Oakland, California is a region blessed with plenty of warmth and sunlight, and today we visit the Oakland Zoo. For over eight decades, the zoo has provided such attractions as the African Savannah and a simulated tropical rain forest where we catch a glimpse of lounging tigers. California is also home to featured jewelry designer Melissa Joy Manning.
Natural, simple, and raw are the cornerstones behind Manning's jewelry designs.
Working with 100% recycled 14- and 18-karat gold, sterling silver, and rough-cut precious and semi-precious stones Manning creates luminous gemstone jewelry items reminiscent of Devon Leigh Sedlacek, while the geometric forms of her metal jewelry is similar to the aesthetic of Danish designer Lilian Busch.
"I am all about purity of line. I am a metal purist. Having the opportunity to study under a Mexican master metalsmith has shaped my understanding of craft; the fluidity of shape and originality of color." she says.
"I enjoy allowing a stone to speak for itself. This knowledge of holding a piece of nature's history in my hand--formed in volcanic eruptions and asteroid landings--impels me to make jewelry."
With so much passion for jewelry making, it was a surprise to learn that the alumna of the University of California was not completely certain that the profession was her true calling. Thirteen years ago, in a grand twist of fate, while Manning casually channel surfed she landed on the sitcom Just Shoot Me which centers on the office high jinx of a fictitious women's magazine.
To Manning's astonishment, one of the show's models was wearing a necklace created by the designer. "I believe everything happens for a reason. Seeing that was the ultimate sign, and it showed me that the business was meant to be."
Moving forward, Manning was careful to build her company on a foundation of integrity and grounded sensibilities. Like fellow designer Sarah Graham (USA), Manning implements the Kimberley Process in sourcing diamonds, and only uses recycled metals.
"Building a solid business is very important. I am committed to a high company standard. I truly enjoy what I do, and I am so amazed that I get to do it with such an amazing group of people."
Also of great importance to Manning is imparting spiritual significance and our connection to nature in her jewelry items. Drawing from non-Western cultures, items such as her 14-karat gold Talisman Collar features a 150-year old Tibetan tiger claw, and a 17th century Arabic protection coin is a modern take on an ancient aesthetic.
"In Africa it is believed that the teeth and claws carry the spirit of the animal within them. When used in tribal dress, it is believed that the animal's power transfers to the wearer," she explains.
"I am intrigued by charms I find that have been around for centuries. I am intrigued by their beauty, spirituality, and history. I am honored to create a piece that respects our histories; something I believe is more precious than a diamond."
Manning's wares have also been regularly featured in such publications as Women's Wear Daily, Marie Claire, Harper's Bazaar, and InStyle.
Photo 1 (top right): 14-Karat Gold Denim Drusy Agate Ring
Photo 2 (bottom left): 14-Karat Aquamarine, Moonstone, and Drusy Talisman Collar with Arabic Protection Coin and Tibetan Tiger Claw