By AMY HORTON
/smaller>/smaller>/smaller>The Brunswick News
Diamond solitaires sparkling on the slender fingers of fair maidens are traditional emblems of love and betrothal.
Yellow rubber bracelets encircling the wrists of just about everybody are the new symbols of empathy and solidarity in the face of adversity.
“We all know somebody who has been diagnosed with cancer,” said Jan Kiss, who acquired a yellow “LIVESTRONG” band from the Lance Armstrong Foundation after a close friend was diagnosed with breast cancer.
She gave the $1 bracelets as Christmas gifts to coworkers at AppleCare in Brunswick to raise their awareness of the disease, and other people’s as well.
“I have had people ask me what this is about,” Kiss said, sliding the bright yellow band around her slender wrist.
The rubber bracelet craze began with a collaboration between Nike and champion bicyclist and cancer survivor Lance Armstrong. Since May, more than 28 million of the yellow bands have been sold through the Lance Armstrong Foundation based in Austin, Texas.
“All proceeds benefit our research, public health, advocacy and education programs for people with cancer,” said Michelle L. Milford, spokesperson for the foundation.
Not since bell-bottom jeans and tie-dyed T-shirts has fashion made such a statement, and in the seven months since Armstrong’s arm bands made their debut, a number of organizations have used simple but colorful rubber bands to raise awareness — and funds — for their causes.
The Susan G. Komen Breast Cancer Foundation (www.komen.org) is selling pink silicone bracelets debossed with its slogan, “Sharing the Promise,” at a cost of $5 for a pack of five.
The Stars and Stripes Shop online (store.starsandstripesshop.com) is distributing yellow bracelets similar to Armstrong’s, with the words “Support Our Troops” stamped in black.
The Print Box, a New York City business that specializes in promotional items, has prepared the bands for a variety of organizations, including the Lance Armstrong Foundation.
“We have sold millions to different fund-raisers for disease research, high school, college and pro football teams,” said Jeff Huvar, president of The Print Box. “The most popular parity we did was for a bike shop that set up a Web site for ‘LiveWrong.’ But we’ve also done many promoting religion, like ‘LiveJESUS.’”
The rubber and silicone bracelets have proven so popular, in fact, that Huvar is thinking ahead to complementary fund-raisers.
“In about two years, when just about every charity has used (rubber wrist bands) at least twice using different meaningful catch-phrases like ‘Never Give Up Hope,’ ‘OverCome’ (for ovarian cancer), we’re offering our Silicone Dog Tag with matching neck chain. This will open up a repeat fund-raiser, once they’ve sold a bracelet for the cause, with the same key words debossed,” Huvar said.
North Carolina jewelry designer Susan Waldes isn’t surprised by the zeal Americans have shown for rubber jewelry.
Waldes began experimenting with rubber jewelry designs while still a student at the Savannah College of Art and Design in 1996.
“I was kind of exploring different materials and I was kind of interested in the synthesis between precious metals and ... industrial materials,” Waldes said. “I found rubber really nice to work with, nice to wear. It has a really comfortable feel to it.”
The Lance Armstrong Foundation’s fund-raiser has introduced thousands to her metal and rubber bracelets, earrings, necklaces and rings.
“About a year ago I bought the (Internet) domain names ‘rubber bracelets’ and ‘rubber jewelry.’ I get several hundred hits a day from people who’ve typed ‘rubber bracelet’ into their search engine,” Waldes said.
She redirects those seeking the “LIVESTRONG” bands to the foundation’s Web site, but still sells about 1,000 of her own metal-and-rubber creations a year, many via the Internet (www.rubberjewelry.com).
She expects her business to grow, thanks to Armstrong’s cancer fund-raiser. She even produces her own “awareness” bracelet — made of black rubber and sterling silver with a blue enamel ribbon created for Love Our Children USA’s “Break the Cycle of Child Abuse” campaign.
“I think it’s getting people more used to wearing rubber or looking at it as a jewelry type of item,” Waldes said. “People say, ‘Oh, I love your stuff, it’s great, but that’s kind of weird.’ People are getting more used to seeing rubber as a real jewelry item.”/fontfamily>/smaller>/smaller>/smaller>