80 Dartmouth St., Boston
“Just knock, darling” reads the sign on the front door of Ore, the South End boutique Sophie Hughes opened a year and a half ago that already earned a nod in Boston’s yearly best-of issue. It could easily be her motto, given the opportunities she’s had since graduating from Massachusetts College of Art in 2008. Hughes’ work is available in boutiques such as Roseark in Los Angeles. Yet her hope was always to own a specialized, curated store like Ore.
LIVING THE DREAM
“I’ve been really diligent about the whole thing, but I’ve definitely had some luck,” admits Hughes. Her Instagram feed (@sophiehughesjewelry) caught the eye of stylist Penny Lovell, who placed Hughes’ earrings on Orange Is the New Black star Taylor Schilling. Those Lightning earrings, made of oxidized sterling silver fused with recycled 18k gold, belong to the aptly named Brazen collection. Reclaimed metals hand-pounded with vintage hammers from Hughes’ home state of Maine give each piece a uniquely rugged quality, while pops of gold and tourmalated quartz make pieces like a one-of-a-kind Moon necklace feel utterly regal. Brazen designs range from $350 to $3,500, but Ore also offers items at an “impulse price point”—a house line of gold-fill earrings and bangles for $45–$65.
IT’S A GIRL THING
Ore boasts a balance of glass-cased collections and “things people can touch,” designed exclusively by local female jewelers. When Hughes originally opened Ore, she didn’t feature collections solely designed by women. But the more Hughes connected with her fellow female artists, the more important it became for her to showcase women whose mission mirrored her own: creating wearable, sustainable jewelry. “There’s something special I share with female designers regarding our relationship with jewelry,” she explains. “We approach designing in a unique way, because we’re wearing it as well as making [it]. We design for ourselves in a way. I have nothing against the boys, but female designers are my community, and I want to focus on supporting them.”
At the center of the showroom, a jewelry case plays coffee table to a sofa, lending the space an expertly designed living-room feel. On the walls, photographs from Heather McGrath’s Beauty in Nature collection complement the dark wood floors, and textured paintings by local artist Wayne Stokes mimic the hand-forged chains hanging around the room. “I do want things to feel special and precious,” she says, “but I also want them to feel inviting and approachable.”
While the store often features a rotating selection from six to eight designers, there are two that Hughes consistently carries: Hannah Blount and Lauren Passenti. “We hang out and talk shop,” says Hughes, who displays the trio’s pieces in ways that make her feel like she’s spending time with friends, not just showing their work next to her own. “I love seeing how ideas funnel through the three of us in different ways,” she explains, pointing to her green amethyst necklace, where three handmade gold links break up a 32-inch oxidized silver chain. The interspersed design echoes the layered, hinged chains throughout Passenti’s line, and also resonates in Blount’s Grand Double Pyrite Vanity necklace, where a single large link decorates a long chain holding a claw-set stone. “I love the culture, connections, and mechanisms in jewelry,” Hughes says. “Irregular, wonky textures are key to my style.”
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