Take a peek at the Instagram page of Potts’ online-only store The Moonstoned and you’ll begin to understand where she’s coming from.
In her posts, Potts features her jewels for sale in hyper-graphic collages that communicate a piece’s romanticism without a hint of stuffiness. Potts also models pieces herself, translating them into a look that’s wearable, modern and cool.
In short, the way that Potts handles her jewelry—not delicately, but, indeed, more like a “badass”—makes it feel aspirational and generationally appropriate.
For the second installment of my series “The Next Generation,” I chatted with the New York City-based curator, who also designs her own antique-inspired line called by The Moonstoned, about how she’s created a new mood for an old category.
On Her “A-Ha” Moment
“I grew up in New Mexico and was really influenced by all of the Zuni and Navajo jewelry out there. I remember going to visit a Zuni reservation and watching them make jewelry by hand, and I just found it so fascinating. When I went to school I studied jewelry-smithing, and my other interest was history. I had this a-ha moment about (exploring) where jewelry comes from, a time when it was really made with purpose and intention. From there I started getting into vintage and antique jewelry.”
How She Got Her Start
“I had a little bench in my tiny apartment for a long time and I would make jewelry and rework antiques whenever I had a moment. I had a tiny Etsy shop ages ago and a gal reached out to me and asked if I would come on to help her with her antique jewelry business, so I did and kind of helped get that off the ground. After maybe two or three years of that, I decided I wanted to do my own. I launched The Moonstoned in 2016.”
“I’m no longer in tears when I’m in front of my computer anymore.” – Elizabeth PottsOn Computer Literacy
“I remember buying the domain for The Moonstoned and making that huge leap. I was in Sydney, Australia with my now husband and I remember sitting down in this café at the computer and buying it all and then I looked at my computer and thought, ‘What do I do from here on?’ For hours I sat there trying to figure out the ins and outs of the computer and I was in tears. I had never been computer savvy at all. Even Excel documents were like another language.
I slowly taught myself everything. My husband taught me the ins and outs of taking the photos and retouching, so he helped me with the photography, but I do everything soup to nuts. I retouch all of the photos, process them, and I do all of the collages and artwork myself. I built my website myself. I’m no longer in tears when I’m in front of my computer anymore.
I’m so lucky that (my husband) is really generous in helping me set up shoots and doing the fine photography.”
“I wanted to connect more to the excitement of antique jewelry and jewelry in general instead of just selling something to make a buck. If I wanted to just make a buck, I would not be in jewelry. I’ve always really been in love with the history and the story of jewelry so I went off on my own to really pursue that connection.”
On Approaching Antique Jewelry with a Modern Attitude
“Antique jewelry can be very, very precious and very museum-worthy. I wanted to create something that felt very attainable, personal and that you could have a little bit more fun with, instead of having it for the sake of collecting.
I started doing collages with the jewelry because I felt a little frustrated with the ways I was seeing antique jewelry being presented with all the glamour behind it. I’d see beautiful shots of jewelry on a black background that almost made it feel untouchable and unattainable.
“I … come from a really big hospitality background and in that field, you know how to talk to someone … and be empathetic to create an experience. I’ve taken that into my jewelry brand.”I want things that are going to be a little more accessible and kind of badass and sexy and fun, so I try to find pieces that feel that way for me so my client base and friends can all feel like it’s something that they can celebrate and put on to be sexy, whether they’re wearing a sweatshirt and shorts or they’re wearing a leather jacket and boots or dressing up for a night out.”
On How She Sets Her Business Apart
“I come from a really big family. Even though there were a ton of us, we always all felt heard and we knew that when we needed special attention we got it, whether it was from grandparents or my parents, aunts, uncles, brothers, sisters or cousins. I was raised in a family that was really good about that.
I also come from a really big hospitality background and in that field, you know how to talk to someone and really care and be empathetic to create an experience. I’ve taken that into my jewelry brand as well. I want to connect with everyone. I want [the transaction] to be more than just gold and diamonds or gemstones. I want it to create a beautiful experience around a piece of jewelry that makes my customers feel good, because they’re going to take it home and wear it and every time they look at it, they’re going to have a certain reaction.
All of these items carry energies. I try to make sure that every single time something leaves my hands it’s nothing but happiness and a good feeling. I genuinely do care about the interaction between myself and others.”
“If everyone just had a little bit more fun and just relaxed a little bit more, (antique jewelry) would become a little bit more modern.”On Advice to Antique Businesses That Want to Modernize
“I think a lot of people need to stop taking themselves so seriously. I feel like a lot of antique dealers and fine jewelry dealers take offense easily and feel elitist or like their jewelry shit doesn’t stink or tarnish, if you will.
If everyone just had a little bit more fun and just relaxed a little bit more, it would become a little bit more modern. Your modern buyer isn’t going to want a very buttoned-up, white-glove service. They want to feel like jewelry is tangible, like it’s a real thing. I think when you’re having fun with your jewelry and being playful with it, that’s sexy and that’s modern and it feels a lot better than something you keep behind glass that you need to handle delicately.”
On Internet Etiquette
“I’ve been seeing lately that there are some people on Instagram who feel intimidated and bullied about transactions around jewelry. I think it’s really important for people to be kind to one another and be gentle and empathetic and, again, to relax and have fun. We’re not selling medical equipment and nothing’s life or death. It’s just jewelry. I think that’s something important to think about and talk about as well.”
On Expanding Her Own Designs
“I’ve always done small pieces. I took some time to really focus on the antique and vintage. Recently I’ve kind of found my creativity again and I’m expressing that through my designs. It’s fun to share things that make me feel good and powerful.
I’ve got more of my personal ‘by The Moonstoned’ line coming out soon, designs that I’ve done that feel very old-world but very modern and sexy as well.”