Meet the Designer: Kimberly - East & Ray Jewelry Co.

Kimberly McNamara has been a member of the Braunschweiger team for 6 years. Many of you may have seen her in our New Providence location helping you or your loved ones pick out the perfect gift or surprise for someone special. After moving to our service department, Kimberly was able to make the dream of creating a jewelry line a reality. Kimberly set up a jeweler’s bench in her house and stocked it with everything she would need to create East and Ray Jewelry Co. In her spare time, and during quarantine, Kimberly worked feverishly to create the bright and beautiful designs you see today. We asked her some questions about her journey and what inspired her to create such a fun, wearable line:

Q: Where do you live in PA? And why Pennsylvania?

A: I live in Easton, PA, right over the border from New Jersey. It’s the perfect location for commuting back to NJ for work, but I also get to explore Pennsylvania on weekends. I live right along the Delaware River, which has a great bike path for the summer months, and we’re a short distance to the Pocono Mountains for skiing in the winter months.

Fun fact – the Delaware River is the background in most of my outdoor photos.

Q: Why did you choose a career in jewelry design? Was it something you always wanted to do?

A: Growing up, I always envisioned having an artistic career and tried many different art mediums. I fell in love with making jewelry while attending a liberal arts college, working towards a bachelor of fine arts degree. During my time in college, I took courses in painting, drawing, ceramics, printmaking, etc., but metals and jewelry was really where I found my niche. I love that jewelry is a 3D form of art that can be worn and enjoyed. I’ve now been making jewelry and working in metal for 11-plus years.

Q: How has working at Braunschweiger Jeweler’s taught you about the jewelry industry? About customers? About jewelry design?

A: I have been working at Braunschweiger Jewelers for 6 years now. I worked on the sales floor with customers for the first few years and I learned so much about the reasons why people purchase jewelry and the memories, stories and meaning behind each purchase. I now work in the service department, as one of the bench jewelers taking care of repairs, and that has really been the best learning experience for me. Working alongside other jewelers, getting to learn from them and practicing my skills every day has helped me grow tremendously.

Repairing jewelry is much different than making a piece of jewelry from the beginning, but it has helped me learn and see all the different ways a piece can be made. It is also a nice challenge to work on something that has been made by someone else; it’s like recreating a puzzle.

My experience and time working at Braunschweiger Jewelers has greatly impacted my skills and has helped me grow as a jeweler.

Q: What was the first piece of jewelry you ever designed?

A: The first piece of jewelry I ever made was a large oval sterling silver ring with a bezel-set malachite cabochon. It was a simple design, but the stone is big and bright, which is what drew my attention. The design itself is similar to pieces I make today, but of course with more refinement and practice over the years.

Q: What other artistic expression do you work in?

A: Any and all mediums! I have always been crafty and creative and love learning how to use different mediums. I love a good DIY project – anything from furniture upcycling, painting, crochet, macrame, sewing, etc.

Q: What inspires you most?

A: Stones – I have been collecting rocks and gemstones since I was young and it’s still one of my favorite hobbies and sources of inspiration. A gemstone that is cut and polished from a rough piece of rock is itself a piece of art. I like to draw inspiration from the cut and color of each stone to complement and enhance its beauty in the design. All of the stones I use in my jewelry have been ethically sourced from American mines.

Q: What is your favorite gemstone to work with?

A: Turquoise! Turquoise is my favorite because of the different variations in color. Depending on what mine the turquoise comes from, it can be any color variation of blue, green and even white. Turquoise is a soft, porous stone, so it is delicate to work with, which makes it that much more rewarding and exciting. Turquoise also pairs really well with silver, which is the metal I work with most.

Q: Your jewelry is earthy and organic-looking, as is your packaging, which has a great reference to mountains and sea. What has been your major influence?

A: The sun is a symbol that I have incorporated into my designs for many years. It has evolved to become East & Ray’s logo and maker’s mark. Each piece I make is stamped with a sunray, usually on the back for just the wearer to see. The sun can mean so many different things, but I like to believe that the sun stamp brings a little sunshine and happiness to whomever is wearing that jewelry piece.

My influence is nature and the stones found in nature, as I mentioned before. I aim to draw inspiration from natural and organic landscapes, sunsets, mountains, etc.

All packaging for East & Ray is eco-friendly, made out of recycled materials and hand-stamped by me in an effort to be more friendly to the environment.

Q: Describe your target consumer? Who is she, what does she love to wear and what does she love to do most (her lifestyle, attitude and behavior)?

A: East & Ray Jewelry is made to be worn by anyone, regardless of age. Most pieces are simple and meant to be a staple piece of jewelry to add to your collection alongside other jewelry. I use heavy-gauge metal and always solder every opening closed to make sure that the pieces can withstand everyday wear and last for a long time. The bracelets and rings can be worn alone for a simple look or stacked with others to create a more bold, colorful look.

My target consumer is a male or female who is always up for an adventure. Someone who is willing to explore, travel, and enjoy nature while collecting jewelry pieces along the way. My favorite hobby is to collect jewelry pieces along my travels that are symbolic to the place or area. East & Ray jewelry is meant to be added to an existing collection and paired with other jewelry as a reminder of a specific memory unique to the wearer.

Q: What is the next direction you are exploring for your future collections?

A: I am exploring working in different metals. Sterling silver will always be my preferred metal of choice, but I would love to be able to offer some of my designs in yellow gold, brass, and copper or rose gold.

I will continue to work with different varieties of turquoise stones, but I am also focusing on expanding my everyday stamped jewelry line in various metals.