For as long as I can remember, I have been fascinated by the process of how things are made. When I feature a beauty product here for you, I want to understand the science and technology that goes into it. The same is true for the clothing and accessories I wear… particularly jewelry. I love learning both the designer’s inspiration… and the technical process that goes into creating something. If you have been reading here for a while, you may remember my old Designer DIY series… it was so cool sitting down with my favorite designers, learning more about them and how they work… and creating something together.
Recently, Loren Hope invited me (and my mom!) into her sun-drenched Rhode Island studio to get a peek at where the magic happens and learn more about her process. It was an incredible afternoon. I learned a lot, and (spoiler alert!) even got to do a bit of designing.
But first… Loren’s Memorial Day Sale is in full effect. Take 20% off (through Monday) with code LONGWEEKEND. I’m personally obsessed with her new delicate pieces (especially this long y-chain pendant) and these sunset-inspired drop earrings.
Every single product Loren Hope produces is made entirely in the US – Rhode Island, to be specific. She works with several family-owned businesses for every step of the process (soldering, plating, stonework, etc).
I never knew this before our visit, but Rhode Island was actually once the epicenter of the American jewelry industry. For almost a century, Providence was considered the jewelry capital of the world… exporting a million pounds of worked metal and stone every week.
Nowadays, so much is outsourced. It’s a bit sad to think about it but many of the beautiful old brick mills that were once jewelry or textile factories are abandoned.
Loren is on a mission to revive Rhode Island’s historic jewelry-making industry by sharing its story through her products.
Loren has a pretty cool story too. She started her company in 2005 (at her dining room table)! In 2013 she and her husband picked up and moved from North Carolina to Rhode Island to be closer to the artisans they work with. I really fell in love with her commitment to quality. Her aim is to design heirloom quality costume jewelry… pieces you will have for ages – they won’t break or fall apart (I personally love this… I still have and wear so much of my grandmother’s costume jewelry… it’s nice to think that someday I’ll be able to pass my own heirlooms down to my grandchildren).
Loren and her team create their pieces in small batches using traditional jewelry making techniques like hand-soldering brass and manipulating steel. One of the coolest things (pictured above) is that they actually have a massive archive (it takes up its own room at her studio) of vintage stones and components that no one else has. She’ll cast these components in rubber, making a new mold… breathing new life into old treasures from the past. It’s pretty neat to think of the stories behind these old elements.
My mom and I (and Jess!) were in for a serious treat.
Loren had prepared a little workspace for us and invited us to design our own pendant necklace!
The first step was arranging the stones and figuring out an initial design. This took me forever… it was actually really intimidating! There are so many factors to consider… the shape of your design, the individual colors and color combination, and then the actual structure of the piece.
Once we’d settled on that, a member of Loren’s team soldered the settings together to form the base of the design.
(This is what it looked like after the soldering was complete.)
Once the settings were soldered together, we popped the gems back in to see how they would look. But we weren’t done yet… the piece then had to be sent out get plated! Loren pulled out a slew of metal samples to help us choose a finish but I had to go with this matte gold… Loren uses it in so many of her designs; it’s become iconic to her brand!
A week after our visit, my newly plated piece arrived in the mail. It’s so exciting to me to get to have something special that I designed and no one else has. I really love it! Lydia and I shot it this week for an upcoming outfit post… stay tuned!