Feature Friday – Jennifer Hamburg
My name is Jennifer Hamburg
My title is CDO, Chief Design Officer at Sydel & Sydel Ltd. I am on the sales floor every day helping with repairs, selling my designs and guiding customers to redesign their old jewelry into new one-of-a-kind designs. My indispensable brother and partner works beside me all day long. Owning a small business requires a multiplicity of skills. We have a support staff of four to help us throughout the day.
I am a graduate of NYU, Tisch School of the Arts with a BFA in acting and costume design. After graduating, I worked in a premier New York costume shop building costumes for Broadway shows. My job was to select the fabrics. To find the perfect color and texture, I spent hours in small confined spaces surrounded by bolts of fabric and boxes of sequins. In the process, I fell in love with textiles. Delicate lace, sparkling sequins, bold fuchsia, and tangerine swirled in a floral pattern. It was magical. One day it hit me. Jewelry is textural and colorful, and my parents run a successful jewelry business. I was sure they would let me design for them. So I decided to come home to Chicago and focus on designing. Now I make 95% of the store inventory. I am very proud and honored that my parents gave me the opportunity. It has made our store unique and it keeps our clients coming back in these trying times.
I grew up in the business. I remember taking naps on the floor in the back room and wrapping holiday gifts for customers when I was in high school. Before I graduated high school, I was an expert gift wrapper. To this day my nursery school teacher reminds me that instead of drawing stick figures of my family I drew colorful necklaces and rings. I guess you can say I spent my entire life in the industry. Getting to work with exquisite gems and creating unique jewelry for people to enjoy for years to come, is my favorite part of working in the business.
To create one-of-a-kind jewelry, I start by finding an exceptional gemstone and then allow the stone to dictate the design. I would say my style is timeless with a modern twist. Because of my textile background, I use texture and color to inspire all my creations. I love nature and organic shapes. Every design I create reflects the individual who is wearing it. The design becomes an inseparable part of their personality. I see my designs as a vessel of memories. Customers are thrilled to learn about the process and the stories behind finding each gem.
One of the first designs I created was an interpretation on a classic signet ring. I envisioned something more feminine with diamonds of course, but still personalized. Fingerprints are unique and personal, so I decided to design a thumbprint ring. I created a shape based on the scale of the client’s thumb. Then I pavé set diamonds into the curves of the ring. I love this design because each one is unique and a challenge to create.
Jewelry is an expression of the self, just like the clothes we wear, in that it defines how we interpret beauty. Jewelry is also an essential adornment because it allows us to feel close to the individual who gave it to us- whether that is a lover, a grandmother or a child, all while holding deep sentimental meaning. These memories are the treasure that I incorporate into my designs, enabling the memories of the past to become a new treasure of the present. For example, the unique incorporation of pearls in a design emphasizes an appreciation for the motion and fluidity a pearl experiences in the ocean. The choices of colors in each gemstone are also portraits of nature, integrating warm hues of the sun, the liveliness of the sky and the tenderness of the earth to vitalize the human character.
My parents came up with the name of our store, Sydel & Sydel. As my Mom says, “ I am the first Sydel and your Dad is the second.” Our retail store is very inviting, and the environment encourages clients to walk in with curiosity and enthusiasm. We market through social media as well as corporate incentives, which is unique to our market environment. We designed the website for busy professionals searching with limited time. They search for specific products motivated by anniversaries or engagements. Our intent is to have the client in our showroom, but we complete many transactions through the Internet for convenience and timing.
Located in a high-density metropolitan market — Chicago’s financial district — our store is on the ground floor of a sixty-story office building. With this location, we rely on our unique products to set us apart with our sophisticated clientele. I individually design most of our jewelry and my partner, Jonathan, carefully chooses our watch brands. We pride ourselves on excellent service and boutique brands of exceptional construction.
We have a steady flow of repairs throughout the day with a heavier centration around 12:00 pm. Repairs bring customers into our store making them an important part of our day-to-day business. Jewelry maintenance breathes life into a once broken or forgotten item. Jewelry is uniquely sentimental and repair brings back memories associated with that item. A customer may not be able to afford a new design, but they may be willing to invest in the old design because of the emotional connection they have. Customers remember great service and appreciate the care taken toward their heirlooms.
My parents started using Stuller for findings. Once I took over the design of our inventory, I started using them for mountings and some custom creations. When we decided to expand our bridal inventory, we partnered with Stuller’s Ever&Ever collection. We love the flexibility and ease that the Ever&Ever provides. It allows the customer to see a plethora of options available to them with a custom feel. Just one click and you can change the shape of the center stone and color of the metal to reflect each customer’s unique taste. It has become an indispensable tool.
It seems that technology has eased the communication between my client and myself, giving tangibility to a once hypothetical conversation and making designs a reality. When I come up with my custom designs, I rely on CAD to help relay my ideas to my clients. Once we finalize the design, I print the wax and have a 3D model for my them to try on and touch. Technology has enabled a quicker turnaround time and changeability when a client wants to alter an element of the design. Technology allows my client and me to be on the same page, making them feel comfortable committing to a design.
The retail industry faces a dilemma because consumers like the ease and accessibility of ordering online. This threatens traditional retail because it erodes the importance of face-to-face interaction and the personal relationships that help us succeed. The dialogue between a customer and an informed salesperson is invaluable. We learn what the client desires and because of our knowledge, we’re able to make that a reality. The absence of communication between a customer and the salesperson in an online purchase gives the client a false sense of confidence. In the event they’re unhappy with their online purchase, they have no one to rectify the problem. In a store, the salesperson becomes the guiding force helping the customer select the perfect item.
My advice to others: Be honorable, polite and forthcoming.