Emely Gomez grew up enamored with her mother’s jewelry. She’d pore through her mother’s collection of bracelets and necklaces, and she played “dress-up.”
But this year it was her mother’s turn to be stunned by her daughter’s jewelry — the 17-year-old and three other girls from Lynn designed a high-end jewelry collection. The pieces range from a $1,600 white gold and diamond bracelet to a $17,500 necklace with diamonds and rubies.
Ten percent of the proceeds of the six-piece collection will be donated to Girls Inc., a nonprofit dedicated to boosting the development of girls.
It all started when employees from Boston-based diamond company Hearts on Fire decided to search for a meaningful philanthropic opportunity. Caryl Capeci, the chief executive of Hearts on Fire, stumbled upon Girls Inc., which has a chapter in Lynn.
Capeci realized the values that Girls Inc. touted — encouraging girls to be strong, smart, and bold — coincided perfectly with the type of work with which Hearts on Fire wanted to be involved.
“They really injected our whole organization with this wonderful appreciation and passion for not only what we do, but with working with younger people,” Capeci said.
In the summer of 2018, Girls Inc. in Lynn chose 30 interested middle schoolers to visit Hearts on Fire. As the girls learned about business aspects of the diamond industry, they were excited to discover that some of the jewelry pieces were worn by celebrities like Beyonce on the red carpet.
The positive feedback from that first visit spurred Capeci to expand her company’s relationship with Girls Inc. She recruited the executive director in Lynn, Deb Ansourlian, and asked if the girls would like to design a collection of their own. Four of the girls — Gomez and 13-year-olds Christania Adeoye, Dakota Curry, and Josileidy “JoJo” De Jesus — jumped at the opportunity, and began workshops last October.
Soon, the girls found themselves seated at a table at Hearts on Fire with mood boards — collages meant to evoke a style or concept — and stacks of magazines, hoping to be inspired by the gleaming models and vivacious patterns to come up with an accessory of their own.
Armed with scissors and glue, Gomez’s board soon became littered with color in a nod to her Dominican heritage.
“Color has always been an influence in my life,” Gomez said. “Art in the Dominican Republic is very tropical, and even the houses are painted orange, yellow, and green. That to me was how I brought out the jewelry that was also in the magazines.”
Contrasting with the typical crisp, clear diamonds, Gomez’s board immediately caught the attention of Hearts on Fire’s design team and inspired its members. For the first time, the company would incorporate rubies into its jewelry. The idea was to apply the signature red color of Girls Inc. to the Hearts on Fire collection. Gomez couldn’t contain her surprise once it was revealed she had inspired a piece. “It’s something that represented me,” she said. “For that, I felt accomplished and heard and grateful.”
A flip-ring with a diamond on one side and a ruby on the other was inspired by another girl in the group, and Capeci said several rings already have been sold.
The collaboration demonstrated all the business aspects of launching a jewelry line. The girls watched the designs turn into molds, learned how to correctly appraise the price of their items, and how to market them. Each facet of the industry was taught in a 90-minute session held weekly.
Ansourlian said this opportunity not only taught the girls business skills, but also helped expose them to diverse and empowering professional roles. “To be able to go through that experience was just really incredible,” Ansourlian said. “The thing that I love about working with kids is that we might not know where they’ll end up in their careers, but this experience will have changed them.”
At project’s end, Hearts on Fire hosted a launch party that showcased all the girls’ work. The girls eagerly pointed out the pieces to their parents, and their families watched in awe as a video played revealing their achievements.
“What I really loved about that night was watching the families and how proud they were of their girls,” Ansourlian said. “We look forward to continuing that partnership and motivating the girls to be strong, smart, and bold.”
“My mom was blown away,” Gomez said. “Being in a low-income community, I would never have been a part of that experience without Girls Inc.”
Annika Hom can be reached at email@example.com.