How I'm Making It: Jamie Wolf (aka Natalie Portman's Engagement Ring Designer)

Jamie Wolf just scored the ultimate celebrity placement: that's her engagement ring on Natalie Portman's finger. Of course, it makes perfect sense that Wolf designed Portman's ring from ballet dancer Benjamin Millepied: Wolf is a former ballerina-turned-jewelry designer and she and Millepied danced together at New York City Ballet. She had a small role in Portman's Oscar vehicle as well--she played a dancer in Black Swan, a role that must have come natural as she danced Swan Lake with NYCB. Portman's also been a fan of Wolf's for years. So how did Wolf, 32, go from jetés to jewelry? Usually we focus on folks just starting out in the industry for this series, but Wolf's successful career transition proves that you can jump (leap? pirouette?) into fashion at any age. Here's how she did it.
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Leah Chernikoff
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Jamie Wolf just scored the ultimate celebrity placement: that's her engagement ring on Natalie Portman's finger. Of course, it makes perfect sense that Wolf designed Portman's ring from ballet dancer Benjamin Millepied: Wolf is a former ballerina-turned-jewelry designer and she and Millepied danced together at New York City Ballet. She had a small role in Portman's Oscar vehicle as well--she played a dancer in Black Swan, a role that must have come natural as she danced Swan Lake with NYCB. Portman's also been a fan of Wolf's for years. So how did Wolf, 32, go from jetés to jewelry? Usually we focus on folks just starting out in the industry for this series, but Wolf's successful career transition proves that you can jump (leap? pirouette?) into fashion at any age. Here's how she did it.
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Jamie Wolf just scored the ultimate celebrity placement: that's her engagement ring on Natalie Portman's finger.

Of course, it makes perfect sense that Wolf designed Portman's ring from ballet dancer Benjamin Millepied: Wolf is a former ballerina-turned-jewelry designer and she and Millepied danced together at New York City Ballet. She had a small role in Portman's Oscar vehicle as well--she played a dancer in Black Swan, a role that must have come natural as she danced Swan Lake with NYCB. Portman's also been a fan of Wolf's for years.

So how did Wolf, 32, go from jetés to jewelry? Usually we focus on folks just starting out in the industry for this series, but Wolf's successful career transition proves that you can jump (leap? pirouette?) into fashion at any age.

Here's how she did it. Fashionista: How long have you been designing jewelry? Jamie Wolf: My collection launched eight years ago at Barneys New York.

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How did you go from ballet to jewelry design? My love of design and fashion led me to leave New York City Ballet to focus on what had been, until then, just a hobby. But the ten years that I spent as a dancer influenced the aesthetic of my designs. In ballet, you’re trained to pay attention to every detail, all while making it look effortless and beautiful. I believe that femininity is timeless, and that beauty is often found in the finest details. My aim as a designer is to translate this femininity and detail into pieces that are chic and relevant.

How did your dance community react to your second career choice? New York City Ballet was nothing but supportive of my career transition. It was hard to leave something that I loved so much, but I am very grateful to have found a new creative outlet that challenges me intelligently and creatively. Many dancers have become great clients and I'm thrilled to have them as brand ambassadors.

What would you consider your big break? My big break was the launch of the collection at Barneys New York eight years ago. I am incredibly grateful for our partnership. They have given me a wonderful opportunity to grow and develop my collection and have served as unbelievable partners and teachers.

In addition to Natalie Portman, you have quite a celebrity following to sustain the custom order end of your business (Julia Roberts and Jessica Biel are also fans). How did this happen? The first celebrity to wear my jewelry was Catherine Zeta Jones. I was at Barneys chatting with a friend who is a sales associate. My friend was helping a woman shop for her client--of course, I had no idea who her client was. She looked at my earrings and said, "Oh, I have to get jewelry, I love your earrings! Where did you get them?" I explained that I was the designer and while the collection was two weeks from shipping to Barneys, I could loan her a few pieces for her client's event. The next day I opened the paper and there was a full page shot of Catherine Zeta Jones in my earrings!

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And now the most pressing question: how did you end up designing Natalie Portman's engagement ring? Details please! I have known Benjamin Millipied for many years. We danced together at New York City Ballet and have been friends ever since. We worked together to create a one-of-a-kind engagement ring for Natalie. The center stone is a Round Old Mine Cut, surrounded by pave diamonds, with a pave setting and band. The center stone is an antique, the pave diamonds were all certified by the Kimberly Process (a process by which stones are certified as "conflict free"), and the platinum is recycled. The piece is entirely handmade.

You can't do much better than having your creations land on the hottest actress of the moment. But what would you say are your biggest challenges right now? We are working very hard to manage growth intelligently. We have been getting a lot of new interest from retailers in the US and Europe. We want to be selective about our retail partnerships and make sure the collection is always well represented. This is a challenge we are happy to have, but one that requires a lot of time and thought to navigate.