Handcrafted jewellery made from recycled metals and hand mined stones

November 23, 2019
Thomas Rose & Sophie Pollard
Amoria Jewellery
precious metal
Revenue: up to $500 / month
People working: 2
Tell us about yourself. What business did you start?

We're Tom and Sophie and we run Amoria Jewellery. We're 21 and 20 respectively and we make eco-conscious jewellery in our workshop in Uckfield, East Sussex, UK. We sell online via our Etsy shop and locally at craft sales. We're quite for anyone to support our work and wear it with pride knowing they're contributing to a more sustainable and cleaner way of life without compromising on quality or design.

What makes our work different to other jewellery brands is that from day one almost 100% of our materials are recycled in-house. We take a mix of scrap, antique and recycled silver and smelt it into sheet and wire. This of course has its own challenges and the process can be fairly time consuming but it does give us a strong sense of pride knowing that you're giving an old item that is usually broken and unusable a new life. We have also only ever used recycled packaging and shipping materials and recently we started using TreeNation to plant trees with every purchase its early days but we're hopeful that with time we'll go on to plant whole forests in projects around the globe. It also helps that Etsy has a carbon neutral policy where they offset all carbon emissions from postage which did of course have an impact when we were choosing which platform we were going to use.

It's also worth mentioning that all of our stones are hand mined and cut by a wonderful community of small-scale miners and lapidary artists in Mexico which ensures fair wages and safe working conditions as well as being more eco-friendly than their large-scale counterparts.

It gives us a strong sense of pride knowing that you're giving an old item that is usually broken and unusable a new life.

Amoria unfortunately isn't big enough to support the both of us full time though we're still dreaming of the day where we can hand in our notices and hide away in the workshop.

How did you come up with this idea? What's your background story?

Sophie and I met at Plumpton College in Sussex where Sophie was studying Animal Management and I was studying Creative Metalsmithing and went on to study Business Management. Before long we had moved in together and started creating pieces out of copper and silver. I found pretty much immediately that with Sophie's creative vision and my technical experience we were onto something good. We both started working to support our new passion, myself at a gardening firm while Sophie started working at a veterinary hospital as a vet nursing assistant. Months went by and, with a little help, we saved up enough to upgrade from our tiny 8x10 shed we could barely stand up in, which ran off far too many extension leads, to a brand new fully wired shed that has become the nerve center of our business.

We had no idea at all that anybody would buy our work, no idea at all. It was such an amazing feeling when we got that first bell from Etsy. It was very validating and affirming that actually what we're doing makes sense and it wasn't just a hobby or passion project - the business suddenly had prospects. Despite still being small Sophie now works at the business full time and is gearing up for our second craft sale which we're massively excited for after the relative success of our first.

I like to think that our method and ideology is what makes us different and I think a lot of people are attracted to that. The idea of not just reusing our scrap but all of the other bits we do and our newest policy of planting trees is something that I've wanted to do for ages, since we started really, but it took a while to find a practical way to do it. We are of course still evolving and growing as a company and we're both really excited to be moving forward and can't wait to find the next niche, the next thing we can do as a company to try and give something back to the planet.

How do you design and make your product?

We have a very organic way of working. There's hardly ever a time where we sit down and think “this is exactly how I want it to look and this is how I'm going to do it” we just don't really work like that. Especially with stones, the way we source our stones means that sometimes work is dictated by the exact cut and shape of the stones we get because it can be very difficult for us to source the exact same shapes and sizes but when we do it usually ends up being a pair or set of some kind. I'm not saying we don't think about how we want our work to look far from it, there are times where we obsess over minute details like exactly how much curve we want this moon to have or how deep we want certain textures or finishes and it takes several iterations to get there.

Once we have an idea though we honestly just pick it up and run with it, sometimes we'll see a stone that we love and instantly know what to do with it, but with other pieces it can take a lot longer, we've had stones sitting there for months before we figure out what to do with it but I suppose that's just part of being a jeweller or any artist really, it's not just your skills with your tools it's your eye and your ability so find the slight imperfections that bug you just enough for you to want to fix it.

We've struggled with a few things, it certainly hasn't been easy that's for sure. For the first year and a half of our business we were living with Sophie's parents in Worthing, about an hour away from the workshop, so fitting in working on jewellery around working full time was obviously pretty tricky, especially when Sophie was at the vets working shifts which sometimes meant that I would pick her up at 10pm after work, come home to eat something quickly before heading to the workshop and working until 4-5 in the morning just to try and have a productive week. That kind of thing happened for months and eventually the decision was made - Sophie would quit her job and we'd move back to Uckfield. That was only a couple of months ago and when we did move back it sort of felt a lot like a fresh start for our business and things got a bit more serious, we booked our next craft sale, we got a bit more serious about our photography which was another thing we really struggled with (and still do), and started reaching out to other people to try and build a bit more of a community.

Describe how you launched the business.

We launched our Etsy shop a few years ago with only 10 items to begin with. For a good while we just sat with those 10 items in our shop hoping they would sell by themselves and didn't really understand the importance of pictures and SEO. It took a very long time to get any sales on Etsy because at the time, me and Sophie were busy with our daytime jobs and it was difficult to travel to our workshop, to make new products, and also work on our listings.

We almost exclusively sell through Etsy as we have found it is very good at driving traffic to our shop organically. However, we get most of our traffic through Instagram. It is a great way to promote our products, show off the process of creation and meet like minded creators/small businesses.

How do you grow your business?

So we're always trying fresh ideas. It's a necessity for us not just to try and stay relevant but I suppose it just becomes good practice as artists. We're always thinking of new products and ideas to explore but also new, more efficient ways to improve older products say if we find a new tool that and all of a sudden it's like "holy crap, this is a complete game changer how did I not think of this?"

We've tried using paid advertising, namely Instagrams promotion tool which has had mixed results. On the plus side it is very easy to use and can be tailored to your budget etc but on the negative side we found that whilst views increase substantially we didn't get much in the way of conversion to our shop or even sometimes our social pages.

The one thing that seems to be most successful for us is the craft fairs. We saw at our first craft fair that it was a fantastic way to actually let people see and hold our work in person, it allows them to look at the details and intricacies of a piece and fall in love with it which is much, much harder to do looking at a picture online from your phone or computer screen.

Our plan for the future is really focused on sustainable growth and putting out products that we're happy with. We're currently in the very early stages of designing a new seaside range using seaglass that we hand-picked on the Cornish coast last summer which we're really excited for because Cornwall holds a lot of amazing memories for us and we can't wait to find another excuse to go and find more!

How do you market your product?

Social media has been absolutely crucial in our marketing. We made an Instagram page very early on into our business and whilst it certainly took some getting used to on my part I couldn't imagine a better way to help show off our work and build a following. The fact that it is designed to be strictly an image-based social platform made it the obvious choice for an e-commerce business. The built-in business tools have also been really helpful as well, not just the promotions tool but simply finding statistics on things like which demographics are engaging most with you which lets you really think about how you're going to market your work.

We do occasionally run giveaways as a celebration of certain milestones like follower counts and plan on participating in things like charity auctions in the near future.

We try and post regularly and try to keep our page fairly consistent in its content. For example the main images you see on our page are of the products themselves whilst any behind the scenes stuff is tucked away in the highlights or story sections. For us this was about keeping some kind of uniformity and brandability - we wanted to be recognisable. We want someone to come across one of our photos and be able to tell that it's us without us needing to showstopper much.

Our approach to SEO has been all over the place and truth be told we're still working on it. It started off 100% trial and error, mostly error, before we found eRank, which was an absolute lifesaver. For once we weren't just guessing what people would type in and how we would tag listings we essentially had a guide that showed us what keywords and phrases are stronger than others and how much traffic those terms got.

How do you keep your customers happy?

Customer service is obviously a huge part of any business, but with an online shop it certainly felt very daunting at first. I think the main part of our customer service has to start at first contact whether it's an order or a first inquiry it's been really important for us to try and help in any way we can and as fast as we can without coming across as pushy. I suppose a good way to think of it is: if you walked into any retail store, how are the staff reacting to you? They're not necessarily coming over and pushing products into your face but they're not afraid to offer an alternative or to upsell. That's the kind of approach we take to a conversation with a customer, if there's an alternative we'll offer it or if the customer isn't quite happy with something we'll offer to make a custom version of that piece.

We also try to make even the smallest purchase feel individual and unique with small thank you notes which if possible mention what item was recycled to make that specific piece.

What do you recommend to others who want to start a handcrafting business?

If I was to do it all again I would change so many things like the product photography, SEO, branding and marketing. It's easy to say these things now because the mistakes are there to see but when you're first starting out, especially if you've not really done it before, they're all mistakes that need to happen. I am thankful for the fact that we faced these challenges early on and while these factors may not be perfect we are very well aware that they exist and from there we can start to build. So I suppose the actual advice would be to take risks and make the mistakes early and that you recognise them.

Oh, and to join as many Facebook discussion groups as you can, my particular favourites are Jewellery Metalsmiths UK and Etsy Insiders - Tips from Top Sellers . Everyone on either of these pages is super helpful and there is always someone there who knows more than you about something or other.

There are tons of great books on jewellery making and silversmithing but the ones that really stood out to me are books like 1000 Rings and 500 Silver Jewellery Designs and even 500 Knives. They were particularly influential when I was in college but even still I find myself flicking through them every so often and wondering "how the hell did they even do that?". I would absolutely recommend them to anyone looking for inspiration.

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