“Growing up, every time my mom and I would go shopping, I insisted on going into every jewelry store. I was always inquiring about the stones, and I just loved it.”
The ads for Hannah Fine Jewelry are eye-catching, to say the least. The wowing ad campaign of jungle animals adorned in fine jewels aside, there is the risque campaign that features a beauty wearing nothing more than a smile, which at first sight quickens the pulse of any red-blooded male. And caught between the sizeable cleavage of the gorgeous model are some diamond-encrusted dog tags that make the female population covet the contents of the ad as well.
Hannah Casper, the woman behind the brand, sums it up simply: “Sex sells,” she laughs. But it’s not just the sexual appeal that has her jewelry flying off the shelves of her Florida store, it is the jewels themselves, which are the product of Casper’s wild imagination, one that sits firmly rooted in the equine world.
In fact, our conversation with the jewelry maven takes place at the World Championship Quarter Horse Show in Oklahoma, where her husband, Ronnie, is showing some of his champion horses. While her career path may have taken her away from the world of professional horse shows, it is where she began, and it inspires her still today.
Casper, a Florida native with deep roots in the yachting industry, began showing horses when she was only six years old because it was her mother’s passion. She quickly developed her own passion for the sport, moving up the ranks in her division and competing on a national scale. And when she was only seven, she found the man who is her husband today, but let’s just say they had a love-hate relationship through the years, seeing as the two were constantly pitted against each other in competition. “One time, we were both leading for a championship when we were 11. I had fallen the week before and broken my leg, and was wearing a cast,” Casper recalls. “Ronnie and I were tied, but of course he won because I was riding with my cast. When we got off the horses, he came over and said, ‘Well, I guess that knocks you out, dog face!'” Some choice words, but Casper admits she knew it was destined to be love. Evidenced by the 19 years of marriage, she was right.
And so after schooling, it was Ronnie who brought Casper back to Florida from The Gemological Institute of America in Santa Monica, California, and she returned armed with the knowledge necessary to begin a career in the world of fine jewels, which had always been her passion. “Growing up, every time my mom and I would go shopping, I insisted on going into every jewelry store. I was always inquiring about the stones, and I just loved it,” she explains.
After a few years with a very high-end and reputable jeweler on Palm Beach’s famed Worth Avenue, Casper had honed her eye, and knew what it took to make a spectacular piece of jewelry. At this time, she and Ronnie decided that, in order to further his career with the horses, they should move north to Ocala, Florida, a beautiful town filled with rolling green hills and pristine farms. After a year of helping Ronnie show the horses, Casper realized that her love for jewelry could not be ignored.
Casper began working for a local jeweler in Ocala, but was spending a significant amount of time traveling to and from horse shows. She quickly realized that there was an untapped marketplace for fine jewels. “I figured, the high-end horse industry could lead to interest in fine jewelry, thanks to a similar love of luxury items.”
So she began designing pieces, carting them to and from the shows in a little black box on wheels, an unsophisticated setting for some very sophisticated jewels. She was able to quickly garner a following. “I would walk around the shows and people would stop me and ask to see what I had. They would make purchases, and people loved it. They didn’t have to go to a mall, they could sit and relax in their horse stalls. They would purchase my pieces, and people just loved it.” Expressing the love she has for her horses and fine jewelry, Casper’s pieces are absolutely extraordinary.
It wasn’t long before she got a booth at the Quarter Horse Congress, which, of course, reflected Casper’s fun, funky style, and was covered in leopard hide and crocodile (“A Ralph Lauren look,” she explains), which captured the attention of the show-goers. She soon realized she was on to something good, and she expanded the business, opening a storefront locale in Ocala.
She continues to garner inspiration from horses for her pieces, which include both an equine line and a more standard designer line, which is laden with diamond crosses and bangles, alongside some more exotic pieces, such as a leopard ring, which is made with black and white diamonds that form the typical leopard’s stripes. With her family being avid Harley riders since the 1980s, one shouldn’t be surprised to come across some skull- and tattoo-inspired pieces mixed into the bunch as well. Because of her appreciation for other designers’ work, Casper often purchases pieces from Hong Kong, Bangkok, New York, Italy, and Los Angeles, and sells them in her shop. With some of her best-selling creations ranging from huge, bold, and colorful crosses with unusual stones and wild colors to dog tags covered in diamonds and specialized for everyone from football players to little girls who win championships (such as Hannah’s 13-year-old daughter, Carly, who recently won her own Congress-like mother, like daughter), Casper’s jewelry has no boundaries when it comes to meeting each customer’s exact needs.
The majority of her sales occur at the horse shows, though Casper maintains great success online (www.hannahjewelry.net) and in her shop, thanks in part to her national advertising campaign. In Ocala, Hannah also operates a high-end clothing and accessory store. Planning to open an additional jewelry shop in South Florida, Casper acknowledges her triumph to the help of her mother and father. And with her talent also catering to the stars-country celebrities Faith Hill and Clay Walker are both fans of Hannah’s creations-Casper has become a truly genius gemologist. One of her biggest missions in the jewelry business was to have her own creative line where artisans and undiscovered hopefuls could express themselves vividly. And this she conquered by making Hannah Fine Jewelry a representative of craftsmanship and artistry, setting the standard for individuality. Her quest to enhance each of her clients with unique and beautiful pieces has been accomplished, and that’s a success story in its own right.