Get to Know Jennifer Dawes of Dawes Design

Santa Rosa, Calif.-based Jennifer Dawes of Dawes Design makes organic-looking, matte-finished gold designs with recycled metals and ethically sourced stones.

Jennifer Dawes of Dawes Design

Jewelry designer Jennifer Dawes of Dawes Design

Headquarters: Santa Rosa, Calif.

Year firm launched: 2000

Signature style: “Each piece combines my love of ancient civilizations—such as pieces in my Relic collection that have scrollwork and vine motifs—with what is happening right now in culture and design, such as the popularity of stacking bands, drape effects in my Drape collection, and negative space and contemporary effects in my Tine collection.

“But my signature design aesthetic is a refined, handmade simplicity that’s feminine and organic-looking, with hand textured and hand-hammered and matte finishes, negative space, as well as rose-cut stones, recycled conflict-free metals, and as many conflict-free stones as I can source. Pieces are simply styled to let the material speaks for themselves. In this way, all the collections work together so wearers can uniquely express themselves. Bridal is a big part of my collections, and I sell complete diamond engagement rings, not semi-mounts.”

Training, education, and design process: “I have been designing and making jewelry for 25 years. I took my first metalsmithing class as a post graduate at Interlochen Center for the Arts in Michigan in 1989. From the moment I touched the material, I knew this was what I wanted to do with my life. It was like passing through the looking glass into an ancient world of knowledge. From Interlochen, I went on to study at the Boston School of the Museum of Fine Arts, then the California College of Arts, and Haystack Mountain School of Crafts. When I graduated, I wanted to broaden my knowledge of metal arts and became a structural steel welder, sheet metal fabricator, and architectural metal fabricator. Finally, completing the circle, I started working for Katherine Aberle at Studio 311 in Northern California and learned the business behind jewelry design. In 2000, I launched my own line.

“Now, all the jewelry is designed and made almost entirely by my hand (I make everything except for chain, some clasps, and some die-struck findings). My pieces are both cast and fabricated, and all my work is handmade and finished at my studio in rural Sonoma County, California.

“I was at the forefront of the green movement in jewelry in 2005, around the time I had my first child. Becoming a mother was the most meaningful and spiritual experience I have ever known. It changed the way I perceived the future and showed me how important it was to be committed to a socially and environmentally responsible lifestyle. Since then, I only use recycled gold and try to source stones in a responsible manner as much as possible in my work. Dawes Design prides itself on making everything locally and sourcing using sustainable businesses that use recycled products. It is a priority for me to keep my work accessible to the public who truly appreciate it and for whom it resonates. It helps me realize that I am doing something of value—giving people a chance to feel like they are wearing something meaningful to them and that says a little about who they are.”

Materials of choice: “I work in 14k and 18k gold and platinum. I do not work in silver. I work with any stones that are beautiful, but I am particularly loving emeralds now, ones that appear rustic and opaque, not entirely clean, and from non-conflict areas.”

Starting retail price: “In 14k gold, a small pair of earrings retails for $200. My starting retail price in 18k gold is $400, and in platinum the price is $600.”

Retailer buy-in: “Approximately $6,000 for a good representation of my line. This includes a mix of about 12 to 20 bridal styles from my Hewn, Dewdrop, and Relic lines.”

Accounts: “I have 37 domestic accounts, including The Clay Pot in Brooklyn, N.Y., and D&H Sustainable Jewelers in San Francisco. I have one international account, Agete, which is in Japan.”

Accolades: “I was a finalist in the 2012 Future Of Design Competition, which was an AMAZING experience! I learned SO much!”

Jewelry trade show exhibits:Couture and the New York International Gift Fair.”