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Think High-End Luxury Gone Bohemian

Tess & tomy Jewelry Creator Offers Classic Chic And Bold Boho

Pearls are for wearing to the beach and for making big statements each and every day, declares a local fashionista. 

Karen Daniels, creator of the Tess & tomy jewelry collection, says she draws upon her experiences of growing up on an Illinois farm, along with unique traveling encounters as an adult, to develop her own style of outdoor fashion. The University City resident develops one-of-a-kind pieces infused with a certain Boho spirit.

"I'm known for starting with pearls, including colored ones, like copper and peacock. And I'm a huge accessories person. Anything's 'in' as long as you love it," she says. 

Tess & Tomy pieces are comprised of fresh-water pearls, wrapped in suede and knotted into lavish strands. Karen adds turquoise, carved wooden beads, bone, quartz and other natural ornaments to make each creation as individual as the people wearing them. Some of her stone necklaces also feature minerals, such as sapphires, garnet, labradorite and glass beads. 

"Layering strand after strand, dressing yourself in elegant pearls, each design can be worn in various ways. Although intended as necklaces, they also look beautiful on your wrist," she suggests. 

Locally, Karen's designs can be purchased at Mary Tuttle's in Chesterfield and at Hearth & Soul off Clayton Road. Her jewelry also is sold in New York, New Jersey, New Mexico, Florida, Texas, New Hampshire, Arizona, Colorado, Kentucky, Pennsylvania, Vermont and Wyoming. 

Among her products are chokers, anklets, headbands, rings, necklaces, leather do-rags, upcycled Levi denim jackets, leather clutches and lots of pearl pieces. "Pearls represent purity, generosity, integrity and loyalty of those who wear them," says Karen. 

Karen's Inspired Background

After 20 years of working in fashion retail management for The Limited and then Vie Boutique in Ladue, Karen retired. However, realizing that she was still inspired by natural fibers and gemstones, she says she was personally moved to develop jewelry. Nearly a decade ago, she created and sold pieces under the business of Tess Jewelry, named after her grown daughter. "The original Tess Jewelry necklace is a stunning pearl-and-suede combination that I called 'the basic.' Each pearl of the 47-inch piece is wrapped in suede and knotted into one long strand," she says. "Sometimes I think of my jewelry as Chanel meets Ralph Lauren."

During the recent COVID-19 pandemic shutdown, Karen's son, Tommy, had just graduated from Washington University. He assisted her with a myriad of marketing components during that period; that's when she decided to add to the collection's name to include his influence as well. 

Because she says she continues to love layered jewelry looks, she especially enjoys working with vintage Tibetan pieces that she secures from a Tibetan man she met at a market, in addition to elements of sterling silver to craft other lengths of necklaces that are perfect for layering.

Karen frequents gem shows throughout the United States, looking for unusual gems and items to weave into her jewelry creations. Last fall, she says she went to London for Fashion Week and was motivated by a vintage vibe. This year, she has a trip planned to Sicily and says she's so eager to find items there with which to work. 

She says she can't send enough turquoise to Sante Fe, and she's beginning to style with Long Horn-based pendants for Texan markets. 

For potential Valentine's Day gift ideas, Karen recommends starting with the basic draping of pearls. "Then, the person receiving that type of gift can select other strands to customize their look however they'd like."

For anyone with family pearl heirlooms that could use a fresh look, Karen says she happily takes apart and restrings pearls, and can add other stones to them to make them pop with personality.