The Queen of Flow: Tara Maria Famiglietti’s Ondyn Brand
Water-inspired silhouettes drive the sinuous signature style of Tara Maria Famiglietti’s Ondyn brand, with its slinky lines of articulated diamond settings.
Tara Maria Famiglietti combines two of her favorite things — dance and water — in her Ondyn jewelry line, which she launched three years ago.
The seasoned artist, who has been creating fine jewelry for more than 20 years, is the daughter of two Manhattan-based clothing designers with a high-profile following — Thérèse Connolly of the Ménage à Trois store, and Richard Famiglietti of Jenny Waterbags. In her early years, Famiglietti studied modern dance and ballet, performing at both the Joyce Theater and the Apollo Theater in New York. Once she determined that she didn’t want to pursue dance full time, she set her sights on jewelry design and went to study it at the city’s renowned Fashion Institute of Technology.
After securing her degree, Famiglietti pressed pause on diving into a career; instead, she and a partner followed a dream of sailing the Mediterranean. For two years, the pair visited France, Spain, Italy and other countries, sating a love of water that would later help drive her fine-jewelry aesthetic.
Beginning to blossom
Upon her return from Europe, Famiglietti trained with high-end jewelers including former model Gurmit Kaur Campbell. She designed jewelry for shopping channel QVC, and even collaborated with celebrity chef Padma Lakshmi on a collection.
A mention in New York Magazine gave her business a boost; a pair of vine-inspired gemstone earrings with rows of chain and diamond briolettes became a hit with consumers after featuring in the magazine. One sale was extra thrilling: “I got a voice mail message from Lorraine Bracco, who played the psychiatrist in The Sopranos,” Famiglietti recalls, adding that Bracco ordered several pairs.
All these projects helped Famiglietti hone her bench skills and artistic direction to the point where she decided to debut her own line — a bittersweet move, given that it came at the onset of the pandemic. True to her love of water and dance, motion became the DNA of her 14-karat gold and diamond designs. In a nod to her parents’ profession, her style evokes the finesse of a couturier’s draping. The name Ondyn is a variation of “undine,” a mythical creature associated with water.
“The jewelry takes shape and comes to life as you wear it,” says Famiglietti of her sinuous designs. “Rings wrap and sway around fingers, like my three-row diamond ring; each row is completely articulated, so as you move, it changes shape. Pieces draw you in, and the movement maximizes the quality of the diamonds, which are set in 14-karat gold.”
She has chosen this alloy over 18-karat gold for its strength, a necessary asset due to the articulated bezel-set diamonds. “Because the collection is so much about movement and fluidity, I needed the connections to be stronger,” she explains. “Each piece is designed to sculpt to your body and flow with your every movement. It lies on the wearer in a way that is sensual and beautiful, with the light catching the movement.”
Beyond the mechanics of the pieces and the minimalist lines of round diamonds, the jewelry has a modern vibe that many consider timeless.
“Who doesn’t love a white diamond?” asks Paul Schneider of jewelry retailer Twist, which has stores in Portland, Oregon, and Seattle, Washington. Schneider was one of 12 store owners who picked up the line at the August 2021 Couture show, Ondyn’s first trade fair.
“Twist customers want something different; they don’t expect to see a plain tennis bracelet here,” Schneider says. “Ondyn mechanics are flawless, and there are no ‘hidden savings’” — tricks that manufacturers use to save money. “It’s the opposite, with little additions…that give pieces extra life. People know Twist for creative designs, but when you get into diamond necklaces over $10,000, clients still want something versatile that they can wear a lot. That’s Ondyn.”
Many designers struggle for years before they manage to sign wholesale accounts, but Famiglietti’s experience is far from the norm: Besides selling to 12 upscale accounts at Couture last year, the emerging brand also took first place in the Couture Design Awards’ Best in Diamonds Below $20,000 category. Ondyn’s retail prices start at $2,000.
“Feedback is that Ondyn has a strong identity and concept,” says the designer.
Though Ondyn is diamond intense, Muzo Emerald still tapped Famiglietti to work with its gemstones. To wit, she debuted a collection with Muzo this year, pieces of which were on display at the 2022 Couture show. “Muzo emeralds almost have a light from within them,” she reflects, adding that she chose to work with cabochon cuts.
Another secret weapon in her arsenal is longtime merchandiser and manufacturer Lester Friedlander, who is a partner in her operation. “Lester is very sharp about diamond sourcing,” remarks Schneider. “Ondyn has a smart business plan to make high-end jewelry with a fantastic sense of design at a fair price. I told Tara and Lester that it will be as successful as they want it to be.”