Design of the Times: Willow

Jacquie Earle is an award-winning jewelry designer with 30+ years of experience in textile and jewelry design. She has been creating her signature floating diamond jewelry since 2011 and launched Willow Diamonds in 2018.

We caught up with Earle to learn more about her inspiration, her design process and much more.

How did your journey in the jewelry industry begin?
My journey began over 20 years ago while I was still working as a textile designer developing fabrics for both fashion and home decorative markets. A friend of the family who produced fashion jewelry kept nudging me into jewelry. And so I started playing with various chains, findings, and stones. I felt like a kid joining pieces together, taking them apart and starting all over again. I found it quite thrilling learning how forgiving and limber jewelry-making is compared to, say, stretch fabrics which definitely have a limited lifespan and an unrecoverable death.

What was the initial inspiration for your brand?
That’s a funny story. Initially, the brand was “Willowbark” after the willowbark tree which is derived from the white willow tree and known as “nature’s aspirin.” Having endured the slings and arrows of the fashion industry, I felt in need of a pain reliever to ease my exit from the textile industry and a new career launch into jewelry. But no one could remember the “-bark” and so the name was simply changed and abbreviated to “Willow.”

What else inspires you when designing?
It’s interesting how so many of us designers are inspired by similar things and yet our individual takeaway is often so different. I love music and art.  I love movement and physical mobility — ballet, Z Health —; animals and nature; languages and cultures… and, most of all, family and friends. I think of jewelry as a personal statement and it always surprises and amazes me how the same piece on different people or in different circumstances or dress can look so different. So I envision the customer; and I imagine the piece being worn, in daily life, or a special occasion — and I work to bring the materials to life and maximize their appeal in what is hopefully the perfect piece that frames the customer.

Can you give us an idea of your design process?
Most of the time, I am faced with the materials at hand that need to be worked and hopefully sent on to a good home. I often liken the jewelry making process to cooking because the outcome is largely dependent on the materials and quality at the outset. And jewelry, in particular, is pretty revealing and transparent. 

As a product, jewelry is pretty simple and the materials often speak for themselves: i.e. the fire and color of a brilliant diamond, the luster of a pearl, the softness of 18K rose gold, a deft hand on the bench …. It’s the people and the relationships that make the product complicated. Occasionally, like many other designers, I come across that special stone or something that at the time I decided I “need” in my collection of things that some day I will make into something exquisite. And then the time comes when I hold that stone and think, “Now what?” And then I envision it into whatever piece – ring, pendant, necklace — it evokes and start designing according to a sensibility I have for the customer I imagine will wear the piece.

For me, jewelry is meant to be worn, enjoyed, and shared. I prefer more classic fluid lines because they evoke movement and are ageless and timeless.

So for me the design process depends largely on reading and understanding the customer’s desires and  marrying them to the materials.  Most of my work is also all done by hand. So there’s a lot of touch and feel to my work.

How long does it typically take to create a piece of jewelry?
It depends on the piece. Right now I have been working on a custom job for 6 months. It has taken that long to source a particular stone for a particular customer. Now that I have it, it will take a couple weeks to finally complete the job.  Within the brand, most of my pieces are set up in a week’s time. We turn around quite fast.

How would you describe your brand using only three words?
“Feminine” “Flirty” “Sublime”

How do you personalize your jewelry and designs?
Each piece is hallmarked with the Willow logo.

You have a number of different collections. Do you have a personal favorite?
Today it is our new “Marquesa” necklace and earrings.

How about a favorite piece?
Our “Oh My Jazz Diamond Hoops” – they look so simple and look so different and interesting on different women of all ages, complexions, and hair colors.

Tell us about the collections you showcased at Luxury 2019.
The new Willow Diamonds collection pushes the envelope on larger pieces and higher diamond carat weight. As a designer brand, the collection needed more robust diamond pieces with bigger stones. Customers love the concept of my laser-pierced diamonds free of any visible metal mountings. But they want and asked me for more bold pieces.

Are you partial to any particular stones or hues?
That’s a bit like asking which child do you prefer. I love them all. Each needs to find its way to its own suitable home though.

What do you think sets your jewelry apart from other companies that specialize in fine jewelry?
Firstly, all the design work begins here. Secondly, all production is in the USA so our quality standards as well as our delivery and turnaround times are superior. And most importantly, here at Willow we have the most dynamic team of skilled and seasoned jewelers, sales and marketing professionals and compassionate women and men dedicated to our retail partners’ success and thereby the Willow brand’s success.

Have you noticed a shift in consumer attitudes since the start of your brand?
Of course, as fashion is always changing so do consumer attitudes — although sometimes it is a matter of moving full circle…. We are finding that older customers prefer bigger diamonds for a bigger statement look, while younger women with a more active lifestyle prefer smaller but multiple pieces that they can layer and create their own signature look for themselves.

How would you describe your target audience?
That’s easy: women!

What was your favorite part of Luxury 2019?
Visiting with old friends and customers and meeting new customers, which is always a special show bonus!

Did you do anything fun in Vegas off the show floor this year?
I visited with old friends and enjoyed too many wonderful delicious meals.

Learn more about Willow Diamonds here.
Interested in attending Luxury by JCK 2020? Inquire about receiving an invitation
here.

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