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Jewelry made with love

Handcrafted reigns supreme among top trends.Expert advice in time for Valentine’s Day.

The day of romance is on its way, and there’s no gift more time-honored than a stunning piece of jewelry. Giving a meaningful gift is by no means an easy task, especially with a broad field like jewelry designs. We asked local experts for some guidelines on picking up the perfect gift.

Upcycled jewelry

Eco-friendly products have remained popular, but now the trend is moving into items like clothes and jewelry. The idea of “upcycling,” or using old materials to create something of higher quality, is especially trendy.

Dayton-based jewelry designer, Eileen Cooney, studied environmental science before starting her company, Revamped Jems. “This was my way of being able to create something new from things that were already out there,” she said. “I just wanted to go a more sustainable route with it.”

Cooney stressed the idea of quality materials, particularly vintage items. “I take bits and pieces and revamp them into more current looks and colors,” she said.

This Valentine’s Day, consider having a broken heirloom piece or other vintage item repurposed into a more modern, wearable look. For example, Cooney mentioned pins and brooches as popular hand-me-down items that aren’t really worn much any more, but are easily turned into pendants. Earrings missing mates can become the focal point of a bracelet or necklace.

Just be sure it’s OK with your Valentine before revamping her grandmother’s brooch!


Does your Valentine favor a colorful phone case? Monogrammed towels? If your sweetheart likes to customize, consider using a jewelry gift to speak from the heart.

“A lot of making jewelry is in storytelling,” said Trish Jeffers-Zeh, owner of Zeffers Farm Studios in Waynesville and a jewelry instructor at Rosewood Arts Centre in Kettering. “People are looking for meaning, a story, quality and craftsmanship.”

Although customization options abound through online retailers, an item locally made by hand can be much more meaningful as a Valentine gift. The idea of personalized looks is definitely popular, but “trendy” pieces don’t necessarily result. Personalized jewelry is all about self-expression.

“Art is in the work,” Jeffers-Zeh said. “People like things that I’ve made that also represent them.”

Jeffers-Zeh works in metal clay, a medium she says is perfect for capturing fingerprints when making commemorative jewelry.

Just as with upcycled jewelry, the quality of materials is stressed with this trend, as is craftsmanship. “You can’t really get any better than a handmade gift for Valentine’s Day,” Jeffers-Zeh said.

Ceramic pieces

When you hear the word “ceramics,” your mind probably goes straight to things like bowls and kitchen tile. Not so fast. Jewelry designers are reinventing traditional ceramic arts into wearable fashion.

Charms, pendants and beads made of ceramic materials have become increasingly popular. Since clay is a material with infinite possibility, the range of designs out there is vast.

Esther Wende and Emily McGuigan, who collaborate as E&E Jewelry, primarily concentrate on “ceramic shapes with silver-plated wire wrapped around it,” McGuigan said.

“We usually do different shapes, freestyle shapes and make our own stamps,” Wende added. The stamp is pressed into the clay while it’s still wet to create a design.

If you’re considering giving ceramic jewelry as a gift, at this point, it’s best to buy something that’s already made rather than going custom. Creating a piece of ceramic jewelry “takes about two weeks,” Wende said. “It’s a long process.”

However, ceramic jewelry is one of the most versatile handmade jewelry trends. “Ceramic jewelry appeals to all ages,” McGuigan said. If you’re looking to surprise a teen daughter, this trend would be a great option — less expensive than some handmade jewelry, but still high quality enough to be meaningful.

“My 12-year-old daughter wears the pieces, and we sell to 70- to 80-year-old friends,” Wende said. “The size and colors [of the pieces] work at any age.”

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