by ALLISON DALEY, Cascade A&E Editorial Intern
Active. Artsy. Authentic. These words describe Bend’s community, but they also perfectly fit Bronwen Jewelry. This local business handcrafts feminine but sturdy jewelry, inspired by a life lived in motion. Bronwen pieces are versatile and can be worn anywhere: to the beach, yoga or a nice evening in town.
Bronwen Lodato, the owner and designer, has been making jewelry for as long as she can remember, describing herself as a “hobbyist-turned-professional.” Aside from serving as an assistant silversmith, Lodato is “almost exclusively self-trained…I learned everything by doing,” she said.
After living in several states in the Pacific Northwest, she decided Bend, Oregon was the right fit for her family and the business. With her husband of 14 years as her full-time business partner and about 10 other employees, Lodato works out of a beautiful studio in the heart of downtown. While some parts of the manufacturing process are outsourced to other local, talented craftsmen, all Bronwen pieces are handmade in Bend.
The concept of active jewelry came naturally to Lodato, initially coming into fruition as she led backcountry expeditions for Outward Bound in her 20s. “At basecamp I would be making jewelry as a hobby,” she said. Soon, other women were asking for pieces.
“You’re out there for a long time, you’re dirty and not feeling so pretty…but we needed jewelry that would hold up.”
This was when the important features of versatility and durability became ingrained into her jewelry designs. “Our pieces have a strong function component; sweat in it, shower in it, swim in it, leave it on…we have a lifetime warranty,” Lodato said.
From that point, Lodato continued to make and sell her pieces as a hobby. Over time, she recognized this niche in the jewelry business was going unfilled and that she could turn her passion into a serious business endeavor. Lodato launched her brand in 2008 at the Outdoor Retailer show, where she landed some of her biggest accounts including Athleta and Sundance Catalog. Today, Bronwen Jewelry is in hundreds of retail stores across the U.S. and she’s now selling internationally to stores in Japan.
Looking forward, Lodato’s goal is to remain small and profitable. “I want to always stay handcrafted in the States,” she commented. She also wants to position her brand as the industry leader in active, lifestyle jewelry. “The [active] category is growing huge…so we want to stake our claim. We’ve been doing this for a long time,” Lodato explained.
Lodato leads an active lifestyle herself, staying busy with her three-year-old daughter and enjoying the wonderful outdoors of Central Oregon. Her creativity is fueled by adventure, travel and color.
“Color is probably my biggest source of inspiration in life…if I’m traveling or sitting in my own house, color is imprinting on me,” she explained.
Lodato and her husband Michael have sailed all over the world, which has inspired her collections. “Travel has been a gigantic part of my life. I’m a total wanderlust.”
And after seeing many beautiful places, Lodato decided Bend was the right one to make home.