I had a terrible experience - and it taught me the true value of jewelry


Hi I’m Jennifer Hillyer, the designer and goldsmith behind my namesake brand. I like to say that I create uncommon gems for the keen and curious, with responsibly sourced materials, so that you can craft your legacy.

I worked for years in high end and fine jewelry for big brands, and when this year happened I decided that I wanted to build a brand that had my passion, craftsmanship, and responsibility at its core. I’m here today because I want to talk to you about a terrible experience that I had that really taught me the true value of jewelry. Originally this [blog post] was going to be titled “Why buy artisan jewelry?” but as I was writing, I realized, that really wasn’t my core message.  

“A piece of jewelry is often a piece of art. But it only becomes valuable when emotions are added to it.”

This is so true. Jewelry is personal. It’s hard to describe why exactly gifts of gold and gems can hold so much meaning.

In a social media world, we now have a window into the lives of the people and brands who make our goods. I personally think a piece of jewelry contains not only the memory and emotions of the person who wears it, but also the story of its beginning. I’ll tell you a short personal story that really illuminated this for me.

I was shopping for my own engagement ring. I had my eye on a local jewelry artisan. For years I faithfully drooled over his designs, the unique cuts of stones, the way the rings just seemed to “feel like me.” When I got engaged, I *knew* I wanted one of his rings on my finger. I made an appointment for a consultation, which I nervously awaited with glee. I left the appointment in tears. What could have possibly gone wrong? I’ll tell you!

When I arrived to my custom ring consultation, I was presented with several trays of pre-made rings. Not what I expected, but they were beautiful.  I browsed, picked up a few rings, tried them on, asked some questions. The designer was completely checked out. He gave short answers and returned to looking at his phone. There was no sizing of my hand, no conversation, no questions from him about my personal style or what my hopes were in a ring. He seemed to simply be waiting for me to hand over money or leave. He clearly had no idea how important this moment was for me, or how long I’d anticipated the chance to wear one of his rings. I loved his jewelry. It was impeccably made, and exactly my style. But I couldn’t stomach the thought of looking down at this ring for the rest of my life and remembering this heart-breaking experience.

I realized then, that the most important thing I can do as a maker of jewelry is to honor this emotional potency, and the values of my clients, and remember that I am a custodian between the materials and the meaning. I start by sourcing materials I believe in, like fairmined gold and responsibly sourced gems, because I believe in the art and craftsmanship of gem mining and cutting, and I believe every person in the supply chain deserves to earn a living wage. I support gold and gem mining operations that give back to the earth as part of their mission, and I believe by sourcing my materials this way, I am honoring the value and meaning *you* will give to the jewelry after it leaves my workshop. This also means that every time I meet a new client, I want to figure out your *why,* why are you drawn to a particular gem or shape? How do you want to feel when wearing your jewelry? What is the most important thing about the jewelry for you and how is it going to make you feel special- on your special day, or whenever you wear it. All of these things and more are important touchpoints in not only finding or making you your perfect piece, but connecting with you as a person. So you can leave my shop feeling seen, heard, and excited about your anniversary, or promotion, or birthday.

My 10 years experience in the jewelry industry has given me great insight into the design and production methods of fine and high jewelry brands. I cut my teeth as a jeweler in the Master workshop of David Yurman, I’ve done production work for brands like Cartier and Foundrae. But it’s really been my experience on the other side of the counter, and as a lover of jewelry myself that’s given me the most valuable insight into the why of jewelry.

If you would like to set up a custom consultation with me, please fill out the form below so I can get to know you and your “why” a bit better. I look forward to making your special piece.