Friday, January 28, 2011

Heart Graffiti jewelry at Renaissance this Sunday

My phone call with Sara Jones, president and founder of Ann Arbor jewelry company Heart Graffiti, ended before I even knew what was going on. You can tell a lot about a person by the way she ends a call: some people kind of putz around, waiting for the other person to pull the trigger; some people will talk forever, and you feel rude cutting them off because it's been an hour and a half and you have to get to the gym before it closes. Personally, I do the passive-aggressive "Well, I guess I have to let you go," as if, given the opportunity, I would spend the rest of my life on the phone with that person.

Jones is completely no-nonsense: "I have to be off the phone now." As in, she allotted half an hour of my busy life for this call, and now that half an hour is over, so she's going to her next appointment.

And then she's gone.

You have to admire that.

Jones' company Heart Graffiti, which she started while she was earning her MBA from the Ross School of Business last year, is presenting a trunk show this Sunday from noon to 5 PM at Renaissance on Division. She has a broad range of quality silver jewelry, also available on her company's website.

However, as a Michigan-Law-grad-to-be, I was interested in one of her lines in particular.

"Fifty-seven percent of college students today are women," said Jones. "And yet class rings are still the same style as they were when they were first designed for the Westpoint military class of 1835. People love the university, and my jewelry is an aesthetically pleasing, sophisticated design that women of all ages want to wear."

And they do. Jones has sold her unique take on the class ring to Michigan graduates from the Class of 1942 to the Class of 2013. University of Michigan President Mary Sue Coleman bought several for gifts last year. All silver, her college-themed line Ecole is available for Michigan State graduates as well, and Jones has plans to expand to other colleges, starting with the Big Ten.

Jones developed her idea for a company during a trip to Lima that she took through her MBA program. She was inspired by the elegant pieces that were evidence of the long goldsmith tradition Peru enjoys, tracing back to the Inca Empire. Heart Graffiti's chief designer Claudia Navarro lives in Lima, where she operates her own silver jewelry workshop.

With a BA in art history (and political science) and a background as a professional ballet dancer and a dancer for the NBA, Jones contributes to the designs for her lines, such as an orchid-themed necklace. "I'm always doing something creative or artistic," said Jones, who sometimes drops in for ballet class at Dance Theatre Studio on North University. "[Heart Graffiti] blends my love of business and the arts. It came about really naturally and serendipitously, and it's an incredible business opportunity. As far as I know, I'm the only person who makes bracelets you can put your class year on."

Because of the extensive support system for entrepreneurs provided by the business school, such as TechArb, Jones plans on keeping her company in Ann Arbor.

"That doesn't mean I won't go someplace warm in the winter," she said. "Maybe Miami."

Heart Graffiti can be purchased on its website, as well as at Renaissance; the Ecole line is featured at M-Den on State Street and at Briarwood Mall. I don't even wear jewelry, but I'm planning on going to the trunk show on Sunday.

At the very least, maybe I can get some tips phone etiquette.

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