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Lauren Wolf

Lauren Wolf has always had a decisive personality. “My mom says that when I was little she’d never buy me clothes or anything because I was always so opinionated,” says the 32-year-old Oakland-based designer. So when a friend told her about an artist community in San Miguel, Mexico, that offered silversmithing classes, Lauren didn’t think twice about abandoning a career in advertising to head south of the border in 2002. “I had studied journalism and anthropology in school,” she says. “But as soon as I heard about learning jewelry-making in Mexico, it wasn’t even a question: I knew that’s what I wanted to do.”

It’s that same uncompromising self-assuredness that makes Lauren’s designs for her eponymous label, which she launched two years after taking the jewelry plunge, so badass: spikey silver stingray necklaces, gold bear-claw pendants, studs made with precious black pearls or unpolished ruby. Some of her boldness also comes from years spent honing her craft—after an intense six months in Mexico, she moved to New York City to further her studies at the Fashion Institute of Technology and did eight years in the city before moving to Oakland, where she now also owns a boutique.

Lately, Lauren’s expanded her business to include custom work, which means she has had to learn to curb her more stubborn tendencies. “It’s kind of daunting to create outside your normal box,” she says. But the intrepid designer who mixes diamonds with anaconda bones has always relished a challenge. “It always ends up much better than you think.” —raquel laneri