Our Story

The Maker

Designs By Melanie is my cozy one-woman jewelry studio nestled in a little hollow of history in Virginia.  I am Melanie Schaefer and I spend my days tinkering in my beautifully restored circa 1780s pioneer spring house studio. Yes, there's a natural spring right below my workspace!! If all is quiet I can hear the sound of the water trickling.

I love taking bits of metal and gemstones and bringing them to life. In my free time I enjoy adventures with my husband and our two active boys. I also enjoy gardening, hiking, camping and cooking.

Melanie in the spring house studio  c1780s restored pioneer spring house studio space



The Inspiration

My passion for creating beautiful, strong and unique sterling silver and gemstone jewelry comes from my love for the natural world that surrounds us all. Growing up in rural Vermont gave me a deep appreciation for our Mother Earth. All I do, the silver, the gemstones and the pearls are gifts from her. My formal painting background with a Bachelor of Arts degree and minor in Art History have given me the elements and principles I need to produce unique combinations of colors and designs. All of my jewelry techniques are self-taught. I'm grateful every day that I get to use my hands and work for myself making jewelry for you.


The Materials

I use a variety of high-quality and carefully-sourced gemstones. I do not select any stones that have been dyed for my creations. The colors of the stones are a main source of inspiration, and keeping my process on a natural path enables me to connect with my pieces on an individual level. 

Recycled sterling silver is used as well as 14 karat gold-filled and 14k rose-gold filled metals.  When two or more metals are combined greater strength is achieved. Sterling silver is made of 92 1/2% (.925) silver and 7 1/2% (.075) copper. Fine silver alone is very soft and not a good choice for making this type jewelry. All materials used are hypoallergenic and nickel-free. 


The Process

Each piece begins its life as wire and sheet metal. I use traditional techniques and hand tools along with carefully selected gemstones to transform these raw materials into little treasures. With a background in painting and art history, I’ve found a happy place with hands on wire work and a bit of soldering and with pops of color from beautiful gems.  Every piece is made with a wire-wrapping technique that makes my jewelry durable and beautiful. 

Melanie using a disc cutter with sterling silver sheet

If you have any questions, feel free to drop me a line!