A Cult Following: Jonas Studio Jewelry

Sliced agate, and dragon-on-shell necklaces.

Jonas Studio jewelry, by San Clemente mother and daughter Liz Jonas, 51, and Christine Jonas, 24, has attracted ardent fans since 2006. No surprise, since the pieces—made of beads, charms, shells, shark teeth, and inlaid bone—have a decidedly boho beach vibe. Now the line is getting high-wattage attention: The July issue of Vogue (yes, Vogue) featured two of their pieces. Then the rock stars  came knocking.

Tell me about your jewelry.
Liz: We source everything ourselves globally. We don’t buy any stuff online—and there are no employees.
Christine: Everything is handmade and the work is pretty extensive. People love the history behind each piece.

Where do you get your materials?
Liz: Mostly China, Bali, the East, and Middle East. A year ago my husband, Jeff, had a job in Hong Kong. I asked if we could pop over to Nepal because they have such great Tibetan jewelry. I brought back an extra suitcase of beads and pendants, which means every piece is basically one of a kind …
Christine: Even something like this (beaded pendant necklace) that Mom finds at an antique market will incorporate into something else. People will love the story behind it, and they love buying something made locally.

IMG_6635_ringHow’d you get started?
Liz: The whole jewelry thing came up because I have four kids who had lots of sports and stuff, and at the time I was a painter and sculptor so I had beads in the studio. I was just sitting there at their games …
Christine: She does not sit still …
Liz: So I grabbed some of the beads and started messing around with them. For the first two years I just made things for my family, myself, for gifts. So many people started asking me to make something for them, but I had to be able to do it with no tools so I could take the work with me. So it kind of lent itself to this really organic process that included only the beads and cords and what I could do, just sitting there, by hand.

But soon you were sourcing materials globally?
Liz: I had always collected stuff. My family’s from Portugal, and we’d go there every summer, so I had a pretty nice collection of antique rosaries. And my aunt and my mom and I would go into Lisbon where there was a treasure trove. Then I began thinking, “This could be a viable business.”

Silver and bone bangles.

How did you get to that step?
Liz: I had a trunk show in a gallery in Park City, Utah, in 2007. A client at the show had daughters who were retailers, and it grew from that. We sell to about 20 stores now, and it’s getting so we’re almost at our capacity. We talk about, “Do we bring on an employee? Do we go to the next level?” But that would require more space, and we really don’t want to do that. And most of our pieces retail for $350 or less.

How do you divvy up the work?
Christine: I came on full time almost two years ago, and we completely rebranded. I do the marketing and social media, and Mom makes the jewelry. But I co-design and do as much production as I can fit into my schedule.

And those rock stars?
Christine: We got an email from Matt Sorum, the Guns N’ Roses drummer, saying he’d purchased two pieces of our jewelry and wanted more. I was like, “Um, Mom?” So we set up a time to meet in L.A. and brought a selection of stuff. He said his friends Johnny Depp, and Steven Tyler and Joe Perry of Aerosmith would love our jewelry.
Liz: So he got a bunch of pieces for them and himself, and requested a piece to give Ringo Starr for his birthday. Now Matt is Instagramming our pieces!

What’s next?
Christine: We just launched our new website and online shop, so we’re excited about expanding.
Liz: We even began sourcing other artisan goods from our travels, which we’re now selling online, too.

What does it feel like to see people wearing your jewelry?
Christine: It’s hilarious! She has a cult following where they’ll be, “Oh you’re wearing Liz Jonas?” and she’ll say, “I am Liz Jonas,” and they’ll freak out.
Liz: It’s actually kind of cute.

For more, visit Jonas Studio.

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