Jewelry-hunting? Check out these homegrown, indie brands
It was her futile search for ear climbers that led Ara Villafuerte Mondez to create her own jewelry line. “I couldn’t find them anywhere,” she said.
Restless at her corporate job, Ara began her research. “I was incredibly lucky to have found a silversmith who was willing to work with someone who had zero experience and was patient enough to understand what I wanted.”
This was in late 2012. She wore the first prototypes every day and people started to notice. “Eventually I asked them, ‘Do you think you would buy if I sold these?’”
That was the birth of Arajera. Ara quit her job and “hoped for the best.”
Back then, few knew what ear climbers were. “I practically lost my voice during the first few bazaars I joined trying to explain and demonstrate how to wear them.”
Today, the mom of one has a lot of customers who love her jewelry. “I get a lot of feedback from Etsy but my absolute favorite is (from a client who bought) a Serotonin Necklace. She said that she has problems with depression and anxiety, which are partially caused by a lack of serotonin in the brain, so wearing the necklace was particularly symbolic for her. I loved that so much.”
And of course, her ear climbers continue to be popular. “They can be worn with just about anything,” she said.
Arajera’s jewelry in five words: “Fun, accessible, laid-back, comfortable, easy.”
Best sellers: The Big Dipper and Moon Phases ear climbers and the Pave Ear Cuffs
Ara’s favorites: “I love all the celestial ear climbers. They’re so whimsical! Lately though, my obsession are natural stones so I have been using a lot of moonstones, opals and turquoises. Ara loves their Rose Quartz with Moonstone ring which she thinks is perfect for Valentine’s Day and the Moonstone Crown Bezel Ring.”
Where to buy: “You can order from my Etsy shop (www.arajera.etsy.com) or website (www.arajera.com). Follow Arajera on Facebook (@arajerashop) and Instagram (@arajera).”
Crafting queen Mansy Abesamis (Hey Kessy) works with her assistant Caycay Chua and local goldsmiths in creating pieces for her jewelry line Dandy Ona. “Working with a small team is challenging and exciting at the same time–everyone’s involved in the process, and it’s easier to make ideas happen.”
She relishes working closely with the goldsmiths. “I try to understand their process… I also learn so much about myself, as an artist and designer.”
Dandy Ona was launched in 2014 but Mansy’s love for jewelry began long before that. “Even before I started Hey Kessy, I already started making jewelry. My mom and her mom were into jewelry even when they were single.”
Mansy experimented with ceramic clay, brass and silver in the beginning. Eventually, she started working with local goldsmiths. “I could just focus on what I do best and let them do what they do best—make the pieces. Providing them with sustainable jobs and at the same time giving them an opportunity to improve their skills, is another reason why we keep going.”
Her intricate, detailed designs can be challenging for the goldsmiths. Mansy said, “It keeps us all going—the everyday challenge, pushing of limits, modern aesthetics and traditional skills working hand-in-hand to push our local jewelry industry forward. Each piece tells a story about our client and our goldsmiths, the way they see the world, and its beauty.”
Dandy Ona has guest designers, too. “Macy Alcaraz, a writer, designed a barrette collection, and Wiji Lacsamana, tattoo artist and illustrator, worked on two earring designs. We love working with people from different backgrounds… They introduce us to new perspectives and ways of doing things. That’s a way for us to offer unique collections.”
Dandy Ona’s jewelry in five words: “Contemporary, elegant, organic, eclectic and collaborative.”
Best sellers: The Twiggy necklace (“I love the outdoors. So, almost all my designs have nature patterns. The pieces are their instant vacation, something to remind them of nature. It’s like the happiness you experience when you go to the mountains or the beach. But this one, they can take anywhere they go.”), the collaborations with Macy and Wiji, and Dandy Ona’s engagement rings. “The clients enjoy choosing the stones, metals and designs. We let them translate their love stories to unique jewelry designs. It feels so amazing to know that they choose Dandy Ona to be part of their love story.”
Mansy’s favorites: “The Twiggy. I also love the pieces from the Jewelry for the Light Chasers Collection—the pieces are inspired by the twelve zodiac signs. But unlike any other zodiac-inspired collection, you choose what you need, you will wear the piece of another sign whose powers, qualities or strengths, you need.”
Where to buy: “You can visit our website, www.dandyona.com, e-mail us at email@example.com, go to instagram.com/dandyonajewelry or facebook.com/dandyonajewelry.”
Elementari is all about versatility. “All the pieces can be customized with different crystals and charms… I try to design things that can be worn a number of ways—a bracelet that can also be used as a pin or brooch, and chains that can be worn as a regular necklace or a drop-down necklace. Even the packaging is versatile. Necklaces come in recycled glass bottles that could be mini vases, and bracelets are on printed collages that could be used as bookmarks or postcards,” said Kat Reyes, the woman behind the brand.
Kat started experimenting with jewelry design after her plans of becoming a tattoo artist fell through. “I have a number of tattoos that, to me, were also accessories that had personal meaning. I wanted other people to experience that, too, but I can’t draw and was a shitty tattooist so I turned to jewelry.”
Harnessing her experience in fashion retail marketing, Kat began playing with different natural materials like wood, stone and metal.
At a pop-up, Kat displayed her handmade bracelets. Two girls came up and Kat explained that the crystals had different meanings. “It seemed like they were having trouble deciding, so I candidly asked, “Girrrl, anong vibe kailangan natin today?” They ended up buying all of the rose quartz bracelets for love, obsidian for healing and moonstone for protection… protection daw from love!”
Elementari’s jewelry in five words: “#badass #goodvibes #minimalist #natural #sexy”
Best sellers: The Ball & Chain necklace (“It can be worn two ways.”) and the BB Cuffs necklace (“Tiny handcuffs on a thin chain, so passive-aggressively cute!”)
Kat’s favorites: “Ball & Chain, definitely! And the thick choker chain with any of the ‘dainty’ charms and crystals. Most people go for my super thin chains but I prefer to balance out the feminine with masculine elements.”
Where to buy: www.elementari.ph and Facebook/Instagram for custom orders @elementari.ph
Janette De Veyra has been fascinated with silver jewelry since she was in college. “I visit thrift stores and look at vintage rings hoping to buy something, but I always end up empty-handed. It’s either it was too expensive or the size was too big. I said to myself one day I will make my own jewelry.”
That she did. After working in the advertising industry for 17 years, Janette took a break. She wanted to do something different. “I took a basic course in metal smithing and after creating my very first ring, I’ve realized that this is what I want do,” Janette said. “I have found my passion in metal smithing. From then on I’ve continued to learn on my own, passionately studying the craft, focusing on creating unique handmade pieces.”
She launched the brand in November 2016. “All pieces are handmade with dedicated attention from start to finish,” Janette said.
She does everything herself—sourcing materials, designing and making the jewelry, packaging and delivery.
Janette incorporates handstampings on a lot of her designs. “I use handmade metal stamps from highly skilled artisans. I don’t actually plan my designs. It just comes naturally. I look at my stamps one by one and see what talks to me. Then I pick it up and start stamping.”
Janette takes pride in the fact that each bespoke Blue Flame jewelry has its own story to tell. “A client asked about a ring that he wanted to give his girlfriend. Weeks before that a girl inquired about the same ring. It turned out that the girl was his girlfriend. He knew about the ring and wanted to surprise her with it as an engagement ring. After the proposal, the guy messaged me and said, ‘She said yes and the ring fits!’”
Blue Flame in five words: “Handcrafted to last a lifetime.”
Best sellers: “The stacking rings and cuffs in silver, brass and copper as well as my handstamped earrings.”
Janette’s favorites: “I love them all! But if I had to choose, the handstamped silver cuffs with turquoise, my buildable handstamped earrings with moonstones and the Anahaw ring and necklace I made for DTI’s (Department of Trade and Industry) exclusive souvenir collection.” She’s also excited about her new Luna collection.
Where to buy: “Blue Flame Handcrafted Jewelry is available at Common Room stores in R2, Powerplant Mall and Alabang Town Center near Cinema area. Check out my works and latest designs through my Facebook and Instagram accounts—@blueflamejewelry. For inquiries and orders e-mail at firstname.lastname@example.org.”
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