By Anna Grace Moore

Photos by James and Rachel Culver

Hearts hung low one cloudy morning as students returned to school–with one less friend, one less smiling face–that will never be seen this side of heaven again. This sophomore braved her high school hallways for the first time since that fateful day, clutching her wrist, sporting the olive and yellow beads spelling out the name of her best friend.

Her eyes follow the pattern of her own footsteps, avoiding the glances of pity from her classmates. It was almost too much for her to bear.

Just as the tears welled in her eyes, she gently turned her memento around, reading her friend’s name. Although bittersweet, a spark of hope flickers in the young girl’s heart.

Grandma, 1983, Pelham Panthers–these are but a few of the names and dates that Angie Bell, founder and designer of The Neon Leopard, has created on her bracelets to commemorate those who her customers love. Whether hearing stories of sorrow or joy, Angie makes it her mission to pay tribute to her customers’ loved ones through her creations.

The jewelry artist realized long ago that she had a passion for people–a desire to make a difference in the lives of others. The only question was, “How?”

A veteran of corporate commercialization, Angie became sick of high gloss fashion and decided post-pandemic to venture into the industry with her own twist–creating wearable art whose purpose was to bring hope, joy, even peace to the community.

“I love anything that I can put somebody’s name on, so it’s personalized to them,” Angie says. “When they look down, they have a sweet reminder of a family member or a special date. I wear my son’s name, my husband’s initials and our anniversary date pretty much every day.”

Like many others, Angie’s yearning to fulfill her creative void ignited during the COVID-19 pandemic. With ample time on her hands, she began creating bracelet stacks for her mother, who adored jewelry but struggled to find bracelets that fit her petite wrists.

Angie assumed the challenge, incorporating glass beads, gemstones and elastic string that she sourced from local vendor markets into her art. The mother-daughter duo flaunted their newfound creations for several months before a few of Angie’s gal pals inquired about how they, too, could purchase some of Angie’s jewelry.

Angie–no stranger to the robust atmosphere of merchant sales–had previously been a vendor selling Color Street nail polish for several years before she decided to start selling her own jewelry. While she never anticipated the volume of sales nor the exciting following she would soon acquire, Angie quickly adapted to meet the hearts of her customers.

“It really was supposed to be a little bit of a hobby that has now grown into a fun business,” Angie says.

The Neon Leopard–whose moniker references Angie’s love of neon pink and sparkly fashion–is fitting for the business, especially considering Angie’s mantra: Originality is the best fashion one can flaunt. As The Neon Leopard began growing in popularity, Angie started creating for larger clientele, such as the Pelham Middle School cheerleading team, whose green and black bracelets showcase the team’s name and mascot.

Several football moms can be seen every Friday night, sporting the Panthers’ colors and their sons’ names or jersey numbers. Students and parents representing nearly every high school in Shelby County pride themselves while wearing their custom school spirit around their necks or on their wrists, and it’s all thanks to The Neon Leopard.

Angie has created jewelry commemorating her customers’ birthdays, anniversaries, sports teams, loved ones’ names and more. Whether they purchase a neutral design or custom-order something new, Angie looks forward to each challenge.

Glancing through The Neon Leopard’s variety, customers will appreciate the uniqueness in every design. No two bracelets–unless custom ordered for groups–will be the same.

Mediums including glass, pearls, rare stones and yes, sometimes high quality plastic, are utilized in The Neon Leopard’s designs, whose intricate rarities are far and few between. Angie can twiddle beads and stones onto her string wraps for hours, but no matter the time that passes, she considers each creation a labor of love.

Why? Because for every bracelet or pair of earrings she creates, Angie knows what it will mean to her customers. Oftentimes, she says, people just need a simple reminder of those who they love–whether they are living, living in the same home or living hours away.

“I love when someone tells me that they look at their arm and have a little spark of happiness throughout the day,” Angie says. “I like to make things that make people feel special–it’s not just something you can walk in a store and buy.”

Happiness does not have a price tag. It cannot be found in-store.

What is so remarkable about these pieces of jewelry is not how they are made or what they look like; rather, it is the time and effort Angie takes to make each one complement not only one’s wardrobe, but also one’s pursuit of happiness her loved ones, passions and more provide.

Follow The Neon Leopard on Instagram @the.neon.leopard to view Angie’s jewelry or direct message her about purchasing.

Purchasing The Neon Leopard

Those wishing to purchase Angie’s jewelry in-store can visit A Birthday Place, which is located at 3186 D Pelham Parkway. It is open Monday-Friday from 8:30 a.m.-5 p.m. and Saturday-Sunday from 9 a.m.-5 p.m.

For customers interested in attending local vendor markets, Angie will be selling her jewelry at The Market at Brock’s Gap on select Saturdays throughout the spring. The Market at Brock’s Gap is located at Brock’s Gap Brewing Company (500 Mineral Trace, Suite 100). It is open every Saturday from 8 a.m.-noon this season.