A conversation with jewelry maker Rachael Cross

St. Louis native Rachael Cross is the wonder woman behind Simply Chic Jewelry, a business she started in the mid-2010s. She is 100 percent a #girlboss if I’ve ever seen one. I’ve been following her journey of hand-forging her own jewelry for almost as long as she’s been doing it.

She and I talked Saturday evening about her shop, the lessons she’s learned along the way, and the future of her business.

Elly Gibson: First off, can you tell me a little bit about yourself and your Etsy shop?

Rachael Cross: I’m pretty simple, really. I’m a 32-year-old wife, mom, and career woman who runs on diet Mountain Dew. By day, I’m a logistics manager and, by night, I’m a torch-wielding metal-melter.

As for my shop, it opened in October 2014 and was born out of the necessity to get rid of thousands of jewelry supplies. It didn’t really work well but I always felt I should do more. It evolved into metal stamping, then druzy wire wrapping until I became bored in the summer of 2015. I had an itch to make rings that weren’t wire wrapped. I wanted to be able to use gemstones that didn’t have holes. So I started looking up YouTube videos on metalsmithing. That next week, I was making my own rings and from then on, it evolved into all of the designs I have today. Every design has been struck by one of my hammers and kissed by my flame in some way.

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EG: I actually still have one of your wire-wrapped druzy necklaces! Which tells me we’ve “known” each other since at least 2015. Funnily enough, we’ve never actually met face to face, but I feel like I know you. And it’s almost like I’m watching your cute, funny son grow up on Instagram. Do you meet a lot of different people from around the country because of your shop?

RC: Oh my god, I feel like those necklaces were made forever ago! Time has flown. I feel like I know you and your little family as well. That’s an interesting question to think about because I do. A lot of my closest supporters/customers/friends live nowhere near me. It’s awesome how a similar interest brought us all together.

EG: Where do you find inspiration for the jewelry you make?

RC: Color is my main inspiration. I have a minimalist style and color provides the perfect amount of “oomph.” If I have a shirt I love, I want it in all colors. I’m the same with my jewelry. You’ll notice there are multiple gemstone options for every design. I wanted to let my customers choose the best stone that works for their style.

EG: What’s your favorite material to work with? Do you have a favorite gem? I love the darker colored diamonds you post and I’m partial to the moonstones and the Herkimer diamonds myself. Oh and the beautiful labradorites!

RC: I love gold-filled materials, even though silver looks better on my skin. It’s always the first metal I choose when designing a new piece. I feel it complements all of the gemstones nicely. My favorite gemstone is the Herkimer diamond. Like, I’m in awe of how they’re formed naturally like that in dolomite. It’s simply amazing and each one is totally unique.

EG: What’s one thing you think has really helped push your brand and your business forward?

RC: It’s hard to narrow it down to just one thing, but it’s a toss-up between social media and paid training courses. Actually, I guess you could say the Etsy training courses I invested in. Without those, I wouldn’t have been found on Etsy and wouldn’t have a social media following.

EG: Last year, you won a grant from The BALSA Foundation. What was that like?

RG: I was surprised I was even selected, to be honest. The BALSA Foundation is the philanthropic arm of the BALSA group and they help first-time entrepreneurs with business consulting and advice. The grant involved a long application process and I was up against at least 150 other ideas. It was an honor to be selected and what I learned was invaluable. I won $1,000 with the grant to put toward my business, but I also got two-hour-long learning sessions with an accountant, lawyer, business consultant, etc., the difficult parts of running a business. It was awesome!

EG: How do you balance your full-time job, motherhood, being married, and your shop? You are a very busy lady.

RC: I’m thankful for my husband. He knows that I want SCJ to support us all one day and is proud of my success so far. So I work during the day, spend time with my son and my husband when I get home and then after my son goes to bed, I make jewelry. My husband will also help at in-person shows.

EG: That’s so great! Tell me about your latest design release, SCJ Bold. They are so beautiful and different from your usual designs but, at the same time, it feels like a natural next step.

RC: It’s a line where minimalist meets vibrant. I needed a different creative outlet when I was stressed over Christmas. So I bought some resin to make jewelry dishes and cones. But then it didn’t feel right to do just that. A lightbulb went off one day and I filled my hammered circle design with some resin. I stumbled a bit with colors and designs at first. I should show you prototypes; they were clunky to me. But the smooth, sleek lines of my released designs now feel natural. I won’t be 100 percent resin and metalsmithing, but releasing a side collection leaves me more room to release other ventures.

EG: What are your plans for the future of Simply Chic Jewelry? Do you already have some new design ideas buzzing around your head or are there any other projects on the horizon?

RC: I do! To keep things from getting stale for me, I always think of new designs by browsing gemstones from my suppliers. I also have a bunch of gems stashed away. I just released my pear moonstone rings, studs, and necklaces. I’ll have some more colored opal rings to release soon. And just today I got out my rose cut diamonds, so I’ll finally get those ready for release.

As far as the future goes, I’ve invested in some more training courses from well-known entrepreneurs to take SCJ to the next level. I also hope to increase my reach with new wholesale partners.

EG: That’s awesome! Honestly, it’s been really incredible to see your shop grow into what it is today.

RC: Thank you so much! I like reflecting on where I was to where I am. I’m forever a student so I’m always willing to learn more. There will most likely be more evolution in my future.

You can see more of Rachael’s beautiful jewelry creations on the Simply Chic Jewelry website as well as her Etsy shop. You can follow Simply Chic Jewelry on Instagram at @simplychicjewelry.me.

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