Foundræ (Est. 2015) When the eclectic jewelry brand, Foundræ, opened its first brick-and-mortar store in New York City’s Tribeca neighborhood, the trade and industry publications paid attention. The publication, JCK, reported that brand creative director and founder Beth Bugdaycay said she opened a retail spot to connect with customers more directly and often. “Our design atelier is in the back of the building and I feel lucky to have the opportunity to talk to the customers one-on-one and help them build their stories through our jewelry.”
The store’s building at 52 Lispenard Street is a landmark, cast-iron structure with 25-foot ceilings built in 1867. It was destroyed by fire and reduced to two ravaged floors by the time Murat Bugdaycay—Beth’s husband and business partner—found it.
The space’s restoration was a collaboration between Murat and Angus Pond Architects and included a new floor featuring intricate triangle details and sections of Calcutta marble, in addition to a staircase boasting solid hand-hewn wood beams recovered from the original building.
The space is lined with oak bookshelves where store visitors can check out books from the curated library which features many signed editions. Design elements for the space include circa-1970s leather chairs refurbished and hand-stamped with Foundrae’s core tenets. These shed light on the ideas behind the brand’s beautiful jewelry—displayed in three glass showcases—and include Foundrae’s trendsetting colored enamel, talisman-like rings, and pendants.
In addition to the jewelry, the space is also home to exclusive creations including home objects such as sterling silver incense burners and sterling silver matchboxes bearing 18k gold symbols.
On the brand’s official website, Beth Bugdaycay writes, “I’m very inspired in my designs to share a language of iconic spiritual and mystical symbols that span cultures and centuries in order to illuminate the golden thread between all of us, the knowledge of which I find greatly empowering. I see each piece as a way to help communicate more openly about how each of us got here as well as what we envision our next chapter to be, in order to inspire and to help not just ourselves, but each other and the next generation to live more fulfilling lives.”
It is Bugdaycay’s intention to offer collections that are highly personal yet charged with energy and style meant to empower and be shared.
Before her personal entry into the world of fine jewelry, Beth spent nineteen years at fashion brand Rebecca Taylor where she was CEO and co-founder. After conglomerate Kellywood bought the company, she decided to create a brand that was more meaningful for her and that incorporated the seven principles that, for her, were the means to live a fulfilled life.
Beth spent her early years in Texas hunting for gems at estate sales with her grandmother Virginia Ray, who Bugdaycay paid tribute to with the original name she wanted to use for her new company.
“I picked Vestige because I like the idea of pieces of the past that you then bring to the future. But apparently a lot of other people like[d[ that name too, because it was very much taken,” she says.
Having no choice but to re-consider, she decided on Foundrae, with Rae referencing her grandmother.
Some pieces Bugdaycay picked up from estate sales when she was young, such as vintage acrostic bands, ended up serving as early reference points for Foundrae’s offerings. “In sixth grade, I got four skinny, acrostic Victorian bands that spelled out D-E-A-R,” she explains. “I gave one to each of my closest friends. Everyone else was doing the broken best friend heart from Spencer’s at the time.”
Since the cost of fine jewelry runs high, many designers choose generic motifs like hearts and initials, emphasizing timelessness, to appeal to a broad range of consumers.
Bugdaycay, however, welcomes individuality, sourcing symbols from all over the world that reflect her tenets. Scarabs from Egyptian mythology; astronomical shapes from the zodiac; letters from the ancient Greek alphabet; armorial bearings; guild marks and more are all fashioned onto 18K gold medallions, rings, earrings and bracelets that start at $295 for stud earrings to $2,850 and higher for necklaces.
While the creations are reminiscent of sentimental jewelry from the Victorian period, they seek to appeal to today’s shopper. Bugdaycay believes her job is to present jewelry that allows her customers to stack and build according to their own inclinations.
The Foundrae collection is based on a lexicon of symbols culled from a variety of cultures and time periods with the intention to create an inclusive language that not only appeals to the individuality of the buyer but that also celebrates a set of values said to be greater than the value of the gold itself.
In an October 2016 article that appeared in The Adventurine, writer Marion Fasel claimed to have cracked the Foundrae code. Much of Foundrae’s offerings can be generically described as charms that are finely designed and executed.
“Generally speaking, charms have a pretty straight forward message,” writes Fasel. “For example, a four leaf clover equals good luck. This type of jewelry goes back eons. During the nineteenth century, Queen Victoria is credited with igniting the trend for charm bracelets, after Prince Albert gave her one with a collection of enamel hearts. Today, the symbolic jewelry trend is going strong. There are any number of stars, Italian horns, evil eyes and what not available to provide the wearer with good luck.
“Nothing, however, [is] quite like the complicated amulets Beth Bugdaycay has created for Foundrae. The multiple ancient motifs on each of the five ‘Chapters’ of the collection—Strength, Karma, Dream, Protection and Wholeness—require [some] interpretation.”
Foundrae’s symbols have layers of meaning and roots in history. There is also a little Spanish in the mix; another reference to growing up alongside her grandmother, in Brownsville, Texas, a town near the Mexican border.
“For me the symbols identify cherished beliefs or reminders of what we may want to improve upon in our lives,” explains Beth. “I feel that sometimes people need symbols to start thinking about these things.”
For many years Beth has been passionate about jewelry. “I am huge collector of vintage,” she says. “I am crazy about signets and wax stamps, anything with a hand touched or physical imprint. Another source of inspiration is my grandmother’s scrapbooks that are filled with ephemera, labels and calling cards.”
Beth has spread vintage ideas throughout her collection including specific symbols, silhouettes of cigar band rings, the use of enamel, and old style of the chains.
“It took me around a year to get the lexicon and jewelry together,” says Beth. “I wanted to pull heritage up to the present and communicate something that would be meaningful.”
Almost from the moment the line launched in the spring of 2016, it was embraced by women searching for new types of amulets. One of the first high profile stars sporting a Foundrae jewel was Kirsten Stewart. She was seen in a Strength necklace at the Cannes Film Festival. Socialite Rosie Huntington-Whiteley was photographed wearing one of the Wholeness Baby Medallion necklaces.
Over the years, the core principles on which Foundrae offers its creations have come to be called, ‘Tenets,’ with each one offering multiple symbols. These are crafted into multiple necklaces, medallions, rings, earrings, and a collection for men.
The ‘Tenets’ pieces include the Strength collection that through the symbol of the lion also represents dignity, passion, and self-confidence.
In the Karma collection, the number ‘8’ represents the continuum of return energy. On its side, the 8 stands for infinity. The Crescent moon, was chosen for its Latin root word, ‘crescere,’ to grow.
Collections are also offered for the Tenets of Dreams, Protection, Wholeness, True Love, and Resilience.
In another collections called, With Wings We Fly, two arrows cross to form a new whole; a union of friendship and love that didn’t exist separately and includes a star for energy and divine guidance.
Finally, the Course Correction collection uses a compass to symbolize the belief that life is an ongoing process of adjusting course to align better with a person’s life purpose and beliefs.
The ‘E’ in the design represents the cardinal direction “East” and symbolizes new beginnings. Its design places the cardinal directions in mirror image because it is only with self-reflection that each person finds what has meaning in life.
The brand also offers bespoke commission work that gives the firm’s customers the ability to further customize their collection by using the company’s language of spiritual and mystical symbols as well as its letters, numbers, and gemstones to create one-of-a-kind bespoke pieces in unique combinations that are specific to the customer.
The creation of these pieces is also an opportunity to work directly with Beth. The service is offered in store only and utilizes the brand’s custom stamps and templates.
According to its official website, “[Foundrae] didn’t want to just open a jewelry store. We wanted to create a comfortable yet inspiring environment that [is] a reflection of just how personal this collection is to us.”
The brand’s creations are not designed to be worn sparingly or just for special occasions. “Most of our customers are looking for something they’ll wear every day for the rest of their lives.”