Growing up, I was told that everything is possible. I remember having a conversation with my dad when I was about seven years old. He would ask me to name what I’d like to be when I grew up, and then he would respond with, “How is that a career option?” I told him that I loved plants, and he said, “You’ll own a winery.” When I was young, I was not attached to the idea of a college experience or a common career path. And since my parents encouraged me to follow my passion, I felt free to experiment and explore.
I became intrigued by jewelry when I was just eight years old. My mom would allow me to order pieces from the Jewelry Channel on TV and then return them after I saw the pieces in person. When I was ten, my parents got me a 0.05-carat diamond ring for Christmas. I was always obsessed with jewelry, but it became a career prospect when I started creating pieces myself at bench jewelry classes in Barcelona. Deep down, I always knew that I would have my own company at one point in my life.
I launched my first brand when I was twenty-one years old. It was a Renaissance-inspired, edgy jewelry line. I was working for a young L.A.-based jewelry designer at the time, and her marketing strategy was to take photos of local, It girls wearing her pieces. She was very successful, and I naively assumed that I could emulate this business model and achieve the same kind of success. But in eight months, I sold three pieces and received zero interest from stores or showrooms. I was so confused. I had cool designs, great imagery, and all the right assets.
I started my second company when I was twenty-five while working for Vrai & Oro (now known as Vrai). I was really impressed with their timeless design aesthetic, direct-to-consumer business model, and transparent pricing. I was convinced that the reason Walk the Chapel failed was due to my wholesale approach and the fact that the jewelry was not for “every day.” So this time, I went the D2C route and created modern, unisex pieces.
A year into this venture, I was still not finding success. I was really frustrated. Around this time, I started taking custom orders from clients. When I would pick up the finished pieces from my jewelers in Downtown L.A., I saw all of their other work: it was an endless stream of generic jewelry, largely “replicas” of other designers’ pieces, produced in mass.
When I saw the amount of production the other brands had in comparison to the single, custom-designed pieces I was making, I realized that I didn’t want to contribute to this waste. When I was just starting out in the industry, I equated huge wholesale orders with success. Now, I have started to see mass production as the problem.
Not only did the artistic process of jewelry design get lost through mass production, but it was also extremely unsustainable. I pivoted my brand strategy to demonstrate the value of repurposing and really dove deep into why it was important for consumers to change their buying behavior when it comes to jewelry.
When I found my purpose, that’s when I started seeing my luck turn around. Sharing my message and brand became my main priority. I understand now that when starting a business, it’s important to create a foundation around a core vision and purpose. Once you establish that and remain consistent, it all lines up from there.
When I was younger, I undervalued the message behind my brand and overvalued the product itself. I see a lot of start-ups making the same mistakes, and they’re missing the most important part of the puzzle. It’s very clear to me now that there isn’t a single path to finding your way to success. Now, I mainly focus on getting my message heard by the right consumers who share my values.
About the Author: Jonne Amaya is an emerging fine jeweler who hyper-focused on sustainability. Born in Mexico and based in L.A., Jonne creates custom fine jewelry with intention and never designing in bulk. Through a personal, intimate process, she works with her clients, one-on-one, to create new designs or transform existing pieces into the jewelry of their dreams. Jonne began her jewelry design career by learning benchwork and then studying gemology in her native Mexico. She created her first piece by repurposing a family heirloom with sentimental value that had gone unworn. By giving the piece new life, she discovered her love of sustainable, intentional jewelry design.