Fire!

Hello darlings, it’s me Ruby.  I know you’ve all been wondering how I’ve been coping since my mom’s store caught on fire and rest assured, I am A.O.K.  The store? Not so much.  In case you missed it, here’s what happened…

On Saturday, August 27th, my mom and my sister were at the shop closing up for the day when mom noticed a whole crowd of people outside yelling and making a spectacle of themselves. They went out to see what the fuss was about and lo and behold, the roof was on fire! Well, you can bet that was a pretty upsetting sight to see.  My mom and dad worked really hard making MADE the most beautiful store on the Avenue and they didn’t have a choice but to watch it go up in smoke.

75 fire fighters from eight different companies came quickly (and whooo-eee, darlings, let me tell you that the roof wasn’t the only hot thing on the 500 block that day) and were able to control the fire in about an hour.  They determined that the fire started on the wooden roof deck of the second floor apartment (luckily the tenants weren’t home at the time) and our building, along with the neighbors on either side of us sustained nearly $150,000 of damage.

The second floor sustained the brunt of the damage, but the first level, where the shop is, didn’t escape unscathed.  All the water that the firefighters shot at the fire had to go somewhere, right? What goes up, must come down.  There’s also a fair amount of smoke damage, but we’re no fools and we know that things could’ve been much, much worse. 

So, my mom has had the insurance adjustors come along with a contractor and a restoration company and things are moving along quite nicely.  The contractor even thinks we might be able to open the doors again at the beginning of October…just in time to place your custom holiday orders.

If you need your MADE fix sooner than that, please come see us on Saturday! We’re going to set up shop outside the store for West Reading’s Fall Festival and our inventory will be on display and available for purchase. 

Many thanks darlings, for being so understanding and helpful in our time of need.  Rest assured that MADE will be back, better than ever and in the blink of an eye!

On Turning One....

Hello darlings, have you missed me? I am sorry I didn’t get a blog post written in July, but you see, I had a party to plan! My mom opened her store last summer so we wanted to throw a big to-do to celebrate all of the people who’ve made her first year in business a success.

Forbes says that 80% of new businesses fail within their first 18 months of operation.  My mom is almost past that milestone, she’s been in business for 13 months, and if I know her, she’s going to blow right past that 18-month mark without so much as a blink of her eye. 

I fancy myself a bit of a business whiz, so I’ll share with you the Top 3 Reasons why I think my mom’s dreams of being a small business owner have come true.

  1. She’s easy to talk to.  It’s rare that someone comes in the store that doesn’t end up spending 15 or 20 minutes chatting.  My mom’s love of jewelry and years of experience in design and repair means she can relate to her customers.  She listens to their needs and helps them find a solution.  She also loves to talk about Netflix.  If you need a recommendation for what show to binge watch next, she’s your girl (hint: it’s Stranger Things).

  2. MADE is pretty unique. There are loads of jewelry stores in Berks County that feature diamond this and bridal that with price points from $1000 - $10,000.  And there are even more places to buy $20 costume jewelry that you’ll wear once before it breaks. But what about every day jewelry that is beautiful and made to last?  What about jewelry that can be given as a gift without breaking the bank?  What about jewelry for people who don’t like loads of sparkle and bling?  What about jewelry for people who don’t want to wear what everyone else is wearing? What about jewelry for people who value long lasting quality and silver that won’t make your skin turn green? MADE’s inventory covers all of those bases and does it with American designers who have the same high standard for quality and ethics that my mom does.  You’ll find items in our store from $50 - $900 and everything is REAL sterling silver, 14k gold, natural gemstones and other organic materials. 

    And let’s not forget that all repairs are done on-site.  That’s a big deal. We know it’s hard to take off your favorite piece of jewelry and hand it over to a stranger not knowing where it might be headed or how many hands will touch it before you get it back.  When you drop your jewelry off for repair at MADE, it STAYS at MADE.  That truly is a unique service for our area. 

  3. It really all boils down to customers, right? No customers means no money. No money means no electric.  No electric means The Man comes and shuts us down.  Awesome people walk in the door every day and check out our inventory, gab for a few minutes, and maybe even play with me. They leave and they tell someone. Or they leave and they come back.  Or they leave and they come back AND they bring a friend.  We have the BEST customers. 

And so, this past weekend when we threw our Birthday Party, it wasn’t only to celebrate our first year in business.  It was also to thank all of the people who made it possible.  We had tons of amazing cake from Ady Cakes, Secrets Bakery and Miss Yassy. We had champagne and balloons and everyone who purchased a piece of jewelry did so at a discount.  It was our very first sale and it was the best way we could think of to say thank you. 

Do you know what WASN’T at the party? Me! Something about “eating all the cake…” whatever that means.  Until next time darlings!

A Word About Length

A few of the necklaces available at MADE.  We have many styles and all kinds of lengths.  Don't forget my mom can also make custom chains for you OR repair your broken necklaces.

A few of the necklaces available at MADE.  We have many styles and all kinds of lengths.  Don't forget my mom can also make custom chains for you OR repair your broken necklaces.

Hello friends, it’s me, Ruby. When you come in to the store, you  might think I'm just being adorable, but don't be mistaken - these disproportionately large ears are listening to everything you say.  You ask my mom lots of questions about the best ways to wear jewelry, but the secret is that I’ve taught my mom everything she knows about fashion. Since she owns the store,I let her do the talking.  I deserve a cookie for that, I’m sure of it! Anywhoo.  I hear you asking questions like “How do I wear silver and gold together?” and “How do I wear tons of rings?” and, the subject of this month’s post, “What length necklace is right for me?”

While custom lengths are available, here are the lengths you’ll most often see in jewelry stores and other places that sell accessories:

  • 14"  Fits most like a choker
  • 16" Falls perfectly around the base of the neck like a collar. On a petite woman it will hit your collarbone while for plus size women it might feel more like a choker.
  • 18” A common choice for women that will fall just below the throat at the collarbone. This length is popular for adding pendants which will hang over a crew neck.
  • 20" Will fall a few inches below the collarbone and allow a little more breathing room. Perfect for a low, plunging neckline or if you want to wear it over a turtleneck.
  • 22" Falls at or above a low neckline.
  • 24" Falls below any neckline.
  • 36" Common with pearl strands and will hang below the bosom. They can be worn as a single strand or you can double a 36” for an 18 inch necklace.

Click to enlarge

These sizes and descriptions are of course, relative.  For instance, that 14” chain might be a choker on you, but it would sweep the floor on me.  My neck is just wee, you see. 

With that knowledge locked down, let’s move on to these considerations:

  1. Your Neck: That is, afterall, where you’re necklace will live so the two should complement each other.  Is your neck wide? Long? Wrinkled? Generally speaking, most necklaces work on long necks, longer lengths work better on short/wide necks, and bold pendants can draw the eye away from skin blemishes and wrinkles.
  2. Your height: Didn’t think of this one, did you?  If you’re shorter than 5’4”, consider a necklace length that sits at, or just below, your collarbone.  If you’re in the above-average height category, a short chain may get lost on you. 
  3. Your face shape: Oval, round, square or heartshaped, that is the question. Pending all of the other considerations, short necklaces/chokers look great with square and heart-shaped faces.
  4. Your neckline: The items in your closet probably make the biggest impact on your decision.  For instance, you wouldn’t want to wear a choker with a turtleneck.  That would just be weird.

Yeah.  I can hear you now reader.  You’re saying “But Ruby, what if I’m tall (I can wear anything!) with a short neck (I can only wear long things!) and a square face (I can only wear short things!)

To that, I say “Eff the rules, reader!”  Wear what you want.  Really.  Jewelry is supposed to be fun. You should love wearing it, you should feel good about it and as a bonus, it might even compliment your body and accessorize your outfit.  If you want to look like a fashionista, the information above will help you get there.  If you just want to wear the teeny tiny opal pendant that your dad got you in the days before you discovered cheese curls and binge watching Orange is the New Black, then you do you, girl.

When it comes to jewelry, what rules do you like to break?

Gemstones 101

Hello darlings.  It’s me, Ruby and I want to talk to you about stones.  Gemstones to be specific. You see, every single stone is that is chosen for use in the jewelry in my mom’s store is special, so get out your pencils, because today, I’m taking you to school.

A pair of earrings from Claire's on the left, and a pair of Ashka Dymel earrings on the right that feature garnet and pink and green tourmaline.

A pair of earrings from Claire's on the left, and a pair of Ashka Dymel earrings on the right that feature garnet and pink and green tourmaline.

So let’s just say you picked out a pair of Ashka Dymel earrings from my mom’s fabulous yellow case and set them down next to a pair of earrings you bought at Claire’s (it’s ok – we love Claire’s too.  It can be our little secret.)  Ashka’s piece has an array of stones as does Claire’s.  They appear somewhat similar, so why do Ashka’s earrings cost $75 and Claire’s earrings cost $12.99?

What we aren’t going to focus on today is the fact that one is sterling silver and the other is some sort of tin-foil, turn-your-ear-holes-green situation OR the fact that one is lovingly handmade by a jewelry artist while the other is produced en masse in a foreign country where child laborers are paid pennies to work 78 hours a day.

Nope – today we’re talking about those stones. Those rocks.  The minerals. The semi-precious, and the precious (like me!)

I did a little research in preparation for this article and here’s what I came up with: science is hard.  I’m going to save you lots of details and boil things down for you.

First, there’s minerals, aka “rocks” or “stones.” These are inorganic materials characterized by crystalline structures. Any mineral used for jewelry is also referred to as a gemstone. There are about 3000 minerals admired for their beauty, but only about 200 of them are used in jewelry

“Organics” are gemstones created by a living thing, like opals, pearls and amber.

Are you with me so far? Good, because here’s where things get confusing.

“Precious” basically means that it’s really pretty and really rare.  Currently, the precious stones are diamonds, emeralds, rubies, sapphires and tanzanite.  BUT – this list changes.  Once upon a time amethyst was considered precious, but then someone found a whole bunch of it and so now it’s considered…

Emerald, Tsavorite, Chrome Tourmaline, Tourmaline, Beryl, Zircon, and Peridot.  Can you tell which is which?

Emerald, Tsavorite, Chrome Tourmaline, Tourmaline, Beryl, Zircon, and Peridot.  Can you tell which is which?

“Semi-precious” which is all the other gemstones.  Except for that sometimes there are semi-precious stones that are more rare, more beautiful and more valuable than precious stones.  For example, Tsavorite is a semi-precious stone that is more valuable than emerald, a precious stone. Other semi-precious stones include onyx, turquoise, amethyst, quartz, lapis, jade and tourmaline.

Some people think that making a precious/semi-precious distinction is just a sales tool since there isn’t always a correlation between the value and the label given to the stone.  Others feel that the term “semi-precious” is derogatory considering how beautiful and valuable some of the stones are that fall in this category.  And we all know how popularity can play into things.  If Caitlyn Jenner decides to wear nothing but a hematite necklace in her upcoming nude photo shoot for Sports Illustrated, one can deduce that hematite will become screamingly popular and in turn, prices could rise.

We’re getting to the good stuff, I promise, but let’s cover one more subject about the cost of gemstones.  Ethics are a hot topic when it comes to gem mining.  My mom uses suppliers that tell her their stones are ethically mined.  It’s easy for someone to say that, but since there are no mandates or guidelines, there’s just no stinkin’ way to prove the claim is true.  If ethics are a concern for you, you may just want to leave the naturally occurring gemstones in the mines and consider a created or a synthetic stone instead.

Created means that the mineral is grown in a lab, but it is chemically identical to the gem that grows in a mine. 

Synthetic means that the stone has no relation to the actual mineral.  It is completely simulated using an alternative material to just LOOK like the mineral. 

Here’s an example of what I’m talking about.  Some people say that synthetic diamonds are MORE beautiful that mined diamonds! What do you think? 

Another cost factor? Let’s not forget that those beautiful gemstones we see in a finished piece of jewelry made a verrrryyy long journey.  First someone had to guess where they might be found, then they had to be mined.  Once they are brought to the surface they have to be cut and cleaned and polished.  Then, a jeweler has to buy just the right stone, come up with a design for it, and create a masterpiece.  Sheesh.  No wonder this stuff is expensive!

On the left is an opal that has been cut & polished. On the right is a natural opal.

On the left is an opal that has been cut & polished. On the right is a natural opal.

So what ARE those “stones” you see in the jewelry at Claire’s?  Most of the time what you see is glass or plastic.  Occasionally, you might find some of this “cheap” jewelry made with crystals.

In conclusion (I learned that phrase from my dad, who is an English teacher), gemstones are expensive because of their beauty, rarity and the work it takes to get them from the ground on to your finger. Gemstones will last.  They will become family heirlooms that are passed down from generation to generation. If cared for, gemstone jewelry will retain its beauty for years and years.

Costume/fake jewelry is cheap because the materials used are inexpensive and the labor used to produce them is even cheaper. This type of jewelry is meant to be lost.  We don’t bat an eye or shed a tear if it breaks.  We don’t bother spending money to have it resized or repaired. 

Let’s finally move on to the advice part of this blog.

My advice to you this: don’t worry about labels.  Worry about what you LIKE.  Most people are drawn to a color, so if your favorite color is red, who cares if you’re wearing a ruby, a garnet, or a red tourmaline?  Buy what you like and what fits your budget.

It’s worth mentioning that some people believe that gemstones have special meaning and maybe even healing qualities.  That’s cool.  If you want a little something to give you courage, bring you luck, or help you find harmony in your life a gemstone might be just what you’re looking for.  Here’s a cool website that will tell you the meanings and qualities of all kinds of stones.

My other advice? Talk to my mom.  Chrissy is a pro.  She will take all of the science out of the conversation and just help you find, or create, a piece that is going to make you, or the person for whom you’re buying, happy.  She’ll work with your budget, your style and your vision to make the most perfect necklace, ring, earrings, or bracelet just for you or your loved one. 

One more thing, I won’t judge you if you tell people that your garnet is a ruby.  Guess what? NO ONE will know the difference.  Except for my mom.  Because she is super smart.

About the author: Ruby Polczynski is a year-ish old Chihuahua-ish dog with red fluffy hair and a curly tail. Born in the ghetto, she now resides in the Centre Park Historic District with mom Chrissy, dad Ethan, sister Maeta, and mortal enemy, Walter the Cat. When she’s not giving jewelry advice, Ruby enjoys napping in the sun, eating salmon treats, and deconstructing stuffed animals. Stop by and meet Ruby!

 

 

Diamonds are a Dog's Best Friend

Hello darlings.  My name is Ruby and my mom, Chrissy, owns MADE Jewelry Boutique & Studio in West Reading, PA.  A few short months ago, I was down on my luck, homeless, and running the streets of Reading.  I did hard time at the local shelter but was released for good behavior into the custody of a foster family.  Even though I had lived a life of crime and wasn’t terribly civilized, the family fed me treats, let me sleep in the little girl’s bedroom and bought me fancy stuffed toys.  One day they said they were going to “adopt” me and that from then on, I had to call them “mom” and “dad.” Now I live a life of luxury and they say I’m spoiled and that I forgot where I came from.  I don’t know what the word diva means, but it gets used a lot in my presence.     

Mom brings me to work every day and recently told me that if I’m going to continue demanding tasty vittles, luxurious bedding, and bejeweled collars, that I will have to earn my keep.  I’m far too beautiful to sweep the floors, and so I’ve decided to start a blog.  After all, if you can’t trust jewelry advice from a dog, who can you trust?

For my first installment, I’d like to talk about the April birthstone….diamonds, darlings, diamonds! If you’re lucky enough to have an April birthday, then no doubt you are currently adorned in diamonds from head to toe.  If you married someone with an April birthday, then no doubt you are currently broke and reading this blog as your only source of entertainment since you don’t have the money to go to the movies.

Birthstones have a long and storied past, supposedly beginning with a Jewish High Priest and his bedazzled chest plate. Astrologers in the way-back believed that gemstones had magical powers. The diamond in particular is believed to give the wearer oodles of courage. In the not-so wayback (1912 to be exact) the National Association of Jewelers had a pow-wow to once and for all decide on which stones belonged to which month…in America.  (thanks for info Wikipedia!). Someone managed to finagle tanzanite into the listing in 2002, but the list has remained intact otherwise ever since.

We’ll get to wearing diamonds affordably, but let’s start with why they are so expensive. Basically, it’s because a super smart company (De Beers) told us that diamonds should be expensive, and we listened.  With four little words, “A Diamond is Forever” we  fell victim to the greatest scheme of all time - believing that diamonds equal love, and since love is priceless, diamonds should at least be…expensive. Yes, yes – certainly there is quite a bit of work that happens between getting a diamond out of the mine and onto your finger, but diamonds aren’t as rare as the prices suggest they are.  In fact, many other gemstones like rubies (my namesake!) emeralds and sapphires are far more scarce, but less expensive.

Diamonds can occur in many colors including steel gray, white, blue, yellow, orange, red, green, pink to purple, brown, and black. Some color variations are considered “bad” and are therefore less expensive and some variations are highly regarded and very rare (like red) and cost a lot of dollars.  Like, a lot a lot.  The different colors occur naturally from impurities or structural defects and it’s really quite complicated and, science.  I’m just a dog darlings, I can’t know everything! There’s a pretty neato display of diamonds called the Aurora Pyramid of Hope that features 295 different colors of diamonds.  Google it.  You’ll like it, paw promise! While you’re at it, Google the Hope Diamond.  That baby is worth more than me, and I’m worth a lot!

  Heather Guidero's line of jewelry (available at MADE!) features small diamonds as an accent to modern design.  See more of Heather's work here.

 

Heather Guidero's line of jewelry (available at MADE!) features small diamonds as an accent to modern design.  See more of Heather's work here.

“So Ruby,” you ask, “how can I build my diamond jewelry wardrobe without going broke?” I’m so glad you asked because I just so happen to have a few suggestions for you!

  • Size does matter! (like we didn’t already know that, amiright girls?) Small diamonds are a large gemstone’s best friend! Consider making the diamonds an accessory to another gemstone and you’ll get the best of both worlds – affordable diamonds alongside a statement sized gemstone.
  • Consider an “imperfect” stone.  A diamond has to have a LOT of issues to be noticed by the naked eye.  Ie: The love of your life is not going to notice the difference between a 0/0/0 1-carat diamond and a 2/2/2 1-carat diamond.  You know who will notice? You, because the weight of your wallet will be much lighter if you walk away with that “perfect” diamond. (Read more about grading diamonds here).
  • Reuse/recycle – it’s hip to be green, so why not apply that concept to your jewelry?  Jewelry designers, like my mom, can dismantle your old jewelry and turn it into a new piece that suits your style and your budget.
  •  Consider a fake diamond (gasp!) That’s right, I said it.  There are some pretty incredible diamond dopplegangers on the market these days, both natural and synthetic, that are pretty darned beautiful too! Cubic zirconia, moissanite, zircon, and white sapphires are all stones that you could consider if affordability is a priority.
  • Talk to Chrissy.  Yep – my mom is pretty official when it comes to all things jewelry.  She has a formal education and more than 20 years of experience, so she’s a pro and can help you navigate your way through the diamond mine.  Ha! Get it?! Diamond mine!?

Typing is hard when you have paws, so I must leave you now and take a nap.  When I wake up, hopefully my mom will have finished my diamond encrusted collar so that I can celebrate April in style!

About the author: Ruby Polczynski is a year-ish old Chihuahua-ish dog with red fluffy hair and a curly tail. Born in the ghetto, she now resides in the Centre Park Historic District with mom Chrissy, dad Ethan, sister Maeta, and mortal enemy, Walter the Cat. When she’s not giving jewelry advice, Ruby enjoys napping in the sun, eating salmon treats, and deconstructing stuffed animals. Ruby is available for meet and greets and autographs during regular store hours.  Stop by and meet Ruby!