Chelsey Bartrum’s latest venture relies on a more retro practice: reusing old jewelry to fabricate new designs.
Founder of Starling, a LA-based minimalist jewelry brand, Bartrum wants to help bring more circularity to the jewelry industry.
“Recycling in fine jewelry is part of the industry, because the materials are valuable. But going about it can be challenging because many people don’t have family jewelers anymore,” she says.
Thus, Bartrum has launched Heirloom Revival, an offshoot of Starling, that helps customers facilitate the whole process: they send in their old jewels (after answering some questions online), select a new item to be made with it, and receive the “new” item in the post. Bartrum’s team works with each customer to ensure that the materials can indeed be repurposed, before diving into the process.
Bartrum has been working in the jewelry industry for over a decade. “I started as a teenager, taking classes in junior high school,” she recalls. She then went on to complete apprenticeships, while working on the bench, and finally, transitioned to more design-oriented roles before launching Starling in 2015.
“When I started Starling, I didn’t see the kind of simple, delicate pieces at affordable prices, or what I believe to be affordable prices,” she says. Funded with the support of family and friends, she built a brand that specialized in simplistic designs, using post-consumer recycled materials. Today, it’s a profitable company, she notes, employing a small team of three and herself, and pulling in more over $1 million annually.
But as she saw the tradition of a family jeweler waning away, and a growing interest in sustainability, Bartrum designed a new offshoot to the company that could combine sentimentality with more eco-friendly practices. “The biggest diamond mine we have is at home, actually,” she says.
In fact, mines are reportedly running out or low in diamonds, leading the industry to explore other avenues such as lab-grown gems, or something even simpler: repurposing what you have. “It’s been reported now that the largest diamond mines are running out. And yet, diamonds are some of the most versatile stones, that’s why they’re easy to reuse for generations. Bringing circularity to the jewelry industry is the future of the industry,” Bartrum argues.
Like Starling, Heirloom Revival pieces are made in Los Angeles, near the company’s headquarters. Given the thriving jewelry manufacturing industries in New York and Los Angeles, Bartrum is keen to support local artisans. Heirloom Revival is also SCS certified to use 100% post-consumer content for both metal and stones, referring to items that have been worn and then are being reused.
Starting this September, customers can opt to have their jewels converted into a Revival engagement ring, picking from six designs that couples can customize with their own stones. Or one can option for something from the Memory Charm Collection, transforming sentimental gold pieces into new necklaces and bracelets.
“It’s our responsibility as citizens of Earth to do this. Our mission is buy less, make more.”