Perhaps you’ve noticed the trend: local women with statement rings that showcase shimmering crystals, druzies like agate and quartz. The behemoth gemstones sparkle on fingers clutching fashionably recyclable totes and take-out coffee cups.
The rings appear almost to have magical powers.
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They are a signature part of Wendee Daelhousen’s South Philadelphia, nature-inspired brand, Nuance. Daelhousen’s vast collection also includes baubles shaped like tiny bees and heads of lettuce, or blue stones with natural rivulets that call to mind ocean waves.
Her work is a recognizable staple at specialty boutiques like Kin in Center City and Toile in Fishtown. But Daelhousen’s fashion reach has blossomed beyond Philadelphia. Nuance is available in 50 boutiques nationwide and in Canada. Some of her pieces have been in O magazine and the CW hit show, Riverdale.
And because a lot of her work is inspired by plants and flowers, it’s also sold at botanical gardens in Pennsylvania, New York, and Arizona.
"It’s a trend now. I mean there are so many stores like [East Falls'] Vault and Vine that are blending plants with fashion,” Daelhousen said.
“I just love botanicals,” she said. “I like them because I’m a nerd. I was the one who collected stones when I was younger. I love little herbs and planting. It makes me feel closer to the earth."
Daelhousen, 34, grew up near Lancaster and moved to Philly to attend Philadelphia University (now Jefferson). She graduated in 2007 with a degree in interior design and worked for a firm; when the economy tanked, she took a job designing jewelry for John Wind, then creative director of Maximal Art. Many of her pieces landed in major stores like Anthropologie and Disney.
In 2012, she started Nuance — so named because Daelhousen wants to be a subtle difference in the design world — starting the collection with a handful of pieces she thought would sell well, including the rings. She spent the next eight years trying out different ideas, like packaging her lettuce studs in a tiny crate with actual lettuce seeds.
Today, Daelhousen works out of a showroom in the Bok Building, where she was among the first tenants. Nuance pieces start at $29 for earrings that look like herbs and go up to $200 for drop earrings with moonstones and clusters of sparkling crystals. In addition to her own designs, she helps specialty stores manufacture pieces for their private-label brands (like b.ross and Tesoro Design).
In her spare time, she’s always doodling new ideas. “My pieces have a lot of moving parts,” Daelhousen said. “So I draw them out, see what I have that I can incorporate, and go from there. I’m always solving puzzles in my head.”