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Elemental Beauty: Ethical Jewelry Design by Jessica Kramer

Inspired by her love of nature, the designer behind Hawkhouse shares a peek into her world

Raised in Lincoln, Nebraska, artist Jessica Kramer was drawn to jewelry making from a young age. The owner and designer of Hawkhouse, a jewelry brand focused on using locally and ethically sourced materials from nature, gives us a peek into her world.  

“I can remember tying strings around seedpods, or using sticks as centerpieces to my designs,” she says. “Growing up, my piano teacher’s gaudy rhinestone jewelry was of more interest to me than the music.”

Her mother, a potter, brought her to art shows, and soon Kramer began selling pieces at a local farmer’s market each summer. The experience shaped Kramer’s future as an artist and as an entrepreneur.

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The artist at home in her studio. Image courtesy Jessica Kramer.

“Creating things is a way of life for me,” says Kramer. “I am not content without creating. Like many, I feel a connection to my objects. As a consumer, I have trouble seeing the value of objects if I am not able to connect with the person who created it. I hope to see the handcrafted and conscious product movement win the hearts of the general public.”

Kramer’s dedication to making things by hand using ethical and sustainable design practices makes her work a perfect fit for our Rock Paper Silk concept store, where a selection of her necklace and ring designs are currently available for purchase.

Each of her designs is made in the USA, at Kramer’s home in Martha’s Vineyard, Massachusetts. With the help of an assistant, her sister-in-law, and a friend, Kramer creates jewelry from pebbles and raw gems using a metalworking technique called “electroforming” in small batches of 10 to 50 pieces at a time.

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A selection of finished rings. Image courtesy Jessica Kramer.

Kramer explains her process: “I hand select the stones and adhere them to a copper ring, which is then treated with a conductive paint and submerged in a copper rich electrochemical solution. The ring serves as the negative charge, and a copper anode is the positive charge. Copper molecules are attracted to the conductive surfaces (the painted bezel and the ring) and over 8–24 hours, they form a thick layer of copper that holds the mineral forever. Since the copper is essentially growing around each piece, it adds to the organic and one-of-a-kind nature of each piece. I then blacken, buff, and add my rings to inventory or send to my friend Allie to assemble into a necklace or earrings. It can take as little as two days to make a piece from scratch, but with the batch system that I use it takes longer, since I am completing many pieces at the same time.”

The stones Kramer selects for her jewelry each offer a unique significance, whether they are birthstones or offer other symbolic or mystical properties, and reflect the beauty and power of the natural world. Copper, a purported aid for arthritis pain, is both beautiful and historic. Its use in jewelry dates back thousands of years.

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A model sports rings designed by Kramer featuring found pebbles. Image photographed by Shannon Rynd-Ray.

“I try to offer styles with the earth’s most common minerals, utilizing the most ethical and local sources available to me. I use Herkimer diamonds (a form of quartz crystal) from New York, sapphires from Montana, and garnets from Idaho. I just started working with raw diamonds from Canada in an effort to advocate against blood diamonds. I’ve been going to gem and mineral shows for years and made some really beautiful connections with people and families who practice ‘artisanal mining,’ which is mining on a small scale. And then there are my pebbles… They have traveled thousands of miles, have been pushed by glaciers and tumbled in the sea for something like 10,000 years before reaching the shore where I pick them. The minerals in those are always a mystery.”

Kramer’s careful practice yields dazzling results. Let one of her designs become a treasured heirloom for generations to come—visit us at The Met Fifth Avenue to shop.

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