Leading equestrian jeweler Karina Brez of Palm Beach, Florida, is off and running with a new line of jewelry that expands beyond her beloved horse motif. The new collection, Cowgirl LUV, pays tribute to the American West and strong, resilient women. Six stackable ring styles honor the Sierra Nevada, Denali, and Mount Whitney, and five hoop earring styles celebrate Montana, Aspen, Dakota, Sedona, and Dallas.
Brez, 35, says she got the idea for the new collection during a trip to Las Vegas in 2021 for Cowboy Christmas, the official gift show for the Wrangler National Finals Rodeo. Jewelry at that show centered on sterling silver.
“I wanted to do high-end pieces, and I thought it would be fun to do my take on Western themes, with diamonds and sapphires and 18-karat gold,” she recalls.
Cowgirl LUV departs from the horse motifs Brez has developed in her 11 years designing jewelry. Those lines include Horse LUV, Huggable Hooves, Lucky Horseshoe, Bit of LUV, Horsea, and the collaborative Fearless Feathers by Dani G., with international show jumper Dani G. Waldman.
“Cowgirl LUV is apart from that, but it’s still in the same realm,” she says. “I’m branching out to a more mainstream audience, to reach more people. Most people don’t have horses.”
Introduced in September and October at the Capital Challenge Horse Show and the Washington International Horse Show, the new collection was a hit: “We sold out of all the yellow gold,” Brez says.
A Ukrainian-American transplant, Brez came to the United States when she was a toddler. Her parents, Alex and Rimma Brez, struggled to make ends meet in New York, with second-generation jeweler Alex making and repairing jewelry at his home bench for Tiffany & Co., and Rimma working as a hairdresser.
The family landed by chance in Florida when they took a vacation there, and 5-year-old Karina ran to a palm tree, hugged it, and declared, “I want to live here.”
Her parents obliged, and Brez grew up watching her father as he built his still-going international jewelry exchange and made jewelry while she drew and gave input on designs. She wore hand-me-downs and worked without pay as a teenager, helping with the books, reading lease documents for her parents, and installing watch batteries and springs.
“I wanted my own path,” she recalls. “I was always a designer, I wanted to make accessories. … I just knew I was going to be in the industry.”
Brez was still in high school – Dreyfoos School of the Arts, where she designed the set for a senior play as her required audition to be admitted – and qualified to attend the Gemological Institute of America.
“In order to go to GIA, you have to get a diploma or GED, and I was still in school. But I did have extra credit, so my principal signed off on a letter confirming that I was on track to graduate, and I got in!”
After completing the GIA Graduate Gemologist program, she opened her first business as an appraiser at 21. But before long, she grew bored. Nearby Wellington – the winter equestrian capital of the world – provided an unexpected creative muse.
Brez had become a volunteer with Horses Healing Hearts, a therapy program for children of addicted parents. The charity was founded by a friend who was the child of alcoholic parents, and another friend died at the hands of an alcoholic husband and left behind a child.
“I volunteered every Saturday, and one weekend I was attending a horse show and had an ‘Aha!’ moment: I thought, I love horses! What if I could create something that would help?”
Working out of makeshift space at home, Brez created her first equestrian collection, Horse LUV – rings, earrings, and pendants with a heart shape made of two horses’ heads nuzzling each other.
The idea for Huggable Hooves came to her in Wellington, as she watched a rider dismount and hug her horse.
“I thought, what if a horse could hug you back?” Ultimately, she designed a line of bracelets and rings with two hooves overlapping in a circle around the wrist or finger.
Twelve years on, Brez has gone from nearly no equestrian jewelry to mostly equestrian jewelry that she designed – about 90 percent of the 500 pieces in her store. A portion of her equestrian jewelry sales goes to Horses Healing Hearts.
And, after a decade of operating “practically out of my garage,” Brez opened her first year-round brick-and-mortar store, Karina Brez Jewelry, on Worth Avenue in Palm Beach.
“I didn’t want a store – for 10 years I did pop-ups around the country, and my Wellington pop-up looks like an actual store. I spend four months there and follow the horse circuit.”
But she couldn’t help but laugh at herself working from her home with a client buying a six-figure piece. The cozy store – 140 square feet – is just the right size for meeting clients by appointment.
Brez designed the Horsea line in connection with that new store. Resisting pressure to start a beach collection, she gravitated toward a medallion design.
“I was feeling a shipwreck coin washing up on the beach, and I started playing around with the word seahorse, and came up with Horsea.”
The resulting design is a medallion pendant with a horse rearing toward a starlit sky.
For the past year, Brez has traveled the horse circuit with a mobile unit called The Jeweled Barn. The custom-designed tiny house is equestrian-themed and is equipped with a motion-sensor alarm, as well as solar panels, enabling her to operate off the grid wherever she goes.
As each year ends and a new one begins, Brez turns to designing a new line of jewelry while growing her existing lines. The Cowgirl LUV collection will have some new necklaces, and she’s looking forward to developing something talismanic and using quartz and moonstone.
“I always steer away from what someone else is doing,” she says.