Every jewelry lover wants handmade, one-of-a-kind pieces, but they can be tough to find without extensive time and effort. Retailer JewelStreet is changing that by offering an online marketplace for independent jewelry design. JewelStreet’s Senior Marketing Executive Vivianne Leung, and Creative Copywriter Natasha Hosseini, joined the Jewelry Journey podcast to talk about how JewelStreet chooses its designers, how it helps independent artists promote themselves and how jewelry connects us to different cultures. Read the transcript below.

Sharon:  Hello, everyone. Welcome to the Jewelry Journey podcast. Today, my guests are Vivianne Leung and Natasha Hosseini from JewelStreet, based in the United Kingdom. JewelStreet is the leading online community for independent jewelry designers from across the globe. After handpicking emerging names, JewelStreet provides an online platform for these talented designers and artisans to thrive and reach new audiences. We’ll hear more about that today. Vivianne and Natasha, thank you so much for being here.

Vivianne: Thank you for having us.

Sharon:  We’re delighted to have you. Can you each tell us about your jewelry journey and how it is that you came to jewelry? Was jewelry something that you liked since you were young? Vivianne, do you want to start?

Vivianne: Sure. I am originally from Hong Kong and I lived in Australia for the past 10 years. I   would say that I really love jewelry because I was living by the beach in Australia and I was always looking at boho-style jewelry. That’s why I applied to work in a jewelry store when I was studying in university. I remember one time I was helping a customer take their rings to a jeweler to resize them, and that’s the first time I saw a ring that had been resized and crafted in a studio. I found it really interesting, and after that, I continued studying. Now, I’ve moved to the United Kingdom. Before I moved here, my dad bought me a bangle, which I still wear every day. It’s a yellow gold twisted bangle with heart shapes on the tip, and I still love it because every day when I wake up, I’m looking at that bangle that reminds me of my family, even though we are very far apart. I think with jewelry, the value is that you’re looking at a piece that reminds you of the people you love.

Sharon: That’s really true. That’s one of the things jewelry does. Natasha, what’s your jewelry journey?

Natasha: My jewelry journey is kind of similar to Viv’s, in that it’s informed by my culture and a lot of my travel. My family is from Iran and Italy, and I was born in England myself, so my jewelry style has always been influenced by this diasporic kind of identity. My grandfather used to live in Iran, based in Tehran. He used to own his engraving brand, so I was always surrounded by a sense of fashion and independent design. Then, I moved from the bazaars of Tehran and those really beautiful treasure troves of jewelry, to more of the hippie chic style of Bristol. As you can imagine, my style is quite diverse. I then went on to study English literature at university, and I wrote a lot about this dispersion of people from my homeland, and how art and culture and jewelry is a huge tie back to people’s homelands. When I wear a piece of jewelry from Iran, it really creates a connective tie to it, so even though we’re oceans apart, I still feel close to my home. I worked in bridal for a couple of years, and I discovered that people are really looking for unique and independent jewelry, and that is when I found JewelStreet.

Sharon: For both of you, that’s really interesting that the emphasis is on the connection with people you care about who are across the globe. Jewelry definitely has that—I don’t want to say sentimental, maybe that’s too sweet a word—but that connection with those you love. Tell us about JewelStreet. We know it’s an online platform for independent jewelry designers. Natasha, how long ago was it founded?

Natasha: It was founded around 2012. We’re an online handmade jewelry marketplace, so anyone looking for unique and beautiful handmade jewelry, this is really the go-to place to buy it. JewelStreet came about at a time when we were such a saturated, mass-produced kind of marketplace, and everything was being consumed in this throwaway culture, especially with fast fashion. Our founders recognized the importance of bringing unique jewelry to people that were calling for it in this kind of climate.

Sharon: It sounds like a great place if you want that interesting piece of jewelry that, as I’ve heard somebody say, has the mark of the hand on it. Vivianne, can you tell us about how it works? Do jewelers just go on the site and sign up? Do you vet the jewelry before you post it online?

Vivianne: We have a “Sell with Us Page” on our website where jewelers can go directly and look at the information on how to sign up and come on board with us. We do reach out to talents across the world and find people we think are suitable to be on JewelStreet or have jewelry that our customers will love. We do reach out to those people, too.

Sharon:  You’re on social media and online as well for potential jewelers.

Vivianne:  Yes, we’re building a community on social media, not just online, but also reaching out and doing different kinds of marketing, including a pop-up shop that’s coming up.

Sharon: I think we’ll hear more about that. Tell us who your target market is.

Vivianne: Generally, I would say it’s 35- to 55-year-old men and women. They’re probably very busy working and have no time to shop when there’s something like an occasion coming up. It may be a man looking for gifts or a woman who wants to treat herself and buy jewelry for herself.

Sharon: So it’s people who, like most of us, don’t have time and also want to look a lot more broadly than just going into their local jewelry store, or they want to see things from around the world.

Vivianne: Rather than just shopping at a shop, yes. On our website, you can find everything from around the world.

Natasha: It’s quite interesting to mention that in Harper’s BAZAAR, they said that it was once necessary to travel for the most exceptional jewels, but JewelStreet is that experience in digital form.

Sharon: It makes it a lot easier. It’s a lot more efficient, even though traveling can be wonderful. So the jewelry is handmade. What else do you look for in the jewelry? When the designers come to you and say, “I want to sign up,” do you review what they have first? Is there something specific you’re looking for? If it’s the same kind of jewelry you have already, would you turn somebody away?

Natasha: We wouldn’t say that we turn anyone away, because we’ve already created and established this handmade community of independent jewelers, and I think we attract the people we want on the site. We don’t necessarily turn people away that often. We are really interested in people’s stories. If someone comes to us with a captivating and engaging story behind that brand, it makes them even more appealing to us because we want to give them a platform to get the story heard. I guess it’s all about everyone’s jewelry journeys.

Sharon: How do jewelers hear about you? How do they find you?

Natasha: They can find us if they come across our website. We do have the “Sell with Us” option, like Vivianne was talking about earlier, but we also have a lot of interaction with independent jewelers through social media. I think our social platforms are a great way of interacting and networking with other jewelers locally and globally. We handpick a lot of our jewelers, too, and we will find them that way as well.

Sharon: You’ll see their stuff online and say, “Hey, you might be interested in JewelStreet,” something like that?

Vivianne:  Yeah, of course.

Natasha: Yeah, if we really love that jewelry and it’s beautiful, it’s hard to not ask them.

Sharon: And probably hard not to buy it, too.

Natasha: So hard not to buy.

Sharon: As you’ve told us, you put a lot of effort into marketing your members, which I think is great. It’s not just being online, but you have these other opportunities. You mentioned when we talked that you have something called the Wedding Hub.

Natasha: This recently launched late last year. I work mostly as a creative copyrighter on the marketing team, and I’ve been writing a lot of content and doing research, so I know a lot about weddings. People are really looking for something unique and handmade, not just for a happy couple, but for the wedding party as well, so we’ve launched Wedding Hub. You can find it on the JewelStreet website. It’s a go-to style resource for the couple and for anyone attending a wedding. It’s not just information about the jewelry on our site, it’s actually style tips. We talk about vendors that we champion, where you can get good floral arrangements, and how you can take great wedding photography while showing off your jewelry. It’s helpful pieces of information, bite-size facts that do help you on that wedding planning journey.

Overseas, we’ve been attending quite a lot of wedding fairs recently. I’m not sure if you’ve seen that on our social media sites, but they’ve been incredibly fun, not to mention I’ve eaten a lot of cake samples. We’re really trying to promote the jewelry from our designers. Our Wedding Hub also feeds back into our bespoke design service. We have a separate section on our website where customers can request to have a piece made, such as a commission. Say, for example, you’re really interested in creating a pendant and you drew it out and sketched it, but you don’t know a jeweler to make it for you. There is actually a function on our website where you can discover the jewelers that will make your design. You can send them your sketches and they will come back to you with their own sketches, and you can enter into this really exciting, bespoke jewelry-making process, which we’re finding to be quite popular with the wedding customers.

Sharon: I’m sure. Everybody wants something different, so that makes a lot of sense. You have jewelers from all over the world, which is fabulous, and the organization, your site, everything is multi-cultural, and that really sets it apart from other sites. Can you tell us about your company and how it’s multi-cultural, and how you strive for that in the whole process?

Natasha: I think you can probably tell from our stories that we have connections all over the world, and I’ll say the same for everyone else in the office. We all have connections globally, and we all understand that jewelry and art and culture is the connective thread that I mentioned earlier. This all leads back into JewelStreet, because it’s become a microcosm of what we want the jewelry industry to be as a whole. We’ve got over 200 independent jewelry designers, and with that being said, it’s a diverse group. We love how many languages are spoken by our designers and we love that we can communicate to them in our own languages as well. If someone from Iran calls up, we’d be happy to see them, the same with Viv. We have an overarching brand narrative, and it’s just to be your unique self. It’s about the unique you, unique jewelry, and enjoying who you are as an authentic individual. That’s embracing your culture and your ethnicity and wholeheartedly embracing your diversity. If you’re unique, your jewelry should reflect that, and that’s what we’re trying to do with JewelStreet.

Sharon: That’s a great philosophy, especially being online. The point of being online is to be able to reach everybody. It’s global. Small, independent jewelers who would have a very narrow platform, you’ve expanded it for them, so that’s fabulous. Thank you so much for being here today and talking to us about JewelStreet. Folks, you might want to get on and take a look at it, because they really do have some interesting things. Thanks so much for being here. We’ll have links to JewelStreet.com in the show notes.

To everybody listening, that wraps up another episode of the Jewelry Journey. If you like what you heard and would like to hear more, you can subscribe on iTunes or wherever you download your podcasts, and please rate us. We’ll be back next time with another thought-provoking guest giving us their professional take on the world of jewelry. Thanks for listening.