Episode 223 Part 1: How Gabriela Sierra Made the Jump from Packaging Design to Jewelry Design

Episode 223

What you’ll learn in this episode:

  • How Gabriela produces jewelry in Mexico, manages her business from Montreal, and sells her jewelry worldwide.
  • Gabriela’s favorite stone to work with, and how she chooses and sources gems for her colorful jewelry.
  • How moving from Mexico to Canada (and experiencing seasons for the first time) influenced Gabriela’s work.
  • What it means for jewelry to be slow made.
  • Why COVID prompted Gabriela to transition from packaging design to jewelry design, and how she overcame her hesitation to call herself a jewelry maker.

About Gabriela Sierra

Gaby, designer and creator of Gabriela Sierra jewelry, is anything but a minimalist. Unafraid of color, she plays with bold shapes, textures and asymmetry. Her meticulously crafted pieces are meant to be conversation starters.

With a background in Industrial Design followed by a variety of courses at Alchimia Contemporary Jewellery School, Gabriela Sierra merges design and fashion to create unique sculptural jewelry. The brand seeks to reflect the spirit of the slowmade process (quality over quantity). Founded in 2021, Gabriela Sierra is committed to good design by focusing on quality materials and the revaluation of craftsmanship.

Her work has been shown at different worldwide exhibitions:

  • “Todo es Diseño” Queretaro, Mexico 2021
  • “The Fab” Milano Jewelry Week 2022
  • “Cluster Contemporary Jewelry”, London 2022
  • “The Earring Show”, Vancouver, Canada 2023
  • “Earrings Galore 2023 – 2024”, United States


Additional Resources:

Photos available on TheJewelryJourney.com


These earrings are one of my first creations, born from a clear vision of my

brand’s identity. I’m all about vibrant colors and playful asymmetry. They are

detachable and made with 9.50 silver and glass, reflecting my love for

unique design and versatility.

Photographer: Jesus Villanueva Varela @jesusvillanuevavarela


Detachable earrings crafted with 9.50 silver adorned with Jasper and golden

healing quartz. Each gemstone boasts its own unique personality, with

captivating patterns and colors. These earrings are not only a favorite of



Lollypops from our candy collection. These earrings are a sweet treat for

your ears, featuring detachable designs made with 9.50 silver adorned with

Amazonite and Glass. Channeling playful vibes and vibrant colors, they add

a pop of fun to any outfit.

“Glass Collection”

Glass Collection, where color, shape, and volume collide to create a

stunning explosion for the ears- Designed for the creative soul, these

earrings are meant to be mixed and matched with other pairs from the

collection, allowing you to create your own unique combinations.


Detachable earrings made with 9.50 silver and Obsidian and Glass.

Photographer: Jesus Villanueva Varela @jesusvillanuevavarela


Expertly combining bold colors and shapes in her jewelry, it’s clear that Gabriela Sierra has an eye for design. Beginning her career in furniture and packaging design, Gabriela made her lifelong dream of becoming a jewelry maker come true in 2021, when she opened Gabriela Sierra Jewelry. She joined the Jewelry Journey Podcast to talk about how her upbringing in Mexico and her current home in Montreal influence her work; why her business follows “slow made” principles; and how she became more confident about calling herself a jewelry designer. Read the episode transcript here.

Sharon: Hello, everyone. Welcome to the Jewelry Journey Podcast. This is the first part of a two-part episode. Please make sure you subscribe so you can hear part two as soon as it’s released later this week.

Today, I’m talking with Gabriela Sierra of Gabriela Sierra Jewelry. Her Mexican heritage shines through because of the bold colors in her jewelry. You will immediately see that when you look at her jewelry. I’m talking to her today, and she’s in Canada, where she travels.

She specializes in earrings. She uses recycled silver, and the stones she uses come from small, independent mines or mines that are located in Mexico. She believes in slow made. Her jewelry is meticulously crafted, and she does not have any inventory on hand. Almost everything is made to order at somebody’s request. Today, Gabriela will tell us about her business and how it works. Gabriela, welcome to the program.

Gabriela: I’m so excited to be here, Sharon. Thank you so much for inviting me.

Sharon: Can you tell us how you decided on jewelry as a profession?

Gabriela: Yes, sure. Well, I have always been drawn to jewelry since I was a kid. I was influenced by my mom and my grandmother. I remember her presence was always announced by the clicking of her bangles and her bold earrings.

I studied industrial design, and during university I took a jewelry class. That experience started everything, just initiated my passion. Basically, it started from that. I knew at that particular moment that I needed to find further training, so after I finished university, I took a four-month course at Alchimia Contemporary Jewelry School. I had an amazing time there, and also the teachers were absolutely wonderful. However, it took me some time to find the courage to start my own brand, which I did eventually, after eight years. Now I’m here.

Sharon: So, you studied industrial design before?

Gabriela: Yeah.

Sharon: Your passion for jewelry must have been underlying, and the industrial design really brought it out. So, after eight years, you decided to start your own brand. During most of that time, were you making different kinds of jewelry?

Gabriela: No, actually, when I came back to Mexico after taking the course at Alchimia, I was so afraid of failure. That’s why I didn’t start my own brand at that particular time. In my mind, it was better to find a normal job. So, during those eight years, I worked as a designer for furniture. I also specialized as a packaging engineer or packaging specialist. Basically, I wasn’t working in jewelry those eight years.

Sharon: But you were working in design, right?

Gabriela: Yeah.

Sharon: Did your background help you in all of this? Does industrial design help?

Gabriela: Yes, of course. I think yeah, absolutely. Since the first job that I had, designing furniture, I actually like all the stripped elements. I take a lot of influence and ideas from what I see outside. You can actually see a few of my designs being an idea of a light bulb, for example. I think it helped a lot.

Also talking about packaging, especially the job that I had, it helped me a lot to understand a little bit of marketing and, of course, packaging. It gave me a big picture to understand a little bit more, not just the design part, but everything else, all the different areas involving the launch of a product.

Sharon: I’m sure you do a whole range of jewelry, but right now you seem to focus more on earrings. Is that true? And, if so, why?

Gabriela: Right now, yes, my main focus is on earrings. A month ago I started creating rings, a series of rings. But yes, I love earrings and my main focus is earrings. Why? The earrings are easier—not to create, but rings need to be sized. For me and in my experience, it’s easier to make earrings for everyone. Rings need to be sized, so it’s not for everyone.

Sharon: Do you think you’ll stick with earrings? Do you think you’ll branch out from earrings to other things or stick with earrings?

Gabriela: No, I think I will start creating other things later on. Right now, I will create the series of rings. After that, I will probably start with some necklaces. But for sure, I will start doing things differently.

I’m from Mexico, but right now, I’ve been living in Montreal since last August. I came from another country and I’m learning about the culture here. Also, because I’m an atelier, I’m opening a new studio here in Montreal. I’m getting to know new artists and learning about them and their techniques. I think that travel helps a lot to create new things, just absorbing everything. So, I’m sure I’m going to create different things in the future, not just the earrings.

Sharon: Do you have ideas that you think about when you travel or see when you’re in Montreal? Does it give you ideas for different kinds of jewelry?

Gabriela: Yes, actually, my rings. I have made just three of them. I want to make 10. The concept behind the rings is winter. This is the first winter that I spent here in Montreal. What’s beautiful is that it was the first time I saw snow. For me, it was beautiful. It was a big change. And it wasn’t just beautiful, it was also very hard.

I wanted to encapsulate this snow in these rings. They are quartz. They’re carbon quartz, but the inside is similar to snow. What I wanted to create there was the idea of encapsulating snow, encapsulating that particular moment that I saw the snow on the street. They are big, they are bold. Yeah, they’re big.

Sharon: Do you like the snow? Can you find it in Mexico, like in the mountains or somewhere?

Gabriela: Yes, you can find snow in Mexico, probably in the mountains or in the north of Mexico, like very close to the United States. But it’s not like here. The winter in Montreal is very tough. I think once we were -16 Celsius, so it’s very hard.

Sharon: Why do you manufacture in Mexico? I assume it’s less expensive to manufacture there.

Gabriela: Well, my studio remains in Querétaro. My partner, Samantha, is in charge of making the pieces that can be replicated there. I’m the one in charge of overseas, making sure everything runs smoothly in Querétaro. Here, I work and make the one-of-a-kind pieces. Basically, most of the pieces are shipped from Querétaro. The silver is from Mexico. Most of the stones are from Mexico also. The pieces that I make here, most of the stones are from here or the United States. These particular pieces are shipped from here because I made them here.

Sharon: How do you decide which stones in which colors? You seem to flip, using the same color but a different combination, and some are totally different.

Gabriela: I think at the beginning when I didn’t have a clear concept, I let the stones guide me through the combinations of the pieces. But after that, now that I have a clearer concept, I design first and then I pick the gemstones. Mexico is a country with a lot of gemstones, so I have a wide variety to choose from. I didn’t have any problem finding beautiful gemstones there. But yeah, at the beginning, the stones basically guided me. I designed pieces based on the stone and the shape of the stone, then I created the pieces. Now, I’ve had more time designing and creating jewelry, so I first create the design and then decide which stone will be better with the design and the concept.

Sharon: When you say the stones guided you, do the stones ever talk to you and tell you what they should be or what they should be combined with?

Gabriela: Yes, absolutely. It’s funny, but yes. It is something that I used to say. “The earnings are like this this because they told me they needed to be combined with this stone in this particular shape in this particular order.” Yeah, the stones talk to me a lot. It was more at the beginning, but now they just say, “Okay, I like your design, so yes, we can go together.”

Sharon: Do they ever say, “No, that’s not right,” or “I don’t like this”?

Gabriela: Yes, they do. For example, I first design a piece. Then I send the drawing to my supplier or different suppliers. I receive a sample, and then I see it with the silver, and I try them and finish that prototype. I need to see if they are good together, and sometimes it’s just not right. It feels not right. Maybe those stones don’t want to be next to the silver or this particular stone. I don’t know. But yeah, totally.

Sharon: So you use different suppliers for stones?

Gabriela: Yes. In Mexico, as I previously said, we have a lot of options, and I have great connections with local suppliers here. The first one, the main one was Don Guille he was the first lapidary that I worked with.

Sharon: I’m sorry; is that a company name or a person’s name?

Gabriela: I’m sorry. I called him by his nickname. His name is Guillermo.

Sharon: Okay. That’s where you got your first stones from?

Gabriela: Yeah. He passed away, and now his son and grandsons continue his craft. I also have other suppliers in San Miguel. I also have one from India, Naseem. I also get some gemstones from India. Those three are my main suppliers. Now I’m here in Montreal and I am finding new ones because I prefer to work with the stones that are close to me in Canada. I also have a lot of gemstones in the United States.

Sharon: Do you have a favorite stone?

Gabriela: Yes, I have one. I don’t know if you know this gemstone. The name of this gemstone is cotton candy agate. This particular gemstone is from Mexico. I love the color of this gemstone because it reminds me of a cherry blossom. It’s a very soft pastel pink. That is my favorite gemstone, but I love all types of jaspers. I love gemstones with a lot of personality and different patterns and different colors. Actually, the first one that I mentioned, the cotton candy agate, most of my first designs and pieces were with this gemstone. I created a collection with this one.

Sharon: You use a lot of silver. Have you ever used a different metal?

Gabriela: No. All my pieces are made with silver until last week, because I finished a ring and I incorporated copper. But that’s the only piece that I incorporated copper. I’m just experimenting to see how it looks, how I work with this new material, because I hadn’t worked with copper before. Mainly all the pieces that you see on my webpage are with silver, 10.50 silver.

Sharon: Going back to the cotton candy stone, the pale pink stone, tell us about working with something like that. Is it easier to work with?

Gabriela: That particular gemstone is easy to work with. The only difficult thing is that it’s not easy to find. It’s from Mexico, but it’s not easy to find that particular gemstone. That’s why I have a few gemstones and that particular agate, but I’m saving them for the future because I haven’t found more of this gemstone.

Sharon: Do you get other stones or other pink stones? Is Mexico the only place that you can find them? Can you find them in the United States or in Canada also?

Gabriela: Yes, you can find it in the United States, but they are from Mexico. There are suppliers that bought this particular item from Mexico. But yes, you can find it in the United States on Etsy or Facebook, Instagram, different suppliers. But this particular gemstone is from Mexico and that’s it. You’re not going to find it anywhere else.

Sharon: Wow. So, they sell it to people in the States here. You’re in Canada right now. Do you have any idea where you’ll settle with your jewelry? Will you continue to work in Canada or move again?

Gabriela: Right now, I’m in Canada because my husband is studying a master’s here. Our idea or the main objective is to stay here in Canada. We love this city, Montreal. We have been here every year since four years ago. We love the culture, we love the weather, we love all the activities that are here.

The main thing that we love here is that we can see the difference between seasons. In Mexico, it’s not that easy to see the difference between seasons. Mexico has very good weather. I’m not saying that. It’s just that you can’t differentiate between seasons, because mainly the entire year is the same temperature. It doesn’t change a lot. But yeah, we want to stay here. We’ll see. I hope we can stay here.

Sharon: As the seasons change the way you mentioned it, do they influence the stones? Do you make different kinds of jewelry in winter than in summer?

Gabriela: Yes, for sure. Right now, I haven’t created new collections here because I just recently found a studio to work. I found it last October. I started to create collections a year ago when I was in Mexico, and I created three because of the change of seasons. Depending on the seasons, I try to look for particular colors of the gemstones. Maybe because it’s summer, I’m looking for more vibrant colors. In autumn it’s more earth colors.

Also, when it’s winter in Mexico, I try to make smaller earrings instead of bigger because during winter you are wearing scarves. In my mind it’s easier to wear smaller ones than big ones during winter.

Sharon: How do you introduce yourself? Do you introduce yourself as a jewelry designer? How do you describe yourself?

Gabriela: I always introduce myself as a jewelry maker, even though I also think I’m a jewelry designer. I think they go hand in hand. I think recently, in the last year and a half, I felt comfortable introducing myself as a jewelry designer.

Sharon: Jewelry designer, okay. What do you consider a collection? Is it the colors? Is it a number of pieces? What is a collection made of?

Gabriela: The collection that I created last year was my first one. So, for me, collection was a seasonal collection. I try to focus on the seasonal relevance at that particular time. I was inspired by the things during that particular season. For example, the one I created during summer was the candy collection. I created a collection of earrings resembling candies because they had vibrant colors, big statement earrings.

Sharon: When do you make those? It must be hard in winter to be thinking about summer jewelry, or in summer to be thinking about winter jewelry. That’s when you’re making the collection, right? Not in the season, but before the season.

Gabriela: Yeah, a little bit before. Just a little bit. I will admit that I’m not super organized. Sometimes I start making the rings or the collections just a couple of weeks before, so I’m seeing them in the middle of the season.

Sharon: So, it’s right before. What are you designing now? What colors are you thinking about now as spring is going into summer? I don’t know how it is in Montreal, but here it’s really spring. If it started snowing, would you think of different colors? If you’re already working on the spring collection and suddenly it starts snowing, for instance.

Gabriela: I’m a little bit behind, actually. I haven’t finished the series of rings that I mentioned before, and for those rings the concept is winter. Right now I’m working with those. But at the same time in Mexico, Samantha is working on a collection for the web page with pieces that can be replicated. She’s working with bold colors because spring is coming. We’re working on new designs.

Actually, this week, she is making some prototypes that I just made. I need to see them and approve them in order to continue with the real production for these pieces. But they’re going to be with bold colors. We are both working with glass and some jaspers, and also with carbon quartz.

Sharon: This is for production, but what were you describing by saying that you don’t have a lot of inventory? That it’s one of a kind?

Gabriela: Well, we don’t have a lot of inventory. The pieces that you see on our website are the pieces that we have in stock, and that’s it. But those pieces that are not part of the one of a kind section, we can replicate them. The ones you are seeing on our web page are the ones we have available at the moment. If a client buys this piece right now, I need to make a new one in order to sell this new piece.

Sharon: Do you ever reject a prototype and say, “I decided I don’t want green. I want red in it”? You reject the prototype, you’re saying yes.

Gabriela: Yeah. If I don’t like it, yes, of course. I just reject it and try again. I iterate a lot until I find the right combination, the right size, the right color, everything.

Sharon: What do you mean by slow made? I’ve heard the term, but how do you define it?

Gabriela: For me, slow made is quality over quantity. It’s attention to detail. Pieces are made to order, as I mentioned before. We don’t carry excessive inventory. We take our time to create each piece and to see that every piece is made at the right quality. Everything needs to be on point.

We will have photos posted on the website. Please head to TheJewelryJourney.com to check them out.

Thank you again for listening. Please leave us a rating and review so we can help others start their own jewelry journey.

Sharon Berman