How This Hopewell Township Designer Creates Instant Heirlooms

Cara Brown built a legacy of bespoke fashion by repurposing found objects.

Designer Cara Brown models her custom necklace and tweed jacket in a field
Designer Cara Brown models her one-of-a-kind jewelry and custom-embroidered tweed jackets. Photo courtesy of Violetta Photography

Jewelry designer Cara Brown of Hopewell Township is always on the lookout for vintage artifacts to transform into one-of-a-kind statement necklaces.

“I should have been a pirate because I’m passionate about collecting old beads and unusual brooches and belt buckles,” she says. “When I sit down to design new pieces, I warn my family to steer clear. Then I spread everything out and begin creating about 50 necklaces at a time.” 

Brown’s mother was an interior designer, so her early years were spent surrounded by beautiful things. After graduating from Vanderbilt University, she and a partner began creating Christmas ornaments from antique jewelry and beads. Eventually, their decorative holiday baubles were sold to Neiman Marcus. Almost 20 years later, after raising three children with her husband in their 18th-century Mercer County farmhouse, Brown introduced a trendsetting collection of handcrafted necklaces.

Cara Brown Designs necklaces

Cara Brown transforms artifacts into signature necklaces. Photo courtesy of Benoit Cortet

Within a year, Barneys NYC and Saks Fifth Ave picked up her two lines—some pendants made of old objects and some crafted with antique horse brasses that previously adorned the leather harnesses of working equines. Today, Brown’s jewelry can be found at luxury boutiques across the country and at carabrowndesigns.com.

“Cara Brown Designs was inspired by my desire to repurpose vintage objects and transform something old into a classic art piece to layer with one’s fine jewelry,” she says. Initially, Brown made a few necklaces for herself, but people literally began buying them off her neck, in the nail salon and even on airplanes.

A Cara Brown LifeJacket

Cara Brown LifeJackets are highly customized.

“Each of my hand-knotted pendants includes semi-precious or antique beads to create a one-of-a-kind works of art that can distinguish a woman’s everyday uniform,” she says. 

The designer’s latest passion project, the Cara Brown LifeJacket, captures the chapters of one’s life on hand-selected, vintage tweed jackets. 

“Each LifeJacket tells a special story. We begin with a one-on-one consultation, then each jacket is custom-tailored and hand-embroidered to reflect special occasions and life events,” she says. Brown’s own LifeJacket highlights personal milestones as well as her hometown, places she has lived, her wedding date and her children’s birthdays.  

Whether it’s a one-of-a-kind pendant or a tweed LifeJacket, each Cara Brown creation is an immediate conversation starter—and a future heirloom.

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