Jillian and I first connected over Twitter just before the holidays last year when I fell in love with her vintage jewelry line, Sweet & Spark. I was literally shocked to find such beautiful, one-of-a-kind pieces for about $30 or less!
This past weekend, we swapped stories over brunch where she told me the ins and out of her business – from waking up at 5 a.m. to go “spark hunting” to sorting inventory in her SF home. I was so intrigued by her stories and passion for vintage jewelry that I couldn’t wait to introduce her to you!
VE: What inspired you to launch the Sweet & Spark line?
Jillian: My dad’s been an antique enthusiast for over 30 years and I grew up getting up early on the weekends with him and being competitive at flea markets & yard sales. I never saw any glamour in the chase but, over the years, ended up building a classic vintage jewelry assortment of my own that friends would always comment on.
My corporate career has been in buying for large American Brands; Bloomingdales, Gap Inc. & most recently, American Eagle Outfitters. When the new brand I was working on for AE closed in May of last year, I decided to leave corporate America and pursue my dreams of building a brand that bridges the gap between contemporary & vintage.
VE: Where do you find all of your vintage pieces?
Jillian: Ah, the thrill of the chase! Leveraging my dad’s experience, we’re doing the “dirty work” and scouring flea markets, yard sales & antique stores. While my dad spends his summers in Upstate NY and winters in South Florida, my home base is San Francisco, and we are both out every weekend shopping both coasts. Costume jewelry is competitive so in order to get the best pieces, you have to be first at flea markets and that means getting up as early as 5am! Don’t ever have any expectations, my flea-marketing motto is always, “you win some, you lose some.”
VE: What’s the buying process like? Is it as glamorous as we all think it’d be?
Jillian: The buying process is not glamourous! Unless, you enjoy bargaining with strangers, aren’t afraid of getting a little dirt under your fingernails and have enough patience to untangle heaps of necklaces & sort through earrings to find pairs. However, I absolutely love everything we find and the constant challenge of curating and building meaning out of old one of a kind finds. Every few months, my dad and I spend a week together scouring new places and buying in bulk. We document both the “not so glamourous” and the cool jewelry finds along these adventures on twitter & instagram.
VE: How do you make old look new again?
Jillian: Our mission is to make vintage affordable and accessible to everyone. Our average price is $30 and we focus on costume signed jewelry between the 1940s-1990s, from the likes of Avon, Liz Claiborne, Monet, Napier and others. Both decade and designer are indicated in all product descriptions.
Before we even start the sorting process, everything is professionally cleaned in an ultrasonic jewelry cleanser and if necessary, small repairs are made- such as tightening clasps, sourcing new earring backs and replacing stones. Part of owning something vintage is embracing it’s worn in character, which usually translates in a slight wear to the finish, after all some pieces have been around over 60 years! Water is jewelry’s biggest enemy so we cannot stress enough to always store your vintage pieces in a cool, dry place.
VE: Do you think about current fashion/jewelry trends during the buying process?
Jillian: The core of our aesthetic is timeless classics – gold chains, bangles, tassels, pendant necklaces, pearls, etc. but I’m constantly sorting and re-sorting inventory in order to build seasonal collections mimicking current trends. Right now we have a black & white and bold gold collection up in the store, which are both spring trends. We have plenty of pinterest boards dedicated to jewelry and always feel inspired by what bloggers are wearing. I’m particularly loving statement earrings, the bigger the better in my book!
VE: Any cool milestones you’d like to subtly brag about?
Jillian: Notes from customers and friends about how much they love their new spark keeps me energized. A woman recently bought a pair of earrings for her wedding day which is so incredibly special to me! We love seeing how friends are helping make vintage modern again by posting pics of how they’ve styled their spark on our facebook wall & instagram. Also, we were picked up in an article by Upstart Business Journal a few weeks ago which did an excellent job explaining our long term vision, now we just need people to help us make vintage jewelry cool again
Make sure you check out Jillian’s latest vintage finds on Sweet & Spark. Share your new goodies on Twitter and Instagram using the hashtag #sharethespark.Back to Blog