It happened naturally.
Do you personally feel the stones you choose have significant meaning… beyond that way they ‘look’? Do you have any background with the meaning of stones?
Yes, I actually - back in the 90s -- got Reiki 1 and 2, because I was all about running energy into the stones. Just recently we launched a new bridal collection, and we’re using storied diamonds -- meaning they come out of old jewelry -- it’s the idea of cycling. Which is really cool because we don’t need to be mining for more diamonds. We met with a shaman to kind of get an idea -- and some other people very in-tune to energy -- and now we have a way of cleansing the stones and diamonds. You know, it’s all about intention and ritual.
I think that’s where I had a feeling -- when I was searching for meaningful custom pieces to feature. It’s really easy to lose touch with the heart of what [bride’s] are doing because they’re caught up with what they think they’re supposed to have.
I had a potluck wedding, so I’m very non-traditional. We had an apache wedding ceremony. I really don’t buy into the whole -- you hear so many brides that are like, “I barely even remember my wedding because it was so big.” And they had to go around and talk to everybody -- it just becomes a blur.
When did you get started?
I started my business in ‘95. I was doing more gallery work, and [was] working out of my back bedroom, and then it wasn’t until 2000 when my husband and I bought a house, and I started working in the basement and that’s when I started hiring people. Then we moved into this space in 2003.
How do you select where you decide to sell?
We are very strategic in our product placement. That is one of the keys to our success -- to figure out the best stores and the best cities, and to not over saturate [ourselves] in any one city. As far as the jewelry standing out online, it’s the gemstones. You know, it’s funny doing the bridal collection, diamonds are pretty, but colored gemstones: hands down beats a diamond any day.
Will you talk about some of your stones here?
A lot of these are the storied diamonds that I was telling you about. They’re trademarked storied diamonds, meaning they have a prior life. We’re giving them a new life.
If the bride purchased one of the rings, would they be able to get backstory on it?
Yes, there is a number inscribed and in theory, you can go online to Avilan Diamonds -- that’s where we buy these diamonds from -- and you can put the number in and see the story. It’s a great idea - it’s a new concept. There is really no reason not to -- there are so many diamonds already.
People in the Northwest, we’re a little more casual, so we like to cover our diamonds and protect them as we garden.
So your husband works with you. How long have you guys been working together?
He joined the company in 2004, 2005. We’ve been together for 26 years. We met in college, and he was a woodworker, a cabinet maker, and he got allergic to the dust, so he joined the company after the doctor told him, “You need to change your occupation.” So with cutting stone, everything is encapsulated in water, so you’re not breathing in the dust like you are with wood. So he’s still working with his hands, and he loves it.
That’s a lot to learn.
Yeah, it’s funny. Jeremy says there are a lot of analogies in woodworking and stonecutting, like certain woods and the way you cut with the grain. It totally transfers to stones.
So there’s a grain to stone?
There can be, yeah.
I’ve heard that in your industry that folks don’t like to hear the word “semi-precious.” Is that the case?
[Naomi] It depends who you’re talking to.
[Jamie] To me, all stones are precious. It’s a resource that is dwindling, you know. We’re over-mining. Other economies, such as China, are growing. They’re demanding stones, and it’s driving the price up. You know.
You purchase stones in Tuscan. Is it the same there?
Tuscan has just gotten more expensive. And, I would say there are definitely stones that you can’t find anymore, such as peruvian opal.
I've heard there is mining on the ocean floor? Are people risking more and more to mine more?
I know there is gold, but as far as gemstones, I haven’t heard anything about that.
So you have a new bridal collection -- do you have wedding bands that go with the engagement rings?
And then the men’s bands?
Yeah, the men’s bands are more on the simple side, and they have texture on the outside of the band.
[Naomi] I would add that in Jamie’s process of designing the rings, she’s obviously very stone-centric in all the designs. Just the colored gemstones are all -- all the designs originate from the gemstone. And, it’s pretty much the same with the diamond rings. There are a lot of jewelry designers that draw up these designs and are more about the mounting and the design of the ring, where I think for Jamie, she looks at the diamond, and she spends a lot of time with the diamond, and almost asks the diamond, “How do you want to live your next life?” And I think that’s part of the story-diamond thing, is that she is creating new life for these diamonds.
And, you know, we’ve been down the road where there’s a diamond that didn’t want to be set or made, and that proved it just wasn’t going to stay in that setting. It had to be redesigned a couple times before it could actually -- before it stuck. I think that, unlike a lot of other jewelry designers, with this collection, it’s the stone that dictates the design. I think that’s unusual.
[Jamie] It’s always about the stone. That’s always been my mantra.
Where are you purchasing the diamonds?
The diamonds, a lot of them come from Avilan Diamond Company and that’s the people that trademarked storied diamonds, and the story behind them is that it’s a man and a woman -- he’s Israeli and he’s a diamond dealer. And she kept seeing he was buying all these diamonds coming out of jewelry, and she was like, “There’s a great opportunity here.” It’s really important for my company to be sustainable.
And be structured around values.
That’s been our core belief from the beginning. It was funny. When we started this company, and all the sudden it was in Vogue [To Be Green], and it’s like, that’s who we are in the northwest. Never in a million years did we think we would be where we are today.
Have you had mentors?
Yeah, I have actually. Just people I have modeled my business after.
What about inspiration for your art?
I know it’s cliche: nature. Organic forms. I mean, Jeremy cuts a lot of gemstones in shapes of beach stones and river stones we find.
I image that you need to know something about geology.
Yeah, and as a child, I was into going to the river every weekend. I had my rock collection. So it’s kind of crazy -- I went to school and majored in business econ.
Did you have all your rock’s labeled?
Nah, it wasn’t like that. I kept them in like, my Barbie doll cases. But you know, I knew all about them because I had the books and the salts, and the chalcedonies and the agates and the geodes...
Can you talk about what you love about your work?
I love creating jewelry that means so much to people. You know, it signifies important events: marriage. It’s really moving to talk to people that love the work so much. And just to think that we’re making things that are going to be around for a lot longer than we are.
And it’s fun playing with gemstones. It’s funny, sometimes if you’re in a bad mood, Naomi and I will go over to the safe. And we’ll open up the safe and start pulling stones. It puts you in a better mood. Who doesn’t love color and beauty?
It’s amazing that these stones were created a moment in time, millions of years ago. Or maybe not. I mean opal, they’re finding opal in Europe in pipes and plumbing underneath. Opal is a hydrocylica, so it has a lot of water in it. So it can be made -- it can happen naturally. If everything is right in the environment, opal can happen. Just like pearls. Pearls are renewable, which is really great.
Isn’t it interesting that certain jewelry really speaks to people?
Yeah, it resonates. It’s funny, when we do trunk shows, we bring 300 or 400 rings. A lot of time people go right to the ring, right to the beginning. And then they go back and through the whole process.
[Naomi]: They go in with a certain intention, like wanting a black ring, but then they go away with a red ring and they don’t know why. It’s just something that speaks to them, or that stone speaks to them.
[Jamie]: And then they’ll read about it, and it’s like, “Oh, I need this stone in my life!’
Do you have a personal favorite?
No, I don’t. I like opals. I love the rainbow moonstones, and the labradorites -- the stones that change. But, it’s funny, I go in and out of love affairs with different stones. I will say, I don’t know if diamonds will ever be my favorite. I like the colored stones. I like diamonds, they’re pretty, and I have diamonds. I get a new wedding ring every year.