Gift givers of significant others: the last thing you want your jewelry to say is, “Yeah baby, we have a love that’s so generic.” Finding a great, unique piece of wearable art that’s — wait for it — made locally doesn’t have to be as hard as you’re making it out to be.
While I’d like to think that this was done all in the name of research, I can’t say with clear conscience that I wasn’t looking for myself along the way. Between my mad internet skills and word-of-mouth leads, I scoured hundreds of sparkling trinkets, thinking, “Damn, I’m going to be broke soon.” That said, there are a lot more local jewelry artisans than I would have ever thought, but here is a short guide to a few standout makers that bring out the true artistry of their craft.
For the Sleek Statement
There’s nothing that makes me ooh and aah more than a good arrangement of gorgeous gems paired with the slick look of silver. hodgepodgerie's Stacy Perry knows her way around a jeweler’s bench, which is why she is one of the master jewelry instructors at the Dunedin Fine Arts Center. Her sweeping minimalist designs accented with semiprecious stones will make you reconsider chasing after diamonds. Shop her here.
For the One that likes to K.I.S.S.
“Keep it super simple” seems to be Julie Dye’s motto, given Blossom and Shine's clean lines that will be go-to pieces to complete a look without being too attention-grabbing. Geometric shapes are her thing, but she thinks outside of the box, too: Her mixed-media pieces have a bit of Japanese washi paper sealed with resin, adding a splash of color and pattern to the mix. More about her work.
For the Natural Woman
Looking to evoke a natural, outdoorsy vibe minus the mud and mosquitoes? I hear ya, and will bestow the work of Ozona Treasures' Amy Wiley work upon your holiday shopping list. She’s the kind of silversmith that can do it both, with some simpler metal designs and some more intricately sculpted pieces. Either way, you’ll be sure to find something to bring out your giftee’s wild spirit. Learn more.
For the Bold and Quirky
Some days call for being extra, and Ellen Cole can help you out there. She’s known for her butterfly and moth pendants made with precious metal clay (literally clay that fires into sterling silver), but she’s also made some awesome bats and fish that, when worn, awaken your inner diva. Another creature you want instead? No prob, she’s always up for commissions. You can buy her work at the Dunedin Fine Arts Center’s gift shop or directly from her Instagram on her Instagram.
For the Wired and Loopy Gal
Hold onto your knitting needles, Grandma, because if you didn’t know you could knit wire to make things people actually want, now you do! The open, organic designs of these necklaces and bracelets make Lauren Hoehn of Lapis Beach's work so eye-catching. Like glimmering little fish caught in a castnet, her bead palette is on point for creating a soft, beachy look that’s far from touristy. Take a look at her Etsy shop.
For the Bird-Watcher
Linda Pieroth Smith is my kinda person: She has an endless supply of incredible jasper and agate, and knows what to do with it via MosaicSmith. She carves a unique space in the jewelry world with her hand-sawn bird accents. Featured either on the sides of rings or the backs of pendants, these sweet hidden birdies make for a fun little secret. Learn more.
For the Minimalist Zen Master
It’s no doubt Karen Brandon of Dueling Anvils is a skilled artisan, but what’s particularly unique are the pieces done in an ancient technique called keum boo, wherein silver is fused with thin sheets of gold to create painterly marks on the surface. That’s some 24 karat magic right there. What’s even better is that she also sells men’s rings, tie bars, and tie tacks to glam up your guy. Shop her on Etsy.
For the Sleek Modern Chick
Those who are familiar with Nin McQuillen’s sculpture will be pleasantly surprised that he moonlights as a jeweler. Keeping in line with the look his clean industrial, geometric sculptures, his jewelry has that same minimalist air. Find his work at St. Pete's ARTicles Gallery and Framing.
For the Knock-Out Stunner
Dan Balk’s fine metal artistry hit me easily with the ol’ one-two punch. His rings aren’t for the faint of heart; you have to be willing to break the walls of wearing boring jewelry to work his swirling, celestial designs. One thing is for certain though — no one will accuse you for being basic with these bad boys. Take a peek at his IG for previous works @DanBalkJewelry, or contact him on his website danbalkjewelry.com for prices or a commissioned piece.
For your Hard and Hammered Stud
For those who don’t wait around for their men to put a ring on it, Doug D’souza forges rings for guys who are going for that rustic, lumbersexual look. With uniquely textured surfaces that will easily hide the scratches that will be worn into it eventually, the hammered metals add a simple unique addition without going overboard. But besides designs your dude, D’souza takes that same rustic look to make some sweet pendants that are somewhere along the lines of refined steampunk and spiritual warrior. Find his work on his websites dougdsouzajewelry.com or etsy.com/shop/DougDesigns.
Supporting local artists is a great way to spread the love, and I’ll happily put my money where my mouth is once I get some dough rolling my way. I may be eating oatmeal every meal for the next month, but it's so worth it.