Local student finds success in jewelry design

Pepperdine University student Rochelle Gordon started designing jewelry a few summers ago as a hobby; now her handcrafted line of coin pendants, semiprecious stone bracelets and delicate chain necklaces has been picked up by a hot local boutique.

Rochelle Gordon started designing jewelry as a hobby two summers ago, and now her pieces are sold at Madison boutiques throughout Southern California.

By Karley Osborn / Special to The Malibu Times

Rochelle Gordon starts her weekdays like most college students do. She grabs something from Starbucks on the run to a 9 a.m. class, settles on a salad when she can’t find anything better to eat in the cafeteria and stays up late studying for an impossible French quiz. But in other ways, her day-to-day is not quite so typical. Take, for instance, the fact that she’s currently balancing her role as a full-time Pepperdine University student with maintaining a burgeoning career as a professional jewelry designer for Era, a line of her own creation.

But nobody said the balancing act was easy. “I go to school during the day and I work, too, at Madison. I go to work there three times a week. At night, I set aside a good hour to two hours designing.”

During the day, Gordon’s Blackberry buzzes constantly with activity. When she’s not in class she’s calling stores, checking inventory, sketching designs and scheduling appointments to showcase new products with store managers.

“There’s upkeep everyday,” the 20-year-old Gordon said.

Gordon’s to-do list for Era has been steadily increasing since she first started the line as a hobby two summers ago while still living at home with her family. The line’s moniker gives a nod toward Gordon’s sisters, Erin and Allison, through a combination of the initials of the three sisters, but the influence of family isn’t limited to the product’s tagline alone.

“If you look at a necklace, it’s coins from everywhere around the world, and that’s my dad’s hobby,” she said. “My mom likes to collect semi-precious stones, so that’s what I use on the chains … it’s kind of family-based on the designs.”

If you’re anticipating sub-par craftsmanship or “I’ve-seen-that-before” designs from this student designer, prepare to have your expectations exceeded. Gordon handcrafts each piece she makes with precision and adds a unique spin to each concept.

Gordon, who aspired to design a line for “a very edgy yet unique person who likes one-of-a-kind pieces,” has kept her design concept consistently straightforward.

“I just wanted something that you can throw it on and it just adds a lot to a simple outfit,” she said.

Gordon has proved successful in portraying this design aesthetic in her current line. Antique coins from throughout the world hang from delicate chains of beads strung in a rosary style. Semi-precious stones fleck thin chain necklaces and silver pendants dangle from precisely beaded bracelets. Wrap bracelets are adorned with semi-precious stones complemented by both gold plate and sterling silver. As a line, Era is a modern counterpart to the best of Old World finery.

Madison boutiques were quick to snap up Era merchandise after a friend of Gordon’s wore one of her designs to work. The store manager called Gordon to schedule a line showing and made selections from 20 of her designs. Soon, Era was being showcased at Madison boutiques across Los Angeles.

“Each manager would call me and I would supply them with different types that they liked for their store,” Gordon said.

Currently, Gordon is in the process of launching a manufactured offshoot of her handcrafted product line. While her new branch will be more upscale, Gordon’s designs will still reference Era’s blend of youth and sophistication.

“I hope to create an Era diamond line using organic metals, organic diamonds, all organic materials to go green,” Gordon said. “I’d like to start creating more so I can branch out and go to more companies and have more people supply it later on.”

The designer plans to use the summer to kick-start the expansion of her line. Until then, her items can be found at Madison boutiques throughout Los Angeles.