Jackie Kaufman, a jewelry caster and designer based in South Florida, uses recycled silver to create custom pieces based on her customers’ pets’ body parts.
She recently talked to JCK about how she got into the jewelry business and what famous animal she’d like to design a piece of jewelry for.
Dog portrait custom necklace
JCK: How did you get into making jewelry?
Jackie Kaufman: I had owned a few retail stores and kiosks over the last 20 years and wanted to make our own line of jewelry to sell at our own locations, so I took a two-year jewelry casting class. I was amazed at what I could do with casting and was able to create some really unique pieces that I had only thought about. Five years ago we closed all of our retail locations and now sell exclusively online.
JCK: What are your specialties?
JK: Our specialties are creating one-of-a-kind custom pieces for customers using their own or their pets’ body parts, such as baby teeth, dog noses and paws, and fingerprints. Our most popular pieces are the dog noses and fingerprint hearts.
Custom fingerprint heart necklace
JCK: What’s your most memorable design/sale?
JK: My claim to fame, the one that got it all started, was our double-heart fingerprint necklace. We take two different fingerprints and create a single heart. One of my first sales of this piece was to a distraught woman who had just lost both of her parents in a car accident. She was at the funeral home and wanted us to make 13 pieces of their two fingerprints for each family member. We worked with the funeral home to get the molds made before they were buried.
Another recent customer was keeping her dead dog under ice (in the freezer!) waiting for our molds to get there. It was a Boston Terrier, and she would not get the dog cremated until she sent the molds back to us to make sure we had good molds.
JCK: There’s been a recent trend of jewelry made from or inspired by organic material—for example, blood, breast milk, and teeth. Why do you think that trend started?
JK: I think I can only speak to the teeth jewelry. Some parents have a special love for their children’s teeth, especially the first one that grows in. They saw the tooth grow, brushed the tooth, and then watched it fall out. It is a special part of their toddler that they want to keep. Why throw it out or put it away, never to be seen? I think wearing the actual tooth might be a little creepy, but wearing a silver or gold version is very pretty and petite, and many mothers love it!
Baby teeth necklace
JCK: To what extent do you use social media in your business?
JK: I have a Facebook page that I use to list new items that we have. I also use Twitter just to list new pieces. I also get HARO (Help a Reporter Out) three times a day, and try to answer some requests that are appropriate to what I do.
JCK: If you could design a piece of jewelry for or inspired by a famous animal—real or fictional—which one would it be and why?
JK: I love doing our necklaces made with 3-D dog portraits, where we take a picture of the dog and use our CAD program to design the 3-D portrait. I would love to do a 3-D portrait of the French bulldog Stella on the TV show Modern Family, and have Jay wear it to really piss off his wife Gloria.
Dog nose necklace