Style Talk With: Katie Nguyen, Founder of Urth and Sea

Huntington Beach-based designer’s jewelry is handmade and sustainable.
Photographs by Emily J. Davis

Not only does Katie Nguyen create each piece in her jewelry line Urth and Sea by hand, but she also ensures that her brand is eco-friendly and has a tree planted for each order. Customers can find her line at SeaVees in Newport Beach, Purre in Costa Mesa, Attu Clothing in Laguna Beach, and at pop-ups almost every weekend. “I just love meeting everyone at the pop-ups,” Nguyen says. Stay up to date on upcoming events on the brand’s Instagram.

How did you start Urth and Sea?

It started as a hobby. I spent a lot of time at a crystal shop in Huntington Beach where I learned the basics of making jewelry, but I mainly learned on my own through YouTube videos and experimenting. I (decided to) try and sell a couple of pieces for fun on Instagram. I asked the universe to give me a brand name, and late at night it came to me—Urth and Sea. I started my website in May 2021. I’ve learned so much being a small-business owner. I did my first pop-up in December 2021, and since then it’s been nonstop for me. 

What materials do you use?

I use 14-karat gold-filled and sterling silver. I don’t use any plastic, and I source vintage pearls. I have a supplier in Georgia. She collected these pearls at an estate sale. They’re from the ’40s and ’50s. I try to use only vintage pearls because most pearls on the market today are mass-produced, so you don’t really know how ethical it is. 

Can you describe the process?

It just starts with a wire, and I have this hardware that I attach the wire to and crimp it. I bead them one by one. I don’t have a bead spinner, I do it by hand—very intentional, very slow. One piece sometimes takes me an hour. I’ve made up to 60 pieces in one sitting. I’d be up until 2 a.m. because I had a pop-up the next day, and I had a full-time job. I wanted to make sure I had a wide variety of pieces for everyone, and then I’ll have people reach out and ask if I can make a certain one. 

How do you come up with new designs?

It’s very intuitive, and I’m inspired by nature. A lot of my pieces are named after places I’ve been to or want to visit. I’ll think of places and design around that. My favorite is the Topanga because it really does represent that range of mountains and town. I’ve also designed around … the colors of a guava tree. 

How is your line sustainable?

The packaging is marked eco-friendly because 70 percent of the packaging I use is post-consumer waste. All the packaging is recyclable. I’m always trying to stay away from plastic in general. I pride myself on investing in (sustainability) from the beginning versus working up to it. I even recycle the materials I don’t use. 

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