When you really want to make a loved one smile ear to ear, nothing does the trick quite like fresh flowers. But what if your gift could last forever? That’s exactly what Jen Bristow, creative director and co-founder of Fresh Jewelry Company, dreamed of accomplishing when she created her line of real flower jewelry. Her truly original pieces capture the natural beauty of fresh buds and freeze it in time, allowing her customers to carry it wherever they go. And since we here at 1-800-Flowers.com share Fresh Jewelry Company’s mission to deliver smiles through flowers, we were thrilled to team up with them!
We spoke one-on-one with Bristow about her one-of-a-kind pieces and how she and her husband took their love of serving smiles at their family-owned coffeehouse and transformed it into a passion for creating lush, gorgeous flower jewelry that lets you express yourself perfectly for every occasion.
How did Fresh Jewelry Company get its start?
My husband, Troy, and I set out with our three school-age children in 2003 to open a coffeehouse named Ragamuffin Coffee House in the western suburbs of Chicago. We created a beautiful environment where everyone had a friendly welcome, and we served made-to-order coffees and lattes with our hearts for serving the community and for each of the people that came in. In many ways, we became the heart of the town, and we loved our thousands of customers—ragamuffins and all.
Our coffeehouse was voted the most popular coffeehouse in the western suburbs in the big Chicago magazine, and we became known as the coffee man and the coffee lady. About 1.5 years into our zealous endeavor, we realized that we needed to add to coffee sales to make our family business financially healthy. We started by bringing in books and greeting cards, along with other miscellaneous items, and we discovered that retail was a good idea and we had a good everyday market.
Earlier in his life, my husband lived in the country of Mexico for two years, learned the language and found a great love for the people of Mexico. So on our first opportunity to vacation after 20 months of the daily grind at the coffeehouse, we went to Mexico with our children. We were on the beach swimming and lounging, and we saw a young man with a huge wooden box full of sterling silver jewelry. I had a brilliant epiphany that we should sell jewelry over the coffeehouse counter, and so we struck a deal on the beach and selected approximately 30 pieces of silver jewelry at a discounted rate. When we returned to work and plopped the jewelry on the counter, it sold within just a few hours. Wow! Maybe we’ve got something here!
Several weeks later, we traveled back to Mexico to one of the towns with a silver mine and we purchased 300 pieces of jewelry. In one week at the Ragamuffin it was gone. So we set out to learn importing and jewelry merchandising, as we were our own first retail customer. Surrounding stores asked to carry our jewelry and we learned the wholesale business. One or two years into our jewelry business, we chose to shift focus and to create and specialize in fresh flower jewelry. Now we distribute lightly to 35 states and Canada. The coffee house is closed due to construction throughout the downtown corridor, but out of the ashes has risen the truly beautiful business of Fresh Jewelry Company.
What’s the story behind your jewelry? What inspired you to create pieces with fresh flowers?
As the creative director, I get the honor of choosing what we manufacture. I’m grateful for that. I have a passion for conveying beauty, and I find flowers and plants to be among the most beautiful things in the world. I love the colors and the textures, and they make me happy. When I was a young girl, we lived on a large piece of property full of woods and wildflowers. I would spend my days exploring the property, enjoying the fresh, warm breeze and the feel of the long grass and the wild flowers rustling against my legs. To me, the flowers were beauty and freedom and comfort. They were everything alive and nothing stale. They were happiness and they were the feeling of fresh.
So you can imagine what pleasure it gives me to work with flowers all day, every day, and also how fun it is for me to give the feeling of fresh to hundreds of people around me as they choose to wear our jewelry. Running Fresh is like being in those fields all over again!
What makes your jewelry line truly original?
Design and quality. We have very little competition—perhaps two or three companies that do anything similar. So, first of all, we’re very unique to the market in general. Within our little circle, I respect every other manufacturer of jewelry that contains flowers. It is difficult! However, our flowers are especially beautiful in color and in their fullness, and my designs are each specifically designed to create the feeling of freshness and lushness.
The beautiful flowers in your jewelry are perfectly preserved. How do you do that?
We preserve the flowers, without pressing or crushing them, in a special blend of elements that stabilize the color and also keep the flower from disintegrating. It’s a bit of a secret. You will notice that we capture the flowers; we do not press them. That’s why there is some depth to the frame of the jewelry. It’s easiest to understand this when you examine the rosebud, which is dimensional.
What’s your favorite flower to work with?
Well, the people we create this jewelry for seem to love forget-me-nots the most. I believe it’s because of the sentiment and, frankly, because we all wear blue jeans! I love them now because I see the emotion that people have about them: tender and sweet. I personally prefer the purple pansy because I love the deep richness of the color purple.
What is the most difficult flower to work with?
We currently harvest a flower that we call in Mexico the “Crown of Christ.” Most often in the U.S. it is referred to as the “Crown of Thorns.” We harvest the flower from a plant that has mean thorns, and getting the flower out is a delicate challenge. Its color is blood red, and it is a beautiful blossom. Well worth the challenge.
Our goal here at 1-800-Flowers is to deliver smiles to our customers on every occasion of their lives. How does your jewelry make people smile?
Our jewelry makes people smile because it is a fun, unusual and meaningful gift that says the same things flowers do, but it says, “Flowers forever, and you can wear them too!” It’s such a lovely idea to have flowers in your jewelry. They’re artful, playful, tender and natural, and they show that anyone who receives them as a gift is loved.
Crazy about Bristow’s stunning fresh flower jewelry? You can buy her exclusive necklaces, earrings and bracelets on 1-800-Flowers.com, or you can browse through her entire line at FreshJewelryCompany.com.