My niece Catherine might be the only baby in the history of the world who didn’t go bananas on her first birthday smash cake. Not even close. She gave it a couple jabs and a few sidelong glances before deeming it perfectly uninteresting. It might as well have been a plate of brussel sprouts [actually, she'd probably enjoy that more].
The point is that the gal is selective – she knows what she wants. In turn, I knew I had to get her something extra special for her first of all birthdays, but what? I searched high and low until I came across this handmade jewelryon Etsy. The artist behind Jeneri Jewelry is based right here in Chicago – and whattya know – she’s originally from Cleveland too.
It was tough to narrow it down but I got Catherine the Near Your Heart necklace engraved with “M&C” and Madeline [my other niece and Catherine's sister] one with “C&M”, both in sterling silver. They turned out beautifully. Jen of Jeneri Jewelry is a tremendously talented artist who does it all. I truly love her pieces as they are each one-of-a-kind.
Jen was kind enough to take a break from her hectic schedule to answer a few questions I had about her designs, background and inspiration. Read on for an exclusive coupon code for navy + cream readers, and to hear more about what makes Jen tick…
 Jen, your jewelry is so beautiful and meaningful. What gave you the idea to start your business?
I’ve always loved jewelry. We moved from Cleveland to Chicago four years ago and I became a full-time stay-at-home mom to our son. I had always worked since the time I was 16, and found myself going a little crazy after two weeks. I was within walking distance [dangerous!] to a bead shop and decided to give it a whirl. I never wore any of my jewelry because I wasn’t really a “bead person”. A few months later I took an “introduction to soldering class”, and then the real fun began.
 What inspires you?
Simple items. I like meaningful pieces that can be worn everyday with a t-shirt and jeans, but special enough that you’d wear it to a nice dinner.
 We agree. What is one of the most unique requests you’ve received for a design?
A woman had me design a “tug” necklace for her boyfriend. She wanted a heavy choker with 3 circles integrated into the chain. She explained that it needed to be durable enough for “strong tugging”. I was too embarrassed to ask if it lived up to their expectations.
 On the flip side, what’s the most popular item in your store?
Anything gold! I’ve seen a substantial increase in gold sales over the last six months. The “Near Your Heart Personalized Choker” has been especially popular.
 Can we find your pieces at any boutiques in Chicago?
Nope! The boutiques that carry my jewelry have all found me through my Etsy website – but none in Chicago yet! I can be found in Nantucket, Tennessee, Michigan, Minnesota, Texas, and LA.
 Hopefully we’ll see you in stores here soon. So you have roots in Ohio and Chicago, like myself! What brought you to Chicago?
My husband’s job. I came kicking and screaming, but fell in love with Chicagoland and never want to leave!
 What do you enjoy most about your business?
The ability to create meaningful keepsakes, and the freedom of my own schedule. Professionally, I was an Audiologist [hearing & balance] for seven years before moving to Chicago. I enjoyed it, but didn’t have a passion for it. I truly have a passion for jewelry.
 Do you have any advice for aspiring entrepreneurs?
Take a few business classes! All of my higher education was in health and sciences, and I desperately wish I’d taken some accounting/finance. Other than that, have passion for what you’re doing and always be open to trying something new.
 What jewelry do you wear on a daily basis?
1. Wedding Rings
2. Rosary Ring [I’ve worn this since my mom was diagnosed with breast cancer 12 yrs ago]
3. Max necklace
 What’s your idea of the perfect day?
Sleeping in. Eating anything I want without heartburn or gaining an ounce. Visiting with family and friends. Hearing my son laugh. Kissing my love goodnight.
Jen has generously offered the readers of navy + cream a discount code for her Etsy shop. Enter the code NAVYANDCREAM at the checkout to receive 10% off her entire shop. Jen’s jewelry is ideal for a birthday gift, an engaged pal, a new mom, an anniversary present… the sky’s the limit. Thanks again to Jen, happy first birthday to my niece, and happy shopping everyone!