Becoming Dear Jane
Updated: Dec 17, 2020
As a child, one of my favorite things to wake up to was my father saying “what do you think about coming with me today?” My mom would pack us a healthy lunch (which we would promptly ditch and replace with M&Ms and chips from the gas station) and off we would go all over central Vermont hitting every antique store along the way. Some of the stores were well-organized, with beautiful mahogany bedroom sets displayed as if the family was about to come home and curl up in bed. In other stores there was no rhyme or reason to how the items were displayed. In most of the stores my girl-aged brain categorized the items as OLD and BORING. But what every store had that was NOT old OR boring was a glass case filled with beautiful, one-of-a-kind estate jewelry.
Back then I didn’t recognize the period pieces as Art Deco or Victorian Era or Eduardian, I just knew I loved them. The elaborate gold designs, the mystical gemstones like amethyst, bloodstone, onyx, and coral-drew me in and made me wonder about the women who wore these pieces. Their lives must have been so different than mine, with my skipping school and galivanting all over with my father. As I’d talk with the store keeper about the pieces (most of whom were very nice and often allowed me to try pieces on without my even having to ask) I would hear the other store patrons walking on the creaky floors and my father whistling as he always does (still) when he walks around antique stores. The allure of jewelry has stayed with me, reminding me of those pleasant memories. My love of reading began as early as my love of jewelry. My family spent summers on a small lake in a house my great-grandfather and great-grandmother built. The internet was not a thing then, and the house was far enough out that at that point didn’t even have a phone service. Sunny days were spent swimming with my brothers and sister and rainy or cold days (as happens with Vermont summers) were spent inside curled up with a book. Judy Bloom’s Are You There God, It’s Me Margaret and Katherine Paterson’s Bridge to Terabithia infused a sense of excitement in me that the other camp activities didn’t. I’d read for hours and hours, sometimes only getting up when I heard my mother moving around the kitchen getting ready for dinner.
As I got older, I continued to find an escape in the books I was reading. It wasn’t that I needed to get away from my own life, it was just that the lives of the characters in these books were so different than mine-much like the lives I wondered about the previous owners of the estate jewelry I would model in the antique stores. I devoured Harper Lee’s To Kill a Mocking Bird and remember weeping reading Emily Bronte’s Wuthering Heights. Over time, I’ve clung on to certain characters in literature because of their headstrong originality and the heartbreaking truth they speak. These characters, I am certain, would become my friends had we been written into the same realm. So full they are of universal circumstance, they continue to resonate deeply even now, so many years later, in a completely different (and sometimes painfully similar)world. I filled journals with quotes from these books that I wanted to remember forever and memorized many of them to use later when I wrote cards to friends or boyfriends. These words became very dear to me, and I shared them with my Dear Ones.
My love of words led me to begin college with a focus in speech and language pathology and I ultimately majored in English Literature. I was exposed to areas of literature I may not have ventured in to on my own and learned how books shaped history. Again, I saw how timeless characters brought people together who were born centuries apart. The ways sentiments in literature are carried through generations fascinates me. I minored in Studio Art and while I didn’t focus on jewelry design, I was able to explore different types of sculpture techniques, drawing, and lithography. Always, my projects included the visual art piece with some sort of written word incorporated into the design. After graduation I worked at a publishing company in Boston and lived in Brookline in the same neighborhood where my dear friends had just opened a beautiful boutique (which is still there 15 years later called Mint Julep). At that time, my sister and I had been making jewelry for fun and one day my friends asked if we’d like to sell our jewelry in their store. I still remember the text I got from my friend when the first pair of earrings sold. I was SO excited, not because of the sale, but because we had created something beautiful that someone else loved too. While my sister’s talents ultimately took her in another direction, I was hooked. And, as with my college projects, I couldn’t resist the temptation to add the written word to my designs. I continued working full time at the publishing company but couldn’t wait to get home every night to create. As my friends and family started giving me custom requests, I began to see that I might actually be able to make this work as a real job! After about a year, I stopped working at the publishing company and opened my first Etsy store for Dear Jane's sister brand, Alloy Jewelry. One of the best parts of creating jewelry is hearing stories from my customers about THEIR Dear Ones who they are buying for. I become invested in these stories and it makes it even more special to send them a piece of my work. I am thrilled that you found Dear Jane and hope you will feel comfort by wearing your piece and feeling the sentiment it holds. Leah Jones Founder/Head Designer Dear Jane