I’ll never forget my first pair of hammered gold hoops I purchased from jewelry designer Melissa Joy Manning nearly 10 years ago. I’ve been a fan of her signature designs and innovative use of fine metal settings and raw gemstones and minerals ever since. It was an absolute treat to interview her and pay her Berkeley-based workshop and boutique a visit. And of course, the timing couldn’t have been better with the holidays just around the corner. Let’s just say my Christmas wish list is now complete!

Melissa Joy Manning est. 1997: I started my company with $1000 in 1997 by walking around to local stores I liked and asking them to my carry my jewelry. I continually reinvested into my business in order to build it into the brand it is today.

The design process: I’m still not sure how I design! I’m an incredibly visual person and my idea of play is making things (always has been!) As an avid traveller and nature lover, I’m incredibly inspired by the environment and different cultures. I take a lot of photos when I travel and use them for inspiration. For me, design is about trying to take an ephemeral feeling or impression and make it permanent in gold and stone.

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Gold rules: Gold really is my favorite. I’m not that interested in working with other metals. For me, gold is the end all. It has the most saturation of color and is available in so many amazing colors that, as a designer, I’m madly in love with- it makes designing with so many stones easy. Also, there is this incredible depth of brilliance that I don’t think is as prevalent in other metals- gold never reads flat, it always glows.

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Inspiration: I grew up in Northern California and derive my inspiration from the environment.

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Proudest achievement: Starting the sustainability committee within the Council of Fashion Designers of America with my co-chair, Scott Mackinlay Hahn and our Executive Director, Lisa Smilor. I’m incredibly proud to be working with an amazing group of people to promote sustainable business practices within the fashion industry.

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What’s next: We’re opening our new store in SOHO, New York. It is such an amazing concept and I love the idea of designing whatever I want for my own space in the fashion capital of the world! I’ve never made crazier or more innovative pieces. I can’t wait to open our doors!

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(images by HonestlyWTF)