Jewelry Designer Jamie Joseph Likes to Make Rare Rocks Sparkle

The owner of Jamie Joseph Jewelry specializes in working with gemstones: 'the heirlooms and geological legacy of this planet'
| FROM THE PRINT EDITION |
 
 
SPARKLY, PRETTY THINGS. Jamie Joseph describes herself as a “treasure hunter.”

This article appears in the May 2019 issue. Click here for a free subscription.

Jewelry designer Jamie Joseph owns and operates Seattle-based Jamie Joseph Jewelry — along with her husband, Jeremy, who is a stonecutter. Her specialty is working with gemstones, which her Instagram page describes as “the heirlooms and geological legacy of this planet.”

Describe the qualities of a Jamie Joseph ring.
It all starts with the stone. Jeremy cuts it from rough or recuts to make it ours. From there, it has to have a gold bezel, a platform with a certain amount of lip overhang and signature details on the shank [band].

Give me the elevator pitch for what you do.
I’m left brain and right brain, so I do everything: Choose stones, put stones into production, explain to a jeweler how I want something made, go to market and talk to store owners. 

Are you a control freak?
Yes, but I’m getting better at delegating because you can’t do everything with an operation this big.

How do you choose your employees?
People have to have the skills, obviously, but we’re a tight-knit family, so it’s really more about does this person fit in with everyone else. Doesn’t take long to figure that out.

Describe your relationship to money.
My dad was a stockbroker, he had his own business and he taught me about investing early on. By seventh grade, I had a real portfolio with real money to invest and by age 16, I had my own checking account. As a result, money doesn’t intimidate me.

Did you own a jewelry box as a kid?
I did, but what I remember is the look, feel and wonderful smell of my mom’s jewelry box and my grandmother’s jewelry box. They had lots of costume jewelry and I would dress up in my red skirt, drape myself in their jewelry and spin around!

So, costume jewelry is what first got you hooked?
What first got me hooked was rocks. We lived in the Ozarks, in Missouri, and every weekend I would beg my parents to take us to the river to collect rocks. I’d break them open and find geodes — rounded, hollow voids in rocks filled with crystals and other minerals — that I would organize and identify and put in my Barbie Doll case.

Was it the science of rocks that interested you? 
No. I’m a treasure hunter and I love sparkly, pretty things. To this day, if we’re walking on the beach, I’m like, “Let’s find beach glass!” I love the thrill of the hunt.

Do you remember the first ring you ever made? 
My first ring was a silver, round malachite ring, with sloppy solder lines and a crooked setting. It was hideous.

Do you still have it and wear it? 
I do, and I do not.

How does a new design idea begin?
A lot of times I work with the jewelers, but it can be hard for them to interpret what I want, so the best way for me to design is to sit down with the material and feel it, bend it, have a dialogue with it.

Do you have a favorite Jamie Joseph ring? 
My all-time favorite ring is a black opal that virtually glows. We call it “the flashlight.”

Name a few celebrities who have worn your jewelry. 
Naomi Watts wore some pieces on the red carpet and owns a few as well. Also, Kate Beckinsale, Cameron Diaz and Elizabeth Taylor. 

Tell me the Elizabeth Taylor story. 
Not long before she died, the famous fashion photographer Bruce Weber bought one of my rings, an all-gold amethyst point ring, and gave it to Liz Taylor, who apparently loved it and kept it on her nightstand.

Has there been a turning-point experience in your life? 
I’ve been a workaholic for a long time and, in the last couple of years, I’ve realized that a work-life balance is essential, and that health and happiness is real wealth.

What made you realize these things? 
Age and aging parents.

Is there anything you cannot live without? 
My husband and my two cats. They’re everything.

How do you deal with disappointment? 
Long walks. I can be upset or disappointed about something and, as I walk, those emotions move through me so that, by the end, I feel completely different.

What’s your biggest indulgence? 
Fine hotels and fine linens.

Name a standout moment from last year. 
When our garden came to fruition, we had blueberries, red strawberries, white strawberries and raspberries all at the same time. We’d wake up and pick in the morning and come home after work and had to pick some more!

You’re stuck on a desert island and can have one book, one record, one food, and one piece of jewelry. 
“Siddhartha” by Herman Hesse; “Blue” by Joni Mitchell; chips and salsa; and jewelry does not belong on the beach.

Is there anything people might be surprised to learn about you? 
Jeremy and I sold dancing-bear earrings and magic hair sticks at Grateful Dead concerts.

Are you still a Deadhead? 
Oh, yeah. Jerry Garcia forever. 

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