Santa Rosa native Peggy Li's jewelry designs seen in 'Bachelorette,' 'Buffy,' more
When Peggy Li tunes in to watch an episode of ABC’s “The Bachelorette,” she’s more likely to be checking out the way the contestants’ jewelry is catching the light, rather than which guy wins the prize.
That’s because Li’s distinct jewelry designs have graced the ears, wrists and necks of a slew of on-air personalities and iconic television and movie characters, from “Buffy the Vampire Slayer” to Zooey Deschanel’s “New Girl,” and most recently Becca Kufrin, the star of the 14th season of “The Bachelorette.”
Kufrin wore three of Li’s earring designs, each crafted from 14-karat gold-filled, on the season finale on May 6.
A Santa Rosa native, Li now lives in San Francisco and sells her iconic designs online, but she still feels close to her roots. In the aftermath of the October wildfires, she crafted a small rose pendant to sell for charitable purposes, raising money for fire victims.
But creative endeavors weren’t always center stage for Li, who began her career in science while studying chemical engineering at UC Berkeley. Her Taiwanese immigrant parents supported the notion of Li becoming a doctor, lawyer or scientist.
Though she studied hard, Li also was crafting jewelry for her friends on the side, while in high school and college. She loved television and film, and wrote screenplays in her free time. After college, Li moved to Los Angeles to write about pop culture and entertainment for a local news channel, all the while making jewelry in her free time.
In 1997 she interviewed the costume designer for the hit television show “Buffy the Vampire Slayer.” After the interview, she sent a few pieces of her handmade jewelry to the designer.
“I totally forgot about it, and a few weeks later I got a phone call from her,” Li said.
Eight of Li’s creations, including choker necklaces and wrist cuffs, were worn by Alyson Hannigan and Sarah Michelle Gellar during the show’s fourth season. From there, Li went on to create pieces for more than 40 different television shows and movies.
Her growing popularity allowed her to quit her day job at the video game company Electronic Arts in 2014, and since that time Li has focused solely on her jewelry business, which operates completely online.
“I never thought I would pivot to something creative or have my own business," Li said. "Now that I look back, it’s sort of a very cool intersection of my love for pop culture and TV and film."
Li said she creates about 50 new pieces a year, drawing her inspiration from current fashion trends, television, film and the natural world. Her more recent pieces also draw from classical art, especially the post-impressionist French artist Henri Matisse, who her late mother greatly admired.
“My mom passed away earlier this year, and she really loved classic art and loved to paint and reproduce some of the classics,” Li said.
Longtime customer Yvonne Detert was introduced to Li’s designs through a pair of silver disc earrings.
“Peggy gave me a plastic hand mirror to see them and I dropped the mirror and broke it,” Detert said. Li created three custom pieces for Detert from jade she had broken apart, and said a day doesn’t go by that she doesn’t receive compliments on her jewelry.
Li doesn’t wear much jewelry herself. Her ears aren’t even pierced, she said. But she believes this helps her create more freely, without getting too attached to creating pieces only she would want to wear.