Inspired by the California beach lifestyle, Emma May, the owner and designer of Salted Stones, is a jeweller who handcrafts one-of-a-kind customs and simple everyday pieces. We spoke to Emma to find out about her career in the jewellery industry, the secrets of her success and how she manages to keep her loyal clientele.
What Inspired You to Become a Jeweller?
I have always loved the idea of doing something in a creative field. I started playing with making jewellery in high school, came up with my company Salted Stones and even sold jewellery out of my college dorm room. I fell in love with creating something with my hands and got a job in San Francisco in production for a small boutique. I would fulfil orders for companies like Stitch Fix and make hundreds of pieces per day. Later, I worked for a different jewellery company in San Francisco, managing the boutique, making lots of their sales on the floor, and travelling for trade shows. However, I realized I really wanted to get back to making the jewellery.
I ended up moving out of San Francisco and heading back to my hometown San Diego to go to the Gemological Institute of America (GIA) in Carlsbad, CA, for my Graduate Jeweller degree. I absolutely loved being back on the bench, working with my hands every day and learning so many new things. I found it so challenging but so natural to me at the same time. After this, I was eager to learn more and moved to Carmel-by-the-Sea, CA, to apprentice under a local jeweller for a few years.
It had always been my goal to run my own company, and last year in December, I decided to take Salted Stones on full-time. I’m not sure if one event inspired me to become a jeweller, but I always came back to it. It’s such a special industry. I love that I get to create something people wear that is sentimental to them.
What Makes People Choose Salted Stones as Their Jewellery Concierge?
What makes me different from other jewellers is the personal experience you get when working with me. Having worked with so many different people in the jewellery industry over the last 10 years, I really got to observe what I wanted to leave behind or bring with me when it came to my own company. I love working closely with my clients and making it a truly special experience. Whether I’m meeting them at a pop-up, working with them on a custom piece or inviting them into my studio, I strive to make each customer feel welcomed and excited to be working with me. Salted Stones is so much more than a jewellery brand; it’s a community of people I get to be a part of during special moments in their lives.
I have a big bubbly personality, so I think people who want a fun and stress-free experience are my right customer. I love working with clients on engagement rings because it can be so overwhelming for them to even get the process started. My goal is to make my client feel completely taken care of, excited about the process and help them make that step into their next chapter memorable. I hand-hold my clients through the whole process and often even help with the proposal plans!
I also work a lot with family heirlooms. I was inspired when I made my own engagement ring out of my now husband’s grandmother’s diamonds. I loved the idea of honouring the past while giving it a new life. Obviously, styles come and go, so people often never wear pieces that have been passed down to them. I had the thought, why not just make them into something my customer can enjoy and wear every day? It has been so fun redesigning these, and I often have people from the family who were at first hesitant reach out in awe of the end pieces. So if you have jewellery sitting around you want to reimagine into something, I would love to work with you!
You Specialize in Custom Design Jewellery. Tell Us More About the Process
My custom design process is very visual. Depending on the client’s project, I source the stones, or they provide them. Once we have that, I work with my clients closely on the design, getting it as perfect as possible before we make a CAD/computer rendering (3D model) of the piece. It is great for clients to get a really good visual of the jewellery before we actually make it, and often that involves also rendering any current piece the client may have that we are perfectly matching the new design to. Once the CAD and renderings are perfect, the piece is cast, and I do all the finishing work and stone setting in my studio in Pacific Grove, CA.
What Type of Custom Pieces Do You Enjoy Creating and Why?
Lately, I have been loving my heirloom reworks and engagement rings/ bands. I love stacking rings which are a big part of my gold-filled collection I also offer. So when I have been making wedding bands, I love incorporating stacking options. I’ll usually design the band to custom fit around the engagement ring, making them unique one-of-a-kind designs. When it comes to a wedding set, I love making unusual asymmetrical pieces that no one else has. My heirloom work is always so special; I love taking old pieces and giving them a new life. It’s so cool to see a piece transform and have my customers be able to really enjoy them!
Do You Plan 2023 Pieces and Collections?
I have lots of exciting plans for 2023! I am working on coming out with my first fine jewellery collection, which will be a mixture of everyday classics and some more one-of-a-kind designs! I also plan on coming out with a bridal collection with both gold-filled and solid gold options for brides and bridesmaids to choose from.