A definite perk of my job is scouting for new jewelry to add to our collection. Today, I am pleased to share with you a new designer we’re featuring in our showroom – Jennifer Dawes Design. Jennifer is a beautiful soul who hand crafts all of her jewelry out of her studio in Northern California. Jennifer’s eye for creative design melded with a serious approach to sustainability are what drew me to her beautiful collection, and you’re sure to fall in love with her gorgeous designs as well.
I sat down with Jennifer recently to talk about her craft and her journey to sustainable design. As you know, here at Alx&Co. we are committed to bettering our own practices and pride ourselves in offering conscientiously-sourced options to our clients (along with an educated understanding of what that means). Jennifer is hugely knowledgeable about this issue, so it was a pleasure to learn from her experience. To celebrate our new partnership, I’m offering 20 percent off Jennifer’s collection at our showroom this weekend only in our Secret Shop – you can shop the pieces I scouted through our online shop or make an appointment to see them in person.
Meaghan: Jennifer, your name will be new to most of our readers. Can you tell us a bit about yourself?
Jennifer: One thing to know about me is that I have always been a dreamer, head in the sky with a big imagination! I am one of the luckiest ladies you will ever meet! I am happily married to my best friend and biggest supporter. We met 25 years ago, and my life tilted on its axis the moment I looked into his deep blue eyes. I did keep that a secret from him for three years, but once we kissed three years after I met him my world was forever altered! We have two beautiful children and live on a property building and designing our dream life.
Meaghan: I love that you fabricate all of your designs by hand. How long have you been a jeweler?
Jennifer: I have been a metalsmith since I was 18 years old. Within the first hour of my first metalsmithing class, I had a transcendental experience learning how to manipulate such a hard and enduring material. My epiphany was that metalsmithing was my calling. I knew that’s what I wanted to do for the rest of my life!
Meaghan: You were one of the first designers to completely dedicate your production to using sustainably sourced materials. What motivated you to make that decision?
Jennifer: Back in 2005 right before I had my first child I hit a point in my career where what I was making technically was pushing me, but I was losing the meaning of my gift and that is when I went into the dark night of the soul, questioning everything I was doing and why I was doing it. How can I continue if it wasn’t making this world a better place for my son? That is when I made a conscious choice to use only recycled gold when nobody was even talking about it. I knew Hoover and Strong was a refiner and could easily use recycled gold. That was the first baby step in a beautiful journey. Next, was sourcing diamonds and gemstones and vetting dealers, suppliers, and mines. All while being looked at like I had three heads with my questions about origin, mining conditions, and safety.
Meaghan: How has the industry changed over the last few decades you have been doing this?
Jennifer: The industry has a lot of growing to do in this field, but it is starting to make steps toward that. Since I started to now, it’s changed, but there is still a lot of resistance to doing the right thing. I won’t stop until ethics and sustainability is the norm and not the outlier.
Meaghan: I think that for many people, the idea of moving to a more sustainable way feels extremely daunting. There are so many different lenses through which to view ethical production – it often feels like you’re trading one “bad” factor for another. I always try to educate our clients on the various pros and cons of different sourcing models so that people can feel right about the choice they make according to their own standards. In my view, these changes are incremental, yet still so impactful over time.
Jennifer: So true. Sustainability starts with one step, soon you are on a journey that gets you deeper and deeper into the process. Everyone has their own process too, for instance human rights might be what I am passionate about and mercury free mining might be yours. Whatever it is as long as we are trying to make this world a better place, we can’t go wrong.
Meaghan: Like you, I started making more conscientious choices about my own lifestyle when I was pregnant with my son – I wanted to make sure our own home and workplace were safe for a growing child, and I became acutely aware of just what we are leaving to future generations to manage. Do you have any guidance for someone trying to integrate more sustainable options into their life?
Jennifer: This journey is filled with all the human emotions you can find, but one step in front of the other and one purchase to help a woman miner might change her life!
Alexandria & Company is an Old Town-based workshop and design studio specializing in creating and restoring fine jewelry and silver hollowware. They are the in-the-know jewelers of Alexandria and have been serving clients out of their small workshop for decades. Tucked in their historic building on South Royal Street, the team at Alx&Co. brings a personalized, modern approach to their craft – this is not your average stodgy jeweler or antique shop. Visit them during their walk-in hours or online to view their collection of handmade fine jewelry or to drop off a repair project; or, if you’re feeling creative, make an appointment to talk about that custom design project you’ve been imagining.
121-B South Royal Street
Alexandria, Virginia 22314
Design Studio Walk-In Hours (all jewelry services): Wednesday – Saturday 12-6pm
Silver Workshop Walk-In Hours (all silver repair and restoration services): Wednesday or Friday 12-6pm, or by appointment
Appointments encouraged for custom design.