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Honesty is always the best policy, especially when you're asking socially responsible shoppers to throw down a pretty serious penny for investment accoutrements. That's the idea behind fine accessories line Starling Jewelry, an LA-based, female-founded, and ethical label that's essentially the Everlane of the gem world.
Named after the dainty starling bird, the brand crafts timeless designs from reclaimed gold, luxe chains sourced from Italy, and repurposed and vintage stones whenever possible. Starling's debut collection ($150 to $510) is comprised of everyday essentials, like simple rose gold rings, silver and diamond necklaces, and gold and black diamond hoop earrings—all handmade in the City of Angels. To ensure that shoppers know exactly what they're buying, the brand reveals the full production costs (from materials, labor, and overhead) and source of every single product.
We sat down with two of Starling's three founders, Tracy Burnett and Chelsey Bartrum, to find out what inspired them to take on a transparent business model, which pieces they'll be wearing all summer, and what's next for the brand.
What was the "a-ha" moment that inspired you to create Starling Jewelry?
Tracy: Chelsey and I were catching up at brunch one weekend, and were talking about life, jobs, and venting as friends do. I was majorly sleep-deprived [due to] having a 4-month-old at the time and Chelsey was in the throws of wedding planning, so we both were looking to control our own destiny for lack of a better term.
She threw out the idea, and we both looked at each other like, "Yes! That's it!" Knowing her talent for design and background in fine jewelry, and my experience with production and development, I think we both knew it could be great. From there, it went through a few variations (and a lot of names), but I clearly remember that moment as the one where I knew we were on to something.
Chelsey: Yes that was definitely the moment! We were trying to find something that we could do that would blend our two backgrounds. Tracy and I have both been working in fashion and jewelry for the last 10 years and really ready to use our knowledge to create something new. We have a third silent partner; when she got involved and we started talking about making the mother-and-daughter jewelry, [that's when] I knew for sure.
What inspired the move to make the prices transparent?
Tracey: We both felt strongly about this from the start. The consumer is smarter, and has more choices than ever. We wanted to put everything out there, and have people choose us based on great jewelry and amazing value. We have nothing to hide, and I think that speaks volumes in today's retail landscape.
Chelsey: From the beginning our goal has been to provide an honest product and educate people about jewelry. Being transparent was natural. We also felt strongly about producing in Los Angeles and supporting local artisans. We are making fine jewelry that pays fair wages, without sacrificing quality along the way. I think we are, in a way, proud to show our pricing. It shows people that manufacturing can be done in the USA, and is worth it!
Who or what are your design muses?
Chelsey: I always keep my friends and family in mind when designing. They are doctors, shop owners, moms, lawyers, teachers, graduate students, to name a few. Women that are a wide range of ages and styles, and constantly inspiring me! The intent of each piece is timeless, feminine, and simple. I repeat those words all the time. Fine jewelry you can wear always, regardless of your lifestyle.
What are your favorite pieces currently, and how do you style them?
Tracey: I'm proud to say that the first collection is named after my daughter, Olive. She is now 14 months old, and would wear 10 necklaces if I let her. She loves her accessories—I guess it's genetic! Currently, we are loving the Mother & Daughter Olive Bracelets. It's easier for me to get a bracelet on a wriggly toddler, and she just thinks it's the coolest. I love that we can match, because that is half the fun of having a daughter!
Chelsey: The Olive anklet in white gold and white diamond. I've been "testing" it before we launch it this summer. It's the perfect piece for summer with sandals and cuffed pants or long skirts—subtle sparkle and '90s nostalgia all in one! And I've been wearing the Olive Hoops in rose gold and black diamond pretty much non-stop since March. Besides just loving rose gold, they are a nice little spruce-up to my basic tee and jean uniform.
What's the one jewelry piece that everyone should invest in?
Tracy: The Olive Diamond Necklace is classic. It looks great on it's own, mixed with a few in different metals and stones, or layered with pieces that you already own. The value is incredible, and it's the perfect gift. I gave my mom one for Mother's Day and she wears it constantly!
Chelsey: Diamonds and gold are always a good investment. They never lose value and are keepsakes you can pass on for generations. Pick a piece that speaks to you, love it and wear always.
What can we expect form Starling in the future?
Tracy and Chelsey: So much! We will soon be offering the current collection in colored stones, like sapphire, pink sapphire, ruby and emerald. We're developing the next collection (hint, hint: pave), named after another little lady that we love. There are new collaborations with some special organizations.
We recently produced a necklace where a portion of the proceeds went directly to Rett Syndrome. So we are excited expand the charitable part of the business, and give back to our community as much as possible. Plus stay tuned for a little launch party this fall in LA!