words, and how important quality images are to a brand’s story and to its potential perceptions, especially on one’s website.

If you’d like to start a conversation with Alain about working with him on your photography and branding, reach out to him by e-mail or DM on Instagram, as he is continues to work remotely, taking careful considerations and precautions from his studio.

His e-mail can be found on his website, which is 
Follow or DM him in Instagram at @alainsimic.


WHAT'S COMING UP ON Jewelry Navigator Podcast 

Next week, I’m going to be exploring ways we can continue to support our shopping and jewelry needs by working with online options with designers and jewelers, and begin sharing stories of the brick and mortar stores who are still working to serve their customers and communities.

If you have a story of an exceptional independent jewelry store who is doing their best to serve their customers and accounts, reach out to me, and tell me about them!

Some that come to mind are Beauty Lounge in Summit NJ, Benold’s in Austin, TX, and voted the best in my town of Fredericksburg, VA, Ulman’s Jewelry, owned by the same family, and in its 93rd year of business.

These, and many more small businesses working remotely or from location, as permitted, are doing what they can to serve their customers and communities, and I’m thrilled to learn about what and how people are continuing to serve and celebrate even in a time of crisis, so with that, it’s time to “deplane” from this episode, and remind everyone to be kind to yourself and others, and to cross check your sparkle!

To stay up to date on Jewelry Navigator Podcasts and features, subscribe to Jewelry Navigator Passport.

Special Edition Podcast - Celebrating Faith With Seraphima McClean of Gallery Byzantium (Portion re-cap from 12/2019)

Special Edition Podcast - Celebrating Faith With Seraphima McClean of Gallery Byzantium (Portion re-cap from 12/2019)

April 11, 2020

This weekend, I chose to share segments of my podcast interview with Seraphima McLean of Gallery Byzantium.


Her formal background in art history, cast her in the unique role to carry on her family’s Byzantine art jewelry business.


Gallery Byzantium integrates art and history inspired by one of the most influential cultures, the Byzantine Empire.


Creating Christian themed jewelry, like crosses and religious medals, their jewelry designs are often replicated from ancient coins, medallions, and crosses.


As Christians all over the globe celebrate Easter, this weekend, I felt sharing a portion of the story of Gallery Byzantium would resonate with the liturgical celebration of Easter, but also serve as a reminder to stay strong in our faith, regardless of denomination or belief.


The followng is a clip from my Jewelry Navigator podcast visit in early December, 2019, and is part of my effort to support the independent designers and jewelers featured on Jewelry Navigator Podcast.

through the COVID 19 crisis who’ve been

I hope everyone is staying well, and I look forward to when we can all meet again at shows, stores, and boutiques.


Enjoy your holiday and spring weekend!


To hear this podcast in its entirety, subscribe to Jewelry Navigator Podcast one of the following podcast or music platforms:

Apple Podcasts, Spotify, Google Play Music, and Podbean!


I’ll be publishing a new Jewelry Navigator Passport on Sunday, so be sure to catch up on what happened and what’s coming up on the podcast, and other jewelry discoveries!


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