Ana Maria Andricain loved to watch her mother get ready. She’d slowly pull piece after piece of jewelry out of a small box on the counter, each trinket with a story behind it. She’d speak about the relatives, occasions and special moments the pieces reminded her of.
This is how Andricain says she learned about her heritage growing up. Both her parents are Cuban refugees, restricted to bringing only one suitcase of essential belongings when they came to America.
But they couldn’t bear the thought of leaving their jewelry behind. So they sewed it into their clothes, choosing to risk their livelihoods in order to save such special items.
“I began to look at her jewelry as some would look at a photo album, just filled with stories,” Andricain says now. “They connected me to people I never got to meet, and I loved that.”
This concept of connection through jewelry has stayed with Andricain throughout her life. It eventually led her to start her own online jewelry company, Jewel of Havana, specializing in metal- and gemstone-based jewelry. The creative process facilitates those stories she grew up admiring so much.
When Andricain shows off her pieces today, you can hear her passion for each one in her voice. She excitedly describes the methods she’s learned and how she’s deployed them along the way. Each item she crafts features unique stones, metals and techniques. She sketches each piece, hand sculpts it and perfects it until it fulfills her vision. The result? Masterfully molded, elegant pieces with delicate details. For her, the company is just as much about personal growth as it is about business.
Andricain’s jewelry career, though, is actually her second calling. She spent most of her young adulthood as a performer on Broadway, living and working in theater full time in New York for 25 years. She played major roles in productions like Evita and Les Misérables. She starred as Belle in Broadway’s Beauty and the Beast—which helps explain her bubbly, Disney princess-like demeanor.
It was during a break on a busy day performing as Belle that she noticed a fellow cast member making a pair of earrings. Andricain asked her co-star to show her how to make some.
From that moment, she was hooked. She began making earrings for her family and friends. Those first few months, it seemed the more pieces she made, the larger her following grew.
She decided to pursue jewelry full-time, launching a shop online.
It seemed like perfect timing. Andricain grew up here in Baton Rouge, moving to New York the day after graduation. But Louisiana was calling her home, with her husband returning to the Red Stick for a job opportunity.
She was ready to start a new journey working on the jewelry in her hometown—but she’d never forget what she learned during her theater years.
“People think that it is so weird to go from performing to something that’s art-oriented like this, but I always like to say that they are both centered on telling stories. I’m still communicating a story and a feeling and a connection. It’s just that I used to do it for 2,000 people at a time, and now I’m doing it for one person at a time.”
Andricain’s jewelry line turns 13 in 2019, and many of the stories behind her pieces spring from her personal life through the years. Her newest collection, Through the Looking Glass, imagines what life might look like through the eyes of her dog, Sadie.
But perhaps the most powerful tale is the one behind her Draped in Love copper jewelry collection. The line was inspired by Andricain’s battle with breast cancer—and the loved ones who helped her get through it. The dainty pieces in the line reflect the blankets draped over her while undergoing treatment. The extension chains on the backs represent the men in her life who held her up. And in the Draped In Love copper necklace, three pearls symbolize three cancer survivors who emotionally supported her throughout her battle.
Creating jewelry with meaning is the lifeblood of her company, and she hopes to continue designing this way for years to come.
“My hope for the future would be to keep learning, keep growing and just get more connections going out in the world,” she says. “People need to feel close to each other and celebrate life because it’s short.” jewelofhavana.com
This article was originally published in the March 2019 issue of 225 Magazine.