If you appreciate organic beauty, and value sustainable, socially-responsible jewelry, then Melissa Joy Manning is your gal! When I first entered her boutique in Berkeley back in 2011, I was struck by how this line really was unique. Inspired by nature, the jewelry cases were accented by fossils, vintage taxidermy and insect specimens. It was like being in a little museum of curiosities, where you could actually buy what was behind the glass. (jewelry, that is…)
It wasn’t until I was at the Couture show that I actually got to meet Melissa in person. Though she claims that she is deceptively shy out of “work”, I find that hard to believe. I thought she was just charming!
During our chat, I certainly could understand her life-long love of jewelry. (definitely something we have in common, aside from both being Bay Area natives) From the time she was a child, making jewelry at her Montessori grade school, she was hooked. At age 20, she went to Mexico to learn silver smithing, and finally made the leap into full-time designing over 15 years ago.
This dramatic pair of chandelier earrings is made from dumorierite, petrified wood, and pyritized ammonite. Have you ever seen anything like them?
She travels to gain inspiration for her designs, and nature is especially important to her. As she says, “I like to challenge the ideals of traditional jewelry by blending conventional materials to create neoteric pieces.” She only uses 100% recycled silver and gold. The majority of her stones are sourced here in the USA, and all her materials are from reputable suppliers who also are share her vision of sustainability.
This geode cuff is quite fantastic. And you’ll notice her prong settings are different that most you see. This is one way I’m able to identify her pieces when I come across them.
Melissa also designs many simpler pieces, that can be worn in a variety of ways. For example, take a look at this freeform chain bracelet. With its mixed metals and different scale chains, it’s perfect on its own or in a stack with other bracelets.
She has a very interesting collection of non-traditional bridal jewelry as well. If you’re in the market, you might like a ring like this one.
Just this past Sunday, I stopped by Red Bird, one of my absolute favorite boutiques. A tall jewelry case just beckoned to me, and I was blown away by these earrings, by none other than Melissa. I tried them on, and they were just perfect with my coloring and personal style (and not too heavy for my ear lobes). Alas, they were not in the budget at this time, but I won’t soon forget them!
All these beauties are hand-made right in her Berkeley studio — no outsourcing, no casting — just pure, old-fashioned metal smithing. It’s a real gift when people can make a fair living doing what they love. Hands-down, I’m an all-around fan of Melissa Joy Manning!