Made in America…

For years, the tiny state of Rhode Island was known world wide as the “costume jewelry capital of the world”. The finest, most intricate, best made fashion jewelry came from the it’s cities and factories, made by folks for whom – in many cases – jewelry was a trade handed down over many generations. The best model makers, casters, the finest plating, stone setting, stringing, knotting, handwork.. any type of technique was either done there or perfected there.

How times have changed.

The tipping point seems to have come somewhere in the early 90’s (A Competitive Assessment of the US Jewelry Industry, Phase I: Costume Jewelry. Report to the Committee on Finance, US Senate, October 1986), when imports from off-shore more than doubled, and US employment in the jewelry industry began to decline. As early as 1998, a full 50% of the jewelry sold in the US was imported (Costume Jewelry Industry Yearbook, 2001) Between 1997 and 2002, the number of US jewelry manufacturers dropped by more than 29%… by 2008, it was a 43% decrease. Some industry insiders put the loss of business at 85% or higher – 85% of the US manufacturing facilities shuttered and closed over the last 25 years. This despite booming domestic sales in fashion jewelry for most of that span.

When I began to assemble the team to launch my new line, I had no idea the situation had deteriorated to this point. I made dozens of phone calls, sent hundreds of emails and faxes, only to be told time and again “You can’t make jewelry here. You have to go offshore.” It would seem that Thailand, India, and especially, China, had swallowed alive the once grand American Jewelry Industry.

But not quite all of it.

If you know me, you know I don’t give up easily, and that taking “no” is not in my nature. It’s still here – the jewelry industry – and it’s still in Rhode Island. Many of the artisans are scattered; tremendously gifted model-makers delivering pizzas to make ends meet brings tears to my eyes, but they are there. And they are still working. And now, some of them are working for The Stefanie Somers Collection.

We’re just a part of a very vigorous movement towards “Made in America”, and we will stay that way. While we are also tremendously proud to be a Swarovski Elements partner, and that huge portion of our jewelry is not, of course, US in origin, as much of the rest as is humanly possible is – our casting, plating, finishing, assembly, stone-setting, beading, packaging, everything else is Made in America.

I urge you to be aware of the where what you use and wear was born. Some industries are by nature based in specific parts of the world, but others… The United States WAS the fashion jewelry industry for most of the last century, until cheap off-shore labor lured all those dollars halfway around the globe. We have the capability to bring it back, and we will continue to do whatever we can to bring it home.

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