Valerie has been in the jewelry business for over seven years, and her signature style merges classic jewelry and modern minimalist sensibilities. Her work has appeared in Allure, InStyle, Forbes, and Vogue, and in 2020, she opened her first brick-and-mortar store. We sat down recently with her for this two-part interview. For this first part, we asked her about where she’s been, and what inspires her. In the next part, we’ll talk to her about where she is now, and where she wants to take Valerie Madison Fine Jewelry in the future.
Where did you grow up and go to school?
I’ve lived in Seattle long enough to consider myself a Seattleite. Yearning for a bit more sunshine, I briefly attended the University of Hawaii but transferred back home to graduate with a degree in Environmental Science & Resource Management from the University of Washington.
When you were a kid, what did you want to be when you grew up?
My first career ambitions were paleontology and marine biology. The fossil record has always appealed to my curious side and my interest in the ocean was probably caused by my obsession with The Little Mermaid when I was a toddler. As a young girl, you could always find me digging in piles of rocks to find the prettiest ones or reading books on geology, dinosaurs, and the underwater world.
At what point in your life did you discover jewelry making? What called you to it?
I first discovered jewelry as a hobby during college, a creative way to pass a lot of time that I had between classes and around my work schedule. I found that I really enjoyed creating jewelry; each piece I completed felt like individual accomplishments of art and it brought me a lot of joy. That passion was addicting and not something that I experienced from my day job and I knew I was onto something.
Were you always a jewelry lover?
I am, admittedly, a latecomer to the world of fine jewelry. When I was growing up we didn’t have enough money to buy jewelry so I was never exposed to gold, diamonds, and gemstones. When I personally took an interest in simpler jewelry making as a hobby during college, I began seeing how one could wear gemstones, which I truly have always been fascinated with. It was a beautiful collision of two worlds that allowed me to express myself with the rocks I always loved.
Sum up your personal style in a few words. What are your favorite jewelry pieces?
I aim to construct my personal ‘look’ in simple, classic, and tasteful ways. Jewelry is a way to add another tier to your look as it tells the world, “this is what truly reflects and enhances my personal style”.
What did you do before Valerie Madison Fine Jewelry?
Before I worked for myself I worked in the commercial marine insurance industry. Sounds exciting, right?
Not as exciting as jewelry!
So how did Valerie Madison Fine Jewelry get started?
My company formally started in 2014 after creating jewelry for years as a fun and successful hobby. The hobby became my side hustle when I began selling my pieces on Etsy and eventually I found myself working my 9-5, coming home and taking a break for dinner, and then starting back up to work on jewelry from 7-midnight. It got to the point where I felt I was burning the candle from both ends and I decided it was the right time to make the leap to working for myself full time. It was one of the best decisions I could have made!
What’s the biggest reason Valerie Madison Fine Jewelry has succeeded?
I think a mixture of elements has combined to give me the success that I have found. Some of it boils down to the creativity, ambition, motivation, and endurance I personally put in when I was first starting out. Some of my success comes from hiring kind people who are just as passionate about jewelry and the roles we play in our customers’ lives. And a small bit of our success comes from great timing and good fortune.
What does success mean to you?
Success means continual growth with renewed appreciation for the small achievements accomplished on the way to growing something bigger. It doesn’t have to be physically or voluminously bigger; bigger can mean ‘more meaningful’ as it relates to the impact you have on others either directly in your circle or farther out to the customers and clients you serve.
Which of your traits do you most value?
I am determined, motivated, and cautious. These traits have allowed me to grow my business at a good pace and I try to plan things as far in advance as I can. I play various scenarios in my head when it comes to problem solving and try to consider everyone’s opinions so that my products/website/store/etcetera are well received.