As country stars Rodney Atkins and Rose Falcon made their way down the red carpet at the Country Music Awards last month, fans and commentators couldn't stop talking about the couple's impending marriage.
Sandy D'Andrea and her daughter, Stevie, were just as excited about what Falcon was wearing -- specifically, a pink Swarovski beaded pearl bracelet.
No, it wasn't a Buccellati or a Bulgari, it was the creation of Sandy and Stevie, Stamford's own mother-daughter designer duo.
"To see Rose wearing our bracelet, I thought that was the best thing ever," Sandy said during an interview last week from her kitchen, which doubles as her workshop.
Celebrities and everyday people alike have donned Sandy and Stevie's handcrafted bling, drawn not only to their bedazzled designs, but to their humanitarian aims.
Dubbing their business Jewels for Hope, the business partners donate a portion of every sale to charity. Their slogan? "Style with heart."
"I try not to think about the money or the fame," Sandy said. "Somebody once told me, `If you do it from the heart, good things will happen.' "
The duo have followed their hearts all the way to the red carpets of Hollywood award ceremonies. Actors Jennifer Love Hewitt, Chris Tucker and TV personality Meredith Viera all wear Jewels for Hope swag, which is snapped up by celebrities at pre-award show gift boutiques.
Their products also are available on their website, jewelsforhope.net. Most items sell in the $25 to $125 range.
But success isn't only measured in sales.
"We've donated about $5,000 to charity so far," Stevie said.
Sandy started making jewelry a little more than a decade ago after quitting her job to care for her mother who was suffering from Parkinson's disease. At first, it was only a hobby -- an escape from the stresses of care giving. But when the nurses and aides who helped take care of her mother began admiring her rings, pendants, bracelets and necklaces, the self-taught designer decided to open a bonafide business.
"A light bulb went on," recalled Sandy, who launched an Etsy account in 2008.
As a thank you, she donated a portion of her profits to hospice.
But good intentions aside, Sandy needed help. In her first year, the jewelry designer could count the number of sales she made on one hand. And that's where Stevie came in. A graduate of the Fashion Institute of Technology, she employed her training in marketing and social media to spur business.
She proved to be a star employee. With Stevie's help, in 2011, Jewels For Hope joined the Artisan Group, a juried collective of DIY crafters that helps designers showcase their products at celebrity gift boutiques. It was at one such event that Sandy and Stevie's pink crystal and pearl breast cancer awareness necklace caught the eye of a high-profile client.
"Jennifer Love Hewitt found us before the Golden Globes in Los Angeles," Stevie said, referring to the "Ghost Whisperer" actress. "It was a huge turning point for us and changed our whole business."
Stevie is heading to a Golden Globes gift lounge in February.
In addition to giving directly to charity, Sandy and Stevie donate their products to benefit auctions and other fundraising campaigns. That's how they met Falcon. The country singer was planning to live stream a benefit performance in October for the Young Survival Coalition, an organization that supports young women with breast cancer, when Sandy and Stevie offered a proposal.
"They wanted to send me a bracelet to wear and one to auction off during the livestream," said Falcon, who was recently named one of Country Music Television's Next Women of Country. "That's what makes their business special; the bracelets are beautiful, but to know you're helping somebody else, it's really great."
Falcon was so moved that she wore her Jewels for Hope bracelet to the CMAs. Now, Sandy and Stevie are developing a jewelry line for country singer.
But celebrities make up just a fraction of Jewel For Hope's clientele. Many of their customers are people affected by cancer, bullying and other issues. Sandy and Stevie have created color-coded bracelets that benefit and raise awareness on a variety of causes.
Sandy and Stevie donated dozens of pink paracord bracelets to the New London-based nonprofit organization for its annual Walk Across Southeastern Connecticut last year.
"All businesses should be as giving as they are," Marks added.
That feedback gives Sandy and Stevie hope that they can make Jewels For Hope a full-time job. And, as they've learned, the surest way to reach that goal is to keep following their hearts.
"We love what we do," Sandy said. "And if you love what you do, good things will happen."
Scott.email@example.com; Twitter: @scottgarg