Love and Pride Jewelry for Weddings and Beyond
Jewelry designer Udi Behr of loveandpride is a fierce advocate for the LGBT community. His pieces have been worn by the celebrities such as Elton John, Ringo Starr, Jay Leno, Gwen Stefani, Cyndi Lauper, Sharon Stone, Paula Abdul, Ludacris and Paris Hilton. Behr and his company were recipients of the Matthew Shepard Foundation’s “Essential Piece Award.”
Behr, who’s the F (friends and family) in what he calls LGBTF, says he designs pieces that are both fashion and social statements, because, “As a jewelry designer, I know that not all diamonds are created equal. As a husband and a father, I know that all love is.”
Behr has traveled the world since serving in the Israeli army, and has enjoyed immense success in his 30 years working in the jewelry industry in New York. We caught up with the NYC-based artist and businessman to learn more about him, loveandpride and marriage equality.
Q How did loveandpride come about?
A In 2004, I saw Gavin Newsom interviewed by Larry King on his decision to legalize same-sex marriage in San Francisco. His combination of passion and rationality made a lasting impression on me. I knew I had to become a force to help bring about the acceptance and approval of legalized same-sex marriage across the U.S. But how was I going to contribute? I realized I could use my talent as a jewelry designer to create pieces that were as much social statements as they were fashion statements. I would make wearable art prominently displaying words like LOVE, PRIDE, EQUALITY and TOLERANCE. I would reach out to pro-LGBT organizations like the Matthew Shepard Foundation and Human Rights Campaign (HRC) and try and collaborate with them. My idea for loveandpride was born.
What has been the reaction to your jewelry in the LGBT community?
I’m so blessed. We were embraced by the community from the moment we started. For me, it feels like a love story.
Have you had any backlash from the straight community for working with the LGBT community?
I wouldn’t call it a backlash, but in 2004 when I was looking to partner with a more established retailer or manufacturer, I was denied by everyone I approached, because they rejected my vision for jewelry aimed at the LGBT community. Since then, department stores like Saks Fifth Avenue have carried loveandpride collections, and apparel brands are flocking to loveandpride.com now that we’ve expanded beyond jewelry, so I haven’t really felt any backlash.
What do the words love and pride mean to you?
Great question! Love is my addiction, and pride is my center.
What prompted the decision to donate to marriage equality candidates? Tell us more about that and how you chose the recipients. Are they located in different parts of the country and at different levels of government? Who are they?
From the day we launched on April 7, 2005, I’ve been involved in the fight for marriage equality – from personal donations and building an ethos of customer-donations through loveandpride.com, to walking and sometimes sponsoring the annual “Wedding March” across the Brooklyn Bridge for marriage quality. Quite simply, marriage equality is in our company’s DNA. I really believe that with the coming election, we can finally manifest the change so many people have been waiting for – to have marriage equality become the Federal law of the land.
I believe as President Abraham Lincoln said: “Those who deny freedom to others, deserve it not for themselves; and under a just God, can not long retain it.”
That’s why we chose to celebrate loveandpride’s seventh anniversary, including our expansion beyond jewelry and the launch of our redesigned website, by donating $2,500 in June to openly gay candidates running for office this fall who support marriage equality. We’ll select these candidates according to the Gay & Lesbian Victory Fund’s endorsements and donate directly through the Victory Fund’s site. I do not know the specific candidates we’ll donate to yet, because we are timing our donation for New York City’s pride week at the end of June, and I want to take the time to evaluate the candidates. I know the Victory Fund selects its candidates not only according to their positions on LGBT related issues or their sexual orientation, but also on how competitive their race is, how hostile to LGBTs their opponents are, and how healthy the state of their funding is. So, I know we can’t make a bad choice. Corporations can donate to Federal candidates through the Victory Fund website, but each state has different rules about that. That may end up leading us to choose all Federal candidates, but I’m not sure about that yet.
It’s time to change Federal law, and it’s time to give everyone in the LGBT community the same 1,138 Federal benefit heterosexuals receive when they decide to marry.
Is this a way for people who believe in marriage equality to get involved in politics and support candidates who are going to fight for their rights?
Yes, there are many ways to support the marriage equality movement. Donations are always important, and we’ve already talked about loveandpride and the Gay & Lesbian Victory Fund in that regard. Our political system requires a lot of money, and the more money a candidate has, the further they can spread their message and get elected to affect real change. But there are also many other ways that don’t involve money. One of the simplest – and most powerful – is just to let the people in your lives know what marriage means to you and what LGBTs are denied by not having marriage equality. I think most people have NO idea how many rights are denied – exactly 1,138 different benefits – including significant financial assistance involving social security and tax benefits and critical matters like visitation rights.
In one of my Brooklyn Bridge marches, I met a couple together for 60 years! They were 87-years-old and 90-years-old at the time when I met them. Do they have the right to visit each other in the hospital during an emergency ? No! Do they have the right to share a tax return? No! Do they have the right to decide where they want to be put to rest when the time comes? No! That needs to STOP and be talked about.
Lastly, vote! In the 2010 midterm elections, we gave the Tea Party the opportunity to take over the house – because a lot of us did not vote! This time we must vote and get our friends to vote!
18k white gold engagement ring, 12 channel-set diamonds and a tourmaline center celebrating the iconic pink triangle, on sale for $715.50
What are some of your most popular items?
Our most popular items continue to come from our Love and Honor Collection – original wedding and commitment rings – and my Matthew Shepard Erase Hate Pendant, which raised more than $150,000 for the Matthew Shepard Foundation.
Matthew Shepard Erase Hate Pendant, titanium and suede, $59
Do you make custom jewelry, too?
Loveandpride just launched a Create Your Own Ring service, where you can select the stone, setting and price of the ring you envision for yourself.
Kirsten Ott Palladino
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