The Jewelry Photo
Marie Laveau Collection

Molly McNamara came to jewelry design and fabrication through a background in the fine arts and a reverence for the jewelers in her family history. She earned her Bachelor of Arts in painting from Virginia’s Sweet Briar College and went on to continue her study of painting at a private arts studio in Paris.

McNamara’s paternal ancestors were Swedish watchmakers and jewelers who emigrated to the United States, settled in Moline, Ill., to open Josephson Jewelers, and helped found the American Gem Society in the mid-1930’s. Following in their footsteps, McNamara returned to the U.S. from Europe to study metalsmithing and enrolled in a program at the Penland School of Arts & Crafts in North Carolina. After her program was completed, she emerged with the realization that jewelry would be her principal art. She considered focusing on the exclusive diamond and platinum market but instead took the direction of the contemporary craft movement with its greater accessibility and appeal.

McNamara moved to New Orleans with the idea of working with one of the city’s renowned jewelers and achieved her goal when she was hired by Thomas Mann. After two years, McNamara ventured out on her own to devote time to her own creations.

Along the way, she opened a successful store on Magazine Street, and McNamara began attracting national attention. Lucky magazine (February 2002) listed her store as a New Orleans shopping destination, and she was featured in a segment on the HGTV show “Crafters from Coast to Coast.” As her renown grew, the mayor of New Orleans commissioned her to design a ceremonial fleur-de-lis key to the city. That commission marked the beginning of New Orleans-related themes in her work.

“This city is such an easy place to find inspiration,” she says. “Although I have many collections that spring from other sources in my imagination, the collections that are inspired by New Orleans are the most fun.”

After Hurricane Katrina, McNamara decided not to reopen her shop so she could focus less on running a retail operation and more on jewelry design and fabrication.

For over a dozen years, McNamara has sold her jewelry at the New Orleans Jazz and Heritage Festival in the contemporary crafts section. At other times of the year her collections are available at select retailers and through individual phone orders. McNamara continues to design new pieces and collections, and she herself has become one of the more renowned jewelers of her city.

Voo Doo Peace