Windermere resident Virginia Ann Rodriguez, owner of Gianni Vincent Jewellers, designed and is renting out the $200,000 Hope Tiara for pediatric research.
Just as diamonds are created under pressure, out of trying times can come hope.
This is exactly what Virginia Ann Rodriguez, a Windermere resident and owner of Gianni Vincent Jewellers, had in mind when she designed the $200,000 Hope Tiara.
“I always had an idea to do a diamond tiara and have the local high schools get involved and have the (Homecoming) queens be crowned with the tiara, but (to me) there was no purpose or meaning in that, so I never did follow through with that,” she said.
But this year, she found her own personal meaning to spur the idea on, as well as a purpose for her dream tiara.
Five years ago, Rodriguez lost her 15-year-old nephew, Angelo Ballastero Jr., to pediatric cancer. The feisty boy with red, curly hair was a fighter, she said, and inspired her to do good differently.
“It was difficult to go through,” Rodriguez said. “He’s always been on my heart but this year especially, and I realized that I can combine this tiara idea with doing good with it and doing good differently. My heart was to (fundraise for) pediatric cancer and continue his legacy and do good for him. I got together with Runway to Hope this year … and they were definitely excited about it. …It’s turned into the Hope Tiara initiative, and it’s become a catalyst for fundraising.”
Angelo had a heart of gold and was strong in his faith, wise beyond his years, Rodriguez said. He always made his cousins laugh, and was constantly creative and talented at designing video games.
“In his young age, it’s amazing in his few years how he taught adults how to trust the Lord and through his sickness how to trust God, and how he as a teenager taught older people how to trust God and stay hopeful,” she said.
It’s because of Angelo that Rodriguez decided to combine her passions for jewelry and pediatric-cancer research to make a difference in his memory.
“Jewelry is what I do,” she said. “I’ve been in jewelry since 1985. I’ve always been very creative, I do most all the designing in the store. I’ve just always designed and created and thought outside the box. I’m always trying to be unique and different, and do something that other people haven’t done before.”
To raise funds, Rodriguez is renting the Hope Tiara and donating 90% of the proceeds to RFH. She also is taking it to different schools, galas and events and offering photo experiences and selfies with the tiara.
Lake Highland Preparatory School is incorporating the tiara into its Homecoming ceremony by using it to crown its queen. LHP students were so excited about it being part of their Homecoming that one created the Hope Tiara Club to raise funds and awareness for pediatric cancer, Rodriguez said. During the crowning ceremony Oct. 5, the Homecoming queen will be presented with the tiara by the Hope Tiara Club president and a child benefiting from RTH’s services.
FIT FOR A QUEEN
The Hope Tiara is set in 14-karat gold and consists of the following: a five-carat, heart-shaped solitaire diamond; a two-carat marquise solitaire diamond; four one-carat round solitaire diamonds; and more than 60 additional carats of rubies and smaller diamonds. Its overall value is $200,000.
Rodriguez also designed the tiara so it comes apart into two pieces. Those renting it can choose to wear the top half, the bottom half or the whole piece. The top is perfect for Sweet 16 birthday parties or quinceañeras, she said, while the bottom is perfect for brides. When the tiara is presented in its full state, she said, it’s always accompanied by security to oversee it.
“It took me six months of designing — literally taking the diamonds I had and sticking them on a glass so I could move them around — and making sure I had equal sides,” she said. “Then, my California jeweler does all the (computer-aided design) work, and then we went and set all the diamonds. I also designed it so that the larger diamonds can be taken out and replaced with more of a cluster to bring that value down so it’s more appropriate for more types of events. Certainly, they can rent the entire piece as-is, but it gives more options for other events.”
Rodriguez said she spent many nights working after-hours on it, determining measurements and poring over the design and aesthetics. She ended up with the final piece in her hand at the beginning of August and still finds it surreal that a dream 10 years in the making has finally become a reality.
“I designed it, and I’m letting it take on a life of its own, with the constant purpose being doing good differently and being a catalyst to raise funds and do good in my nephew’s name,” she said. “I’ve been very humbled of how well-received the purpose is, and my nephew’s story. I’ve been humbled by how people have responded positively. Coming in the store they can take selfies (with it) and they’ve been very complimentary. … They’ve never seen something as beautiful as this.”