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INTERVIEW QUESTIONS:  Cristiana Shields, Jewelry Designer

1.     Tell us about Cristiana – your love for art, your family and interest in the world of jewelry design.

I attended International Fine Arts College in Miami majoring in Fashion Merchandising.  I wanted to be a stylist for movies, music videos and magazines.  I wanted to see my name in lights on the big movie screen as a stylist.   Life kept bringing me back to designing jewelry.  Hoping still to get my name in lights, but as a jewelry designer, instead of movie stylist.

My favorite quote is:  Life is like a movie, write your own ending…”Kermit the Frog.  My general purpose is to surround myself with inspiring role models/mentors and to help others.  I’m seeking a career which is rewarding fulfilling and satisfying.   I know I found my calling.

I am an artist at heart.  I express myself through designing one-of-kind jewelry pieces which I collect from all over the world.  Each piece represents a special meaning.   My family members are also artistic, but in other ways.   I believe I inherited my artistic genes from my Mom.

I experimented with different jobs to see if I had talents in other areas.  An example of this is manager of the children’s department, and assisting in window display at Ralph Lauren, Manager’s assistant and massage therapist trainee at Jupiter Beach Resort Spa, trunk show shoe rep at Stubbs & Wooton and sales and window display at Georgio’s of Palm Beach in the Breakers Hotel.  I always gravitated back to designing jewelry.

I’ve been designing jewelry for myself since I was 16 years old as a hobby.  My Dad always told me it was my niche.  I disagreed, because I was fearful of the competition in the jewelry business.  After trying several different types of jobs, what led me back to jewelry designing was massage therapy.

When my father was being cared for by Hospice, I was inspired by the massage therapy given to him by the nurses.  After my Dad passed away, I received emails from people about how he impacted their lives and I thought, “I want to be like that.  To do something powerful, to be someone memorable.’”  But I thought “how”?  I started thinking about my name, and thought:  To shield and protect and empower.  So I returned to something I’d always loved – Fashion and creating things of beauty…but I wanted I wanted to incorporate what I learned in massage about the powerful energy of real stones into designing the type of jewelry that unique, one of s kind, lights up a room, & helps heal & balances us when we wear this jewelry. The power is in the stones…I just create them into jewelry to make them wearable art with meaning. www.cristianashields.com

2.     Was your work inspired by a particular moment in your life or by a particular person?

Having grown up in a home with so many sisters, every year for Christmas we all received the same type gift or accessory, but in different colors.  I always seemed to receive the least desirable color.  So one day I decided to take apart a necklace which was neutral and “jazzed it up” so it would be more complimentary.   Having always admired my father’s way of “lighting up a room”, I thought this might be a way for me to do the same.

3.     Growing up ensconced in the Palm Beach lifestyle, how do you describe your work ethic/philosophy”

I moved from Long Island to Palm Beach in the middle of 8th grade.  All friendships had already been established.  It was a challenge trying to fit in as a newcomer.  As a result, I surrendered and focused on crafts and other artistic endeavors.   I realized that I was more of an artist than a Palm Beach groupie.  I have always been very focused on whatever I was working on, therefore I will say I have a very strong work ethic.   All of these experiences, have helped me to build character, confidence and the ability to interact with people from all walks of life.

4.     How do you describe your success in the business world?  Naturally, it’s not all in the name … what sets you apart?    My ability to create unique and beautiful pieces of jewelry.  I also have wonderful friends who help me along the way.

5.     Can you elaborate on the success of your jewelry line and the connection with Big Dog Ranch in Wellington?

A friend introduced me to Megan O’Neill Weinberger, president of Big Dog Ranch Rescue, and it changed my life.  Megan was wearing these fabulous boots from Nordstrom’s and we just connected immediately.   I have the same boots which came in two different colors.  Megan and I both purchased the same boots in both of the same colors.  Instant connect for a woman – shoes!!   She had this huge Great Dane with her and she told me about the big Dog Ranch.  She then told me about Bugsy, a little dog they were having trouble finidng a home for.  I wanted to help, so I thought, I have 3,000 friends on Facebook.  I posted Bugsy’s picture and wrote, “One of you need to adopt this dog.”  The next day, one of my friends did!  Doing stuff for BDRR has added another dimension to my life.  Then I thought, wouldn’t it be great if we could cross-promote each other’s businesses?”

I put necklaces on some of the dogs and took some glamour sots and used the dogs to model my jewelry.  I put a donation jar on the table to collect money for BDRR.  I hoped people who stopped to see the jewelry would see the dogs, and vice versa.  It worked!  The big gray, old and deaf Mastiff, Squish, is now the face of Shields Jewelry.

6.     I would assume the holidays are the busiest…and any special marketing events:

Yes, the holidays are very good for business, and, for adopting rescue dogs.  People love to bring home a new member of the family, with jewelry to match, of course – during the holiday season.  I have full calendar of events on my website, to include, trunk shows, cocktail parties and fashion shows.  I also do sell jewelry off my website directly.

7.     What are your top (3) business tips for women in the work force?

Be true to yourself.

Never give up.

Nothing great was ever accomplished without enthusiasm.

8.     Are you involved in any Palm Beach charities/events?

I have been invited to join the BallenIsles Charities Foundation as a “Friend of the Foundation, and obviously, Big Dog Ranch Rescue.  BallenIsles Charities Foundation helps to support local charitable organizations in its local community in which I reside.

9.     What are some of your favorite haunts, restaurants and activities in Palm Beach?

FuKu, which is a modern Asian restaurant.  The food and ambiance is amazing.  They also support Big Dog Ranch and other local charities.  Tropical Fruit Shop, Renato’s Pizza Fresca.   Last, but not least, the Gazpacho at the Bistro Restaurant of the BallenIsles Country Club is to die for!

10.   What is your most memorable Palm Beach moment?

My Dad used to shoot squirrels with his bee-bee gun and threw the dead squirrels  over the bush!  The reason for this is because at the time we had a parrot and a African Gray, and the squirrels would try to eat their peanuts.  It used to drive my father crazy.  Hey will have our quirks.  Once day the neighbor, who was a friend, called and asked my father if we had dead squirrels in our yard.   He said, “omg” disgusting!!

My Godfather who is retired, used to work for an advertising company in California.  He had the sense of humor like Billy Crystal and Robin Williams.  He could imitate the New York City garbage collectors and it was very funny.  It’s a timing joke, you had to be there.    He performed at my sister’s wedding 11 years ago at the Everglades Club, doing his imitations.   He was a real hit.

A friend of mine who I heard was getting married, asked me to design necklaces for her bridesmaids at her wedding.

When I was assisting at a day care called A Home Away from Home, there were three kids in the third grade that stood out for me and to whom I grew attached.  One kid acted like Spiderman because he had Attention Deficit Disorder, another acted like Captain Jack Sparrow in Pirates of the Caribbean and he had sneakers which he purposely left untied so I would tie them.  I would them tie them together!  He was my buddy.   He loved hugs from me.  Then a little girl whose mom who came in the middle of nap time for ballet class, and I was the one that had to wake her up and get her dressed in her tights and leotards while she was still half asleep.  She sooo cute.  I also had fun trying to get them to brush their teeth before their nap time.

“I think I finally know what I want to do when I grow up,” says Palm Beacher Cristiana Shields, who turned her positive energy into a career at the age of 37. Drawing from a childhood love of design and her world travels, Shields began combining the powerful energy of real stones with one-of-a-kind jewelry designs as a teenager. Today, she owns her company in Palm Beach Gardens, Shields Jewelry, sells her pieces online and at local trunk shows, and her custom creations help bring a face to homeless pets (of all sizes) at the Big Dog Ranch Rescue in Wellington.

Shields’ philanthropic tendencies began as a child and grew with her into adulthood. When she was 8 years old, her father, Frank Shields, son of a Wimbledon legend and Italian royalty, and her mother, Didi, moved the family to Palm Beach. Growing up with six siblings, one of whom is her famous half-sister Brooke, it was challenging for the younger Shields to find her voice.

“I’m a free-spirit and an artist at heart,” says the designer. “All of my family members are creative, but in many other ways. I knew early on, I had to find my own way.”

Young Shields loved to take walks along the Vias of Palm Beach in search of unusual bobbles and stones. Her mother owned Johnnie Brown’s, an eclectic boutique on Worth Avenue, and still chairs events on the Island, so the young girl was steeped in philanthropy and has always felt comfortable around vibrant gems. “I had such a passion for stones even back then,” Shields says. “There was such a magic about them.” And these pieces are magical to the heart as well as the eye — just ask all of her bejeweled, four-footed friends back at the Big Dog Ranch Rescue sitting pretty for their glamour shots in hopes of finding a new home. “The power is in the stones … I just transform them into wearable art with meaning.” www.cristianashields.com

“ROMANCING THE STONE”

Cristiana Shields makes a difference one jewelry design at a time.

TEXT BY KIM MOSLEY

PHOTOGRAPHY BY JASON NUTTLE

MAKE-UP BY MISH

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