Heather Swearingen’s passions lie in two things: jewelry making and green living. So when she began metalsmithing eight years ago, it was clear from the start that her business would need to be in alignment with her ethical values. Heather Louise Jewelry features handmade heirloom artisan pieces that are beautiful on both the eyes and the consciousness. We sat down with Swearingen to discuss what exactly sustainable jewelry means, and why you should consider adding a piece or two to your own collection.
Have you always been interested in making jewelry?
I’ve always been creative. I grew up in a family that had craft rooms and workshops, so creativity has always been a part of my life. In high school I played with macramé and woven jewelry. I’ve done polymer clay, hand-stamped and beaded jewelry.
Now you make jewelry out of sterling silver, right? How did that come about?
I was looking for something new to try. My husband and I went to a craft store and I found a metal stamping kit with copper blanks and little metal stamps with letters. I slowly taught myself how to do that by practice and watching YouTube videos. Now I do everything from soldering to sawing and setting the stones myself.
What exactly is sustainable jewelry?
Sustainable to me is everything from only using certified recycled sterling silver to studio practices that are plastic-free, low waste and non-toxic, as well as carbon neutral shipping. I buy gemstones directly from the mine owners and when possible, use stones that were ethically mined. I focus more on the environmental aspect.
Why is making jewelry sustainable so important to you?
I love vintage and antique jewelry, and wanted to create pieces that were timeless and high quality so they could be passed down multiple generations. Precious metals can be recycled infinitely, so if you don’t love an heirloom piece it can be redesigned and doesn’t go to waste.
How would you describe your design aesthetic?
I would describe my art as being very feminine. My work is romantic and dainty. I’m inspired by nature, so you’ll find things like flowers, birds and feathers, butterflies and celestial themes. The changing of seasons greatly influences my work as well.
Walk me through how you make a piece.
Part of the beauty of hand-made is that it’s a little imperfect; there are tool marks and everything is one of a kind. With this zinnia necklace I’m wearing, for instance, I started with the stone and designed the piece around it. I cut two discs out of sheet metal. I then stamped lines all the way around, and used my hand saw to cut out each petal. I added the little details like the folds of the petals. After I soldered the two discs together, I created the bezel, which is made to hold the stone. I file, sand and polish smooth as a finishing touch before it’s ready to wear.
What’s next for you and your jewelry line?
I want to start working on more curated collections that focus on my signature designs and best-sellers. I feel like I’ve found my voice, and want to offer a bigger selection of the core pieces my customers love.
How can we keep up with you?
I have an email newsletter through my website, HeatherLouiseJewelry.com. I share style guides and tips, sneak peek new collections and offer exclusive deals and giveaways. With each new collection, my VIP members get early access shopping before it’s open to the public. You can also follow me on social media @heatherlouisejewelry to catch all the fun behind the scenes.