The ever-evolving nature of Franklin Street hasn’t quite changed during our pandemic — if anything, the main drag’s gotten a little more illustrious. The jeweler Macha Studio has now opened at 135 Franklin Street, carving out a home of its own after being a member of the rich creative community at 67 West for years and years. For this Thursday Spotlight, we caught up with Bernice Kelly, founder of Macha who discussed the thrills and challenges of making a leap during this time, how she ethically and locally sources her raw materials, and what creations are most popular at the shop. The store is now open, but — per Macha’s Instagram — Zoom appointments are also on the table!
Greenpointers: Congrats on your new store on Franklin! When did you officially open there, and has it always been the dream to have your own brick and mortar?
Bernice Kelly: Thank you! We opened as soon as it was allowed, June 11 I believe for pick-ups. We had a bunch of engagement and wedding rings that were waiting for their prospective owners for months and, yes, I have been looking for the right space for quite a few years.
What a time to open a store. How have you and your business been during COVID? I imagine rather busy with opening the shop.
Right?! We signed a lease just before COVID came to light and I was determined not to give up on it. We had a quiet couple of months, but without that I don’t think we could have focused on building out the space. Thankfully that kept me sane.
Prior to Franklin you worked at 67 West, right? What was your history and evolution there?
I opened the original studio at the old rope factory in 2011; I fell in love with the historic building and the view of the river. We also had super creative, talented neighbors. I invested in lots of tools and rented bench space to other jewelers at 67 West, and we had a really fun creative time there making fashion collections and art pieces. Over time, the focus for Macha became more on rings for commitments which are much more refined so we didn’t necessarily need so much space to work. I was hoping to hang on to it but had to make the decision to leave because of COVID.
Can you share with us how you source your raw materials?
Generally I source with responsibility and uniqueness in mind. I made a decision to use predominantly recycled metals over 10 years ago, and that narrows down the metal sourcing quite a bit. As far as gemstones, our diamond melee (tiny diamonds) are now also recycled. I work with vendors based in New York that I’ve built up relationships with over the years, so I trust their ethical practices. I find newness at trade shows, and we love to experiment with gemstones that originate or are cut in the United States. I enjoy supporting the New York jewelry district, there are many skills there that deserve to be kept alive.
What products are steadfastly popular? Which do you enjoy crafting most?
Our textured wedding bands are a Macha staple and super fun to make — I’m obsessed with texture and am continually experimenting with that. I love providing texture in precious gemstones or configurations also.
What excites you about this new chapter? Are there any new products you’re looking to unveil?
I’m hoping the store will help us turn around new collections more quickly, and also help fund the more creative design work. We’re adding a whole bunch of giftable jewelry pieces this side of the holidays, and I have a case of colored gemstones to design into. I’m excited about our newest Dual rings that combine two big gemstones on the one ring; they have so many artistic connotations and are also great for combining clients heirloom stones into one piece.
Anything else you’d like to add?
We’re working on building up our unique gemstone collection to ease with custom orders and planning to extend the store into the back room eventually, for more private consultations. Fingers crossed!
PS: 10% of sales from this year’s Date Letter signet rings goes to NY Cares!