At Seattle Refined, we love sharing inspiring stories about people pursuing their passions. From the Redmond native turned Hollywood stuntwoman flipping the script on gender typecasting, to artist Keegan Hall - who didn't start drawing seriously until a few a years ago and now has drawn on his talent to donate $425K to charity. Valerie Madison is another local artisan and businessperson whose career started in a very different way. We caught up with her [virtually] to hear about her sparkly path to success.
Seattle Refined: Valerie you are fine jewelry designer in Seattle, but you started in environmental science at the UW. So - how did this happen?
Valerie Madison: Going to school it was really, really nice to have a break from my studies with the reading and everything I had to do. So on the weekends, I loved bring creative and I always had a knack for jewelry. It became so much of a pastime for me, that I started thinking about just planting the seed in the back of my mind for doing this full time.
When did you start making jewelry full time?
We just had our 6 year anniversary and it’s been really exciting.
When some people think of a jewelry designer/maker, you think of an old white guy in a back room with a monocular looking over a very standard wedding ring situation. How are you breaking down that stereotype?
I’m trying to be the complete opposite of that. I’m a young Black woman, and I think I offer a fresh perspective on jewelry as well as different considerations for the different types of people wearing them.
What kind of things do you create there?
Here at Valerie Madison Fine Jewelry, we specialize in alternative engagement rings and wedding bands. What that means is modern brides who aren’t looking for your traditional white diamond/platinum diamond rings.
How have you managed to marry your love for design with your background in environmental science?
When it comes to jewelry, there’s kind of a dirty side to it. We use Canadian diamonds because they are ethically sourced and I also really love to use recycled metals because mining gold is really devastating on the earth.
What are some of the ways that your designs are unique?
They’re really modern. I truly try to highlight the gemstones, and try to keep the designs simple and really let the gemstones shine on their own.
Tell me, what are 'Salt and Pepper' diamonds?
So a 'Salt and Pepper' diamond has inclusions that kind of make it kind of hazy sometimes, more gray, speckled. They’re really unique and by offering these, our clients get to have something that’s one-of-a-kind that no one else has.
How about 'Rose Cut' diamonds?
It’s a faceting pattern that kind of resembled a rose bud. They offer a more vintage look and we like using them because they’re definitely not common and used in more traditional jewelry.
And you are known for using some really vibrant hues as well.
Well, we love using sapphires because they’re one of the gemstones that can be worn everyday. Sapphires luckily come in a wide spectrum of colors, so you can get blues and teals which are really popular right now. Peaches, yellows, greens, purples, so we like using those because everyone is so individual and have their own favorite color preferences.
I’m gonna put you on the spot Valerie. What piece are you into right now?
It’s really hard to choose a favorite but I can show you! If you can see, we make a really beautiful Halo ring design. Our Halo design is a really popular - that’s been super, super, popular you see it on a lot of hands and everyone makes theirs a little bit different.
What do you love about designing the jewelry?
I love putting my mark on things. I really craved a really simple minimalist clean and well made aesthetic to adhere to. I’m able to put that into my own jewelry and it resonates with a lot of our customers.