“Montauk stole my heart the very second I saw my first shark,” shares Bella Ornaf, Owner + Designer of FIN Montauk
“In spring of 2012, I packed up all my belongings and my Jack Russell Terrier, Samson, and moved out to Montauk permanently, with no intention of ever leaving,” shares Bella Ornaf, founder of the FIN Montauk jewelry collection. While setting up roots in Montauk, as a local shark wrangler and megalodon tooth seller, she started to make necklaces out of the prehistoric teeth, with designs inspired directly from the ocean and the environment around her. Ornaf’s passion and love for the ocean and jewelry has come together in making unique, one of a kind and always environmentally friendly pieces. Bella shares her new FIN collection and Montauk lifestyle in this NEW KDHamptons Fashion Diary, below:
KDHamptons: How long have you been living in the Hamptons? Why do you love it so much out here?
Bella Ornaf: I’ve been living in Montauk for three years now. I started coming out here four years ago to crew on shark dives on the Sea Turtle. Every time I left Montauk, my heart broke and I felt that I just needed to get back here, regardless of the season. I’ve lived in so many amazing and different places – ranging from Vermont to Norway – and I’ve traveled all over since I was six, but Montauk is the only place that has ever truly felt like home.
KDHamptons: I’d say you have a pretty diverse career as a shark wrangler and a jewelry designer — will you share more with our readers?
Bella: As a shark wrangler I act as the intermediary between sharks and people, helping everyone feel comfortable with the interaction. I use a blue fish on a string [no hook] to taunt the shark and keep it close to the cage for the clients to get the closest interaction. But, my primary professional focus is my jewelry line, FIN Montauk. FIN makes fine jewelry using fossilized Megaladon teeth [prehistoric shark teeth from roughly 10,000 years ago] hand-dipped in 18 kt gold and silvered nickel. We recently expanded the line to include silver and 24kt gold, sterling silver cast shark tooth earrings, as well as some rings that will be debuting this summer!
Each shark tooth is found 200 feet down on the sea floor of the Atlantic Ocean, the pieces are then hand selected and dipped in 18kt gold. No sharks are ever harmed in the collection of these teeth, and 5% of sales go to a shark conservation organization. Prices range from approximately $110-$450.
KDHamptons: How did you first delve into shark wrangling?
Bella: I went on a dive four years ago with some friends and when I was leaving, I somewhat jokingly asked the captain, an awesome guy named Chuck Wade, if they were hiring. He said yes and that was that. I strongly believe it saved my life, spending so much time on the water with those heavenly creatures.
KDHamptons: Can you explain the inspiration behind your jewelry collection?
Bella: To be honest, the inspiration behind FIN is twofold. I had the hardest time finding jewelry that I would ever wear – I am very into fashion but no one would call me ‘dainty,’ per se. I wanted jewelry that matched my personality – bold and one of a kind – and when I couldn’t find it, I decided to make it. The other inspiration behind the FIN creations are the sharks themselves, and the beauty and magic they inspire and a commitment to their preservation. The name FIN came to me in the winter of 2013, FIN for the obvious sign of a shark, and “fin” in French which means “the end”, which just so happens to be the nickname for Montauk.
KDHamptons: Were you ever surprised by something you found in the ocean waters off Montauk?
Bella: I am surprised by the ocean every day, honestly. It’s all pretty spectacular.
KDHamptons: What is your favorite Hamptons restaurant?
Bella: For lunch I would have to say Joni’s, her fresh food, incredible menu and service are unmatched usually have a fish taco and fresh brewed unsweetened iced tea. For an afternoon snack I head over to the new Left Hand coffee; they make a banging cappuccino freddo! For dinner, although I have a few favorite spots, I have to say Navy Beach is my hands down favorite. Their food is fresh and mouth watering especially the Salmon tartar to start and then the soy glazed golden eye tile fish or the buttermilk fried chicken if it’s a cheat day! The owners Leyla and Franklin are super inviting and help to bring a laid back and fun atmosphere, and the sunset is absolutely killer.