There are hundreds of artisanal jewelers in Simcoe County, each with their own distinctive style. Lucky for us locals, because the talented artisans that populate our neighbourhoods can give our accessories a perfect, personal flair.
The love for local artisans is what drove Olivia Neal to create Harold + Ferne: The Local Goods Co. At Harold + Ferne, all products are handmade, one-of-a-kind, and sourced from within a 50 km radius. “I wanted to create a space where our community could celebrate those still exploring artisanal crafts,” says Neal. “The lack of transparency in so many big brands makes it difficult for shoppers who want to support a sustainable lifestyle, make informed decisions.” And shopping local is sustainable shopping. “It leaves a smaller footprint,” says Neal. “And we strive to leave this Earth better than how we found it by using reusable and sustainable products and services.”
Local artisan Jennifer Wolfe, owner of Bliss Jewellery, takes the idea of reusability to the next level. Her favourite specialty service involves repurposing clients’ sentimental jewelry into something completely new. “Clients bring me their old, broken, unused jewelry and we chat about what it is they would like to make with it.” Her clients then create a Pinterest page of jewelry, so she can get a sense of their style. “By the time they have created their page, I can see recurring themes of what they consistently gravitate to. I send my clients a sketch of their dream jewelry and we go from there. It is a very personal process to go through.”
And it can get very personal, says Wolfe. “One of my most challenging repurposing jobs was for a customer who had recently lost her father. She wanted to preserve his memory by using a star diamond that she had given him many years ago. Together with the star diamond and some diamonds she inherited from a friend who had passed away from cancer, she was able to create a beautiful set of stacking rings. The client said, ‘When I look at them, I think of my Dad and it warms my heart.’”
Personalizing jewelry is a way of keeping memories close to you every day. And it has become more and more popular, especially as artisans have begun to host online stores. No one knows this better than Colleen Johnson at 2 Sisters Handcrafted, who has garnered international popularity with her personalized, hand-crafted jewelry. Johnson has an impressive resume of commissions, including Selena Gomez, Christina Hendricks, Jenny McCarthy, Amanda Seyfried, Sarah Jessica Parker, Khloe Kardashian, and Dwayne “The Rock” Johnson. “It doesn’t quite feel real to think of some of the celebrities who have worn my jewelry,” says Johnson. “It’s a small world and it’s amazing how my little studio in Barrie has been able to be found.”
But as much as her work has been recognized abroad, Johnson says 2 Sisters Handcrafted is still rooted locally. “Having so much natural surroundings inspires so many of my designs. From the mermaid bracelet inspired by the shores of Lake Simcoe, to the birch bark textured cuff inspired by the trees I see out my back windows, Barrie is very much a part of 2 Sisters Handcrafted.”
When it comes to local artisanal jewelry, the options for personalization are endless—and the affordability may surprise you. So, next time you want to upgrade your accessory game, consider taking a stroll downtown. You can feel good about shopping locally while getting something custom-made, just for you.