Today we introduce Simona Counts, an amazing jewelry designer we are honored to feature!
Simona was born and raised in Bucharest, Romania. A long career as a runway model and traveling the world opened the doors for her to get in touch with other cultures and ways of life, and defined her taste for colors, shapes and textures. Interestingly, she has a law degree and worked for several years in the field of Family Law; however, she found that it was not easy to deal with the often sad and difficult situations her clients faced. Making jewelry after her normal work hours brought her comfort and healing. At the beginning of 2012, she made the difficult decision to abandon the legal profession -- in an attempt to focus more on the creative aspect of her life.
Like many of us, her journey started with a 2005 visit to Tucson, Arizona, home to one of the greatest gem shows in the country. She just immersed herself into that "ocean of sparkling gemstones" (her words, and a great way to describe the place) -- and she knew then and there that there that there was no going back!
The jewelry-making (once she had the gorgeous gem show stock) started out as a hobby, with a few pieces that were meant as presents for family and friends. Later on, her collections quickly grew from a few pieces that sold very fast at trunk shows, to hundreds of uniquely designed pieces that have been showcased in fashion shows, retail boutiques, collections, art galleries, fundraisers and big events such as Pebble Beach's 2012 Concours d'Elegance where she was invited to participate as a guest artist. In 2013 at the Primetime Emmy Awards, her original designs were prominently featured on display and gifted to celebrities; and in 2014, her creations were offered as prizes to all contestants of the Queen of the Universe Pageant! This year is going to be another big year for her -- as she has lots of invitations and events lined up. It has now been ten years since she started the journey -- and she's pleased to say that her passion for it is still growing.
Simona's favorite materials are natural and organic. The rougher and less polished the gemstones are, the more she likes them. Somehow they all manage to make it into unique pieces that turn heads and keep the compliments flowing. Through trial and error, she learned to design pieces that she would enjoy wearing herself. This allows her to honor her true creativity, instead of producing something just to sell. That's what makes it Simona's art. If someone else loves it, she's flattered, but her true purpose is to generate unique designs that evolve and change as she does.
Inspired by color and mixing sophisticated style with the simplicity of primary shapes, she incorporates in her earthy yet elegant designs an organic approach using raw or minimally processed gemstones, freeform geode slices, natural pearls, Swarovski crystals, often set in textured metals like gold, brass, silver and copper. Each design is uniquely handcrafted with a passion for nature and all things beautiful.
Speaking of uniqueness, most of her designs are one-of-a-kind, as she does not like to repeat an idea. She only re-creates a piece when asked to do so by friends or clients. Shown to the right is a special order she created for a client whose birthstone is Aquamarine. The pendant is a flawless 30.5ct antique cushion-cut aquamarine, set in vermeil (14K gold over sterling silver) and enhanced by 23 white sapphires. The aquamarine comes from the Santa Maria de Itabira mine in Brazil, where some of the highest quality specimens of brilliant blue stones are mined.
In addition to learning as much as possible about gemstones (which fascinate her), she also loves experimenting with new techniques.
Her style encompasses a wide range of techniques, from stringing pearls to cutting, shaping, hammering and aging/creating patina on all sorts of metals.She makes her own clasps, ear wires and other findings. Her latest endeavor is riveting, as you can see from the image here -- a casual leather bracelet with a rustic flair.
Simona is so lucky to live in and work in Monterey, a beautiful coastal city in Central California. She and her husband bought their own little piece of paradise there in 2008, 1.5 miles from the coast of the Pacific Ocean. They added flowers, fountains and a bamboo "forest" in the back yard, a great place for their cat and dog to play hide-and-seek. Marked by thousands of years of history (Monterey was home to the Esalen Indians around 500BC) and surrounded by spectacular scenery (Big Sur, Carmel, Pebble Beach), the inspiration just keeps flowing to her.
The jewelry studio is located at the back of the house, a tiny, bright room facing east, where she likes to start her days watching the sunrise with a cup of frothing cappuccino, trying to slow down and organize the million different creative ideas that flood her mind.
I asked her what one thing she finds most frustrating in the jewelry design business. She said that one of her biggest is to make "certain" people understand the uniqueness of each and every piece that comes out of the hands of an artist; in addition to the expense of the materials, there are hours upon hours of creation, dedication, doing and undoing, etc. As she puts it, "You just can't compare a handcrafted product with something bought from a line of hundreds of identical products. Each handcrafted piece is unique and carries within the passion of the person who created it. You can't get that anywhere else and consequently, it comes with a slightly higher price tag."
When she encounters someone who just doesn't get it (as you, dear audience, surely do!), she politely explains what type of gemstones/materials were used to create the piece, where they were sourced from, what treatment they underwent, what techniques were used, how long it took to create that particular piece, and even the inspiration behind it. That seems to help a lot in making people understand the true value of a piece -- and subsequently, there is usually less effort to 'bargain' and 'haggle'.
You can find her stunning work at her web site: http://www.adorabysimona.com -- and also at her gallery on Hatch.co, a marketplace for unique made-to-order products created by a community of handpicked professional designers and makers: https://www.hatch.co/maker/adora_by_simona
She sells at local venues -- an annual fundraiser through Entre Nous Society, a high-end event geared towards raising awareness and funds for various causes. And she sells at a number of boutiques and art galleries in Carmel, Monterey and Pacific Grove, CA. This spring, she is excited to be launching her first bridal collection -- and is looking forward to participating in Bridal Shows, which would be an entirely new endeavor.
There's also the 'ADORA Annual Holiday Trunk Show', which is now in its 7th year (!), taking place the first weekend in December -- at her home in Monterey. There, she has all the props, lighting, mirrors, etc. she needs to make the finishing touches on 6 displays of various collections, including a 'sale' table with pieces from older collections listed at hefty discounts. (Insert image of Sheila stamping her foot petulantly here, saying I WANT TO GO!!! Don't you?) :-)
She also has a blog, http://adorabysimona.blogspot.com , where she writes about gemstones, fashion trends, history, events, or whatever else catches her imagination. In January 2015 she started the Birthstones Series, dedicated to sharing as much interesting information as she can find about the gemstone of the month.
My advice after interviewing her? Check this woman out! She is truly talented and a wonderful role model for us -- and likely for many others!
Until Next Time,