15th December 2004 - Where'd Axl Get Those Necklaces? The Punk-Rock Jeweler
Hip-hop artists aren't the only ones bent on bling. Rockers, too, want their stylish accessories. So where folks like Nelly and Kanye West look to the famed Jacob the Jeweler for their custom accoutrements, the members of New Found Glory, Good Charlotte and even Axl Rose turn to H2O guitarist Rusty Pistachio.
With his company, PNUT, Pistachio has been designing and manufacturing custom jewelry for the rock set since 1995, around the same time that his band was beginning to make a name for itself. Pistachio got his start in jewelry-making after taking a college course that was among a requirement for his fine-arts major. Why jewelry? It was the only class that wasn't already filled.
"At first, I was like, 'I'm not interested, but I'll do it,' " Pistachio recalled. "I had a lot of preconceptions. The guy who taught it was this old silversmith who would crack your knuckles if you sawed something the wrong way. I hated him at first, but then he turned out to be really cool because he challenged me. I always thought jewelry was about making a ring and putting a stone on it. I didn't realize the creative possibilities." After enjoying that class — and receiving an A, he noted — he got his master's degree in metal at the State University of New York at New Paltz.
His career as an amateur jeweler, however, began much further back. As a boy, Pistachio grew up learning how to carve — the first step in jewelry-making. Instead of getting a model airplane for his birthday, he said, his dad would hand him a chunk of wood and knife.
"All my life, I've carved stuff," he said. "I'd always been into hand tools, so it seemed like the logical progression to go from large-scale stuff to smaller-scale stuff."
Pistachio looks to tattoos for inspiration for his creations, which range from understated necklaces and rings to magnificent, bejeweled crosses and the sacred-heart ornament that adorns the kit of Used drummer Branden Steineckert.
"Everyone I know has tattoos," he explained. "We'd go into a tattoo shop and the jewelry was this crappy biker stuff that didn't have any artistic quality to it. As a metalsmith, I thought that it would be fun to render the two-dimensional drawings in 3-D."
The result is a line that ranges from thick chains and charm bracelets to lucky-horseshoe rings and abstract-shaped pendants, which Pistachio started wearing himself. Being a part of a thriving punk-rock scene helped spread the word about his craft, but it wasn't until the Vans Warped Tour in 1998 that things really took off.
"I never pushed it, but I had stuff on the bus in case anyone asked me," he said. "And word spread across the Warped Tour. Bands would come up to me and ask, 'Can you make me one of those?' And also while on tour, I thought up new ideas and made them when I got home."
It's one thing for Pistachio's punk brethren to be sporting his stuff, but when he saw the elusive W. Axl Rose rocking a ball chain with a nautical star pendant, he knew he was doing something right. While H2O recorded 2001's Go right next door to Guns N' Roses' umpteenth session for the even more elusive Chinese Democracy LP, one of the studio techs decided to get Axl a gift.
"I thought, 'Sure, they'll buy him a necklace, but he's never going to wear it.' Then, I'm watching 'Rock in Rio' on MTV and I see him bouncing across the stage with this flashy thing on his neck. I looked closer and I was like, 'Oh my God, that's my necklace! Check out the bling!"
Today, business is booming to the point where Pistachio is thinking about hiring an apprentice to help him handle the daily orders that come in through his Web site, www.pnutjewelry.com. His client list spans a list of bands from AFI and Blink-182 to Rancid, Sick of It All and the Descendents, and he recently struck a deal with Benji and Joel Madden's company, Made.
But it's not just Warped Tour alums who preen for PNUT. Ashlee Simpson, Hilary Duff and a few other decidedly non-punk ladies who've been known to fraternize with the other half are also wearing Rusty's wares. The brass-knuckle necklace that Duff has been rocking lately is a PNUT creation.
"Ashlee Simpson and Hilary Duff were given theirs by friends of mine," Pistachio said. "So the surprise is not knowing that they got it, but seeing them actually wear it."