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Celebrating life and life’s cycles is often marked by something precious. Jewelry is so frequently the symbol, and a real-life physical manifestation of an emotional moment. Chelsey Bartrum’s fine jewelry line, Starling, is predicated on milestones. Her collection of mother-daughter bracelets and birth flower charms celebrate the beauty of the beginning as well as the meaningful passage of time.
MELISSA: How were you able to shift your business during this time? How have you been accommodating this new normal? What has changed that you were not doing before?
CHELSEY: We are a digital brand, so we are used to the groove of things. After several months of the pandemic, we have gotten back to what we used to do. In the beginning, it was definitely terrifying as not many people knew what was going on and life changed so quickly. However, the pandemic allowed us to focus more on digital whereas prior we were doing a lot of more in-person events around LA. I truly believe it is important to see jewelry in person, to visualize it on, and to feel the quality. Since we are no longer able to do in person events anymore, we had to put more focus on digital, which is great because the original mission for the brand was to be digital-first. Other than that, we did a sample sale that we tend to do once a year, we also offered a discount and a gift with purchase – just to thank our customers. Our customers were so supportive and caring during these times. People were so gracious and understanding during, so we wanted to honor that by offering discounts and a gift with purchase to thank them.
MELISSA: That is so great! I am sure people were so happy to receive an extra treat with their purchase during these times. Tell us more about how you got into jewelry and design—what is your personal connection with it?
CHELSEY: I started my career thinking I should be in the sciences and become a nurse and soon realized this was not for me. I was encouraged by some supportive people in my life to think about what I enjoyed doing. I took a metalsmithing class when I was 13 and then again in high school and I loved the idea of fire, hammering, and working with my hands. I thought to myself I will just try “what do I have to lose.” I am still doing it and my work has evolved greatly over the years. I started an apprenticeship with a master jeweler in Santa Fe, New Mexico. My husband and I lived there for a year and this re-catapulted me into the crafts angle. I then went to a craft school in New York City and interned with some designers in NYC after that. We then moved out here to LA, and I worked for a couture manufacturer where I was running the manufacturing and not creating the jewelry as much. I started Starling 5 years ago, as I am really passionate about the manufacturing and craftsmanship piece of jewelry making. We make everything in LA and we use some of the same jewelers who make the luxury high-end jewelry make ours.
MELISSA: That is amazing! I love how it is a full circle. A big part of your collection is motherhood, birth, and family—what motivated you for these milestones to become a significant part of your brand, Starling?
CHELSEY: I believe those are the most important things in life and I think that is what is so special about jewelry—how it can be given at a milestone, either little or big. It is an object that you can carry with you through times, and I just love that aspect of it. A big part of the motherhood and the connection angle is that you get to have a piece of the person you love with you all the time. There is something about it being on your skin and wearing it right against your body, that makes it so special. I focus on this because it brings the most joy and meaning for people and that also helps propel us forward in our business, getting to see how people connect with the jewelry in their lives. Fashion is not really what we do, but yet it becomes a big part of this business, in jewelry and in LA. We love sharing how people connect with these pieces.
MELISSA: People love storytelling and sharing! I love hearing how people are connected to their jewelry pieces. How did you start the mother-daughter sets? How did you come up with this idea?
CHELSEY: We actually started the company with ‘mother-daughter’ sets. There are many reasons for why we did this but a big one was based on my own experience as a child, always being the kid going through my grandma’s jewelry, making a mess. It was the first place I went whenever we went over to her house. She and I always had this connection through jewelry and I really loved the idea that you could be gifted a piece as a child, and it would be the same piece an adult would wear. That was always really a part of it… and also these sets were launched at the time in my life where all my friends were having kids. We wanted a place where husbands or whoever could buy a gift seamlessly for their loved ones.
MELISSA: Super thoughtful, a one stop shop! Knowing that your collection is sustainable, and you believe in ‘honest pricing’, how critical are these characteristics when you launched your brand?
CHELSEY: They are the backbone of what we are trying to do and are the things that are not talked about as much. If there is anything I love more than jewelry it is the earth, and I love jewelry because it’s from the earth. These metals and stones have such a crazy story when you think about how old they are and how they have grown through the center of the earth, I find this incredible and am always blown away about this. It is not easy at all, it is an evolving process and one that we are still trying to figure out. However, we keep this at the forefront of the materials we use. Stones are definitely the hardest part for sure. We are still a pretty small brand and the jewelry industry is massive, so we do not have a huge pull to be pushing. The more jewelers who are able to ask their suppliers where the stones are coming from, the more they will have to prove where the stones are from. It can be uncomfortable to ask but we keep pushing these boundaries as I think it is so important to know where your materials come from. We have some things in the work that we are excited to be sharing along with sustainability. Stay tuned!
MELISSA: What is in store for Starling and the holiday season? Are you doing anything special?
CHELSEY: We are doing a holiday bundle, that you can add on with any purchase for $50. We are offering a ceramic jewelry dish and a few other goodies that will come in nice packaging and free shipping.
MELISSA: Can’t wait for that! What are your favorite pieces and what are your best sellers? Are they one and the same or different?
CHELSEY: Our best sellers are our mother-daughter sets, we have three. My favorite piece is the birth flower charm for sure! I wear the ‘Marigold’ one which is actually my daughter’s middle name, not her birth flower.
MELISSA: That is so special, I love that! Thank you so much for your time Chelsey, we loved chatting with you.