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As a member of the famed Austrian crystal family, Vanessa Swarovski Piedra grew up around beautiful sparkling objects. Now she’s creating a few of her own.
Swarovski Piedra, the great-great-granddaughter of Swarovski Corp. founder Daniel Swarovski, launched a jewelry collection this fall featuring Swarovski crystals under her own brand, VSP. And plans for the brand extend beyond jewelry, including candles, crystal-studded pashminas and throws and crystal-adorned furniture.
It’s an extension of her family’s heritage, but also a fresh take on a storied tradition.
The Swarovski story goes back to 1892 when Daniel Swarovski, a glasscutter in what is now the Czech Republic, invented a machine that improved the process of crystal-cutting. The invention led to a bountiful business of both original designs and collaboration on jewelry, clothing and housewares with designers around the world.
Swarovski Piedra grew up near the Swarovski headquarters in Wattens, Austria, located just outside of Innsbruck, surrounded with that tradition everyday: Her father is currently chief executive officer of Swarovski.
At the age of 14 she spent a summer learning goldsmithing at the Design Institute of Rome.
"When you’re around it so much, you just grow up looking for it," said Swarovski Piedra, 40.
After graduating from the University of Southern California, she went to the Gemological Institute of America to became a certified gemologist. She worked for a diamond company in New York and at Swarovski’s gemstone division in Austria before moving to Vero Beach, Fla., in 1997 to open a jewelry store where she sold the works of several designers, including her own designs with gold and diamonds.
While in Vero Beach, she met professional baseball player Jorge Piedra. A couple of years after their February 2001 marriage, she closed down her store as his baseball career took them to several different cities.
About four years ago, the couple and their two daughters–6 and 2–settled in the Dallas area, and now she is ready to go out in her own direction.
The collection is playful and young: Shimmery bracelets featuring tiny crystals that can link together to create necklaces or belts; crystal pendants hanging from cords; even children’s pieces.

Bob Maxwell, who has carried VSP jewelry since November in his Warwick, N.Y., boutique Style Counsel, said that the pendant–which comes with or without a diamond–makes a bold statement, but isn’t overpowering.
"It can be dressy or they can wear it casually with jeans and a white shirt," he said.
Another line features crystals backed with faces from Old Master paintings. "It’s such an untraditional use of the product. You’re wearing art," said Colleen Brennan, creative director of VSP and a partner, who came up with the idea.
The collection, which debuted this fall at the Dallas Apparel and Accessories Market Show, is already being carried by several boutiques across the country and this spring will be available in Macy’s Herald Square location in New York City, Swarovski Piedra and Brennan said.
The pieces range from about $60 to $600. Swarovski Piedra and Brennan aren’t too worried about the effect the ailing economy, saying that crystal jewelry allows people to get a quality item without the cost of more expensive fine jewelry.
Designers are more often mixing fine jewelry–precious metals and gemstones–with less expensive materials, said Helena Krodel, spokesperson for the Jewelry Information Center, a trade association.
She said the combination helps keep prices down, resulting in more sales.
Maxwell said that in a troubled economy, it helps to offer something new.
"It really has to be something that grabs people," Maxwell said. "I don’t think people are looking for something they’ve had already."
Images courtesy of the Fashion Spot forums.