Melissa Joy Manning: Designer

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!

Amy and Melissa
Amy and Melissa

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?

These are a work of art!
These are a work of art!

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.

It's an artifact for your wrist
It’s an artifact for your wrist

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.

Cool design!
Cool design!

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.

Will you marry me?
Will you marry me?

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!

I was in awe of these gorgeous creations!
I was in awe of these gorgeous creations!

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!

Monique Pean: Designer

I have this beautifully decorated folder called my “Style File” that sits front and center on my desk. Whenever I see something in a magazine that I love, I rip it out and add it to my file. These are not necessarily items that I can afford or even fit, but they just speak to me. Through this process, I’m really able to see my style direction, and it inspires me each and every time I look through it.

Well about a year ago I saw a pair of earrings (though I can’t even remember in what publication!) that just took my breath away. They were an elongated teardrop of some sort of horn, with the tiniest of diamonds carefully inlaid in each one. I HAD to try them on! So off I went to Barney’s, and voila, there they were, in the Monique Pean case! Yes! They were perfect — they suited my face shape, complemented my coloring, and they were as light as a feather. Had they been in my budget, I would have gone home wearing them. But alas…I am left to just dream about them.

With this experience still fresh in my mind over a year later, imagine how delighted I was to meet this talented designer in person at the Couture show.

monique pean and amy roseveare
Meeting one of my jewelry idols!

Once I started researching Monique, it wasn’t just her incredible designs that drew me to her. In fact, she is “committed to luxury bespoke products that promote social and environmental responsibility.” Her entire line is comprised of sustainable, conflict-free and fair-trade materials. She is active in the No Dirty Gold campaign, as well as various other charities. She explained to me that mining gold releases mercury into the earth. (that’s not good!) And creating just one ring NOT using sustainable materials can create up to 20 tons of waste!! I can’t even wrap my head around that one. One of her main thrusts has been to help people get clean drinking water. Currently, she has made that happen for over 5000 people for the next 20 years. Now if that’s not awesome, I don’t know what is!!

OK, I can go on and on about this highly-awarded designer, who’s line launched in 2006, but I’ll stop there. Let’s get down to the jewels!!

Here is a classic example of how she uses fossilized walrus ivory along with black diamonds to craft a one-of-a-kind statement ring.

monique pean ring
This would work dressed up or down!

And here is a bracelet also made from the fossilized walrus ivory. You can really see how the natural materials have great color variation.

monique pean jewelry
Organically stunning

Not all of her pieces are on the larger scale. She also has many delicate designs as well. I think these opal slice studs would be an amazing addition to my jewelry box! (dreaming again….) She told me that all the opals she uses are hand-chiseled, with no dynamite used.

monique pean
Another item on my lust list

While this necklace is about the same price as a luxury automobile, I’d still choose the necklace! It’s created from diamond slices and slices of fossilized wooly mammoth.

monique pean
Fit for a princess!

It’s no surprise that Monique has a huge celebrity following as well, from Michelle Obama to stars of screen and stage. Here’s Leighton Meester adorned in some lovely earrings by Pean.

leighton meester
I think she’s happy because she’s wearing such pretty earrings

I just love that this jewelry is making such a positive impact on the earth, in addition to making it more gorgeous. I hope to one day own my own piece by Monique, but in the meanwhile, I will keep appreciating the collection and all Monique does for our planet.