UPDATE: This story was originally published on June 17.
Anyone looking to turn a passion into a paycheck could learn a thing or two from design star Libby Diament. The former 9-to-5’er pursued her dream of making jewelry full-time, and now her wares are sold in nearly 40 stores across the country —including mega-retailer Urban Outfitters and three shops here in the DMV. We stopped by the so-sweet designer’s home to see where she crafts her delicate, vintage-inspired pieces, and trust us: You won’t know what to crush on first — the adorable baubles, or the darling designer behind them.
Photographed by Sebastian Marin
Tell us how your jewelry business got started.
"Diament Jewelry has been in the works since childhood, now that I look back. I have been selling something since I was literally five years old. I used to live on a farm and sell raspberries and bracelets at the top of my driveway in the
The real business started in 2009, when I finished a certificate in Comprehensive Jewelry Training in NYC. While working at MAC Cosmetics' corporate [office], I slowly started making and selling more jewelry. I did craft shows all throughout NYC and Brooklyn for a solid year on the weekends, and was finally able to quit my job at MAC.
Diament wears a vintage dress.
"Since 2009 things have grown a lot, and I am proud to have my first full-time employee, Jean! The cool thing about owning a small business is that what you put in, you get back in results."
Some in-progress charms made from candy sprinkles and resin.
What is the Diament aesthetic? Who do you see as your customer?
"Diament Jewelry is a line of handmade and vintage jewelry with a girly
and delicate feel, overall. The fun thing about the line is that there is really something for everyone! Once you dive in, there is such an eclectic mix that something will hit home.
The way I describe my main customer is a super sweet, stylish young lady
in her 20s. She loves fashion and loves to find something unique that suits her personality. Price and good value are important to her, as it is for me
when I shop!"
What is a typical day like for you?
"The joy of working from home is that I literally roll out of bed and hit the
computer for about an hour. Then shower, daily chores (including a new puppy), and then back to work. Every day is a little bit different — some days I am working on wholesale orders, online orders, or orders for Urban Outfitters. Other days are spent photographing jewelry, hunting for new craft shows to apply to, vintage shopping (online or in actual stores), working on marketing, or my least favorite: accounting and taxes. I also go to the post office almost everyday at 4:59. (Sorry, post-office workers!).
In the evening, I usually try to do something nice for myself, like a walk, gym, or dinner out. Then usually back to work on the computer in the evening. It’s a long day, but I try to break it up [throughout] the day."
Did you always know this was something you wanted to do?
"Sort of. I knew that I wasn’t really happy working for someone else. I felt a bit stifled, and [like] my input and ideas weren’t always considered. Wanting to work for myself was a big motivating factor. I also knew that I wanted to be more creative. I didn’t know that jewelry would become my passion, but as I started the business, I knew that it was the exact perfect fit for me because it involves so many awesome elements, like working with my
hands, photography, design, sales, etc."
Anything you miss about the corporate life?
"I do miss working at MAC, in particular. It is an incredible group of positive, creative people, and I miss being around that energy. Anything went there — you’d see everything from a celebrity in the office to a man wearing high heels to a photoshoot in the hallway."
A peek inside Diament's basement storage area, which is chock full of deadstock jewelry components, vintage treasures, and all the jewelry findings you can imagine.
"One of my favorite parts of my job is doing craft shows where I get to meet
so many interesting and stylish customers. I can’t tell you how many times I
compliment them because they have the best style and confidence. I am always like, 'Gosh, I love your dress.' Or a few girls who came up last week and I was like, 'Wow, you both look like you came right off of a super-hip blog that I read!' They inspire me everyday!"
Topshop dress, J.Crew sweater.
How do you balance working from home with being on the road for shows? Where does your personal life figure in?
"It is super challenging. Right now, I basically just let it all happen and go with it. I try not to control my life too much right now, because I just can’t. Sometimes I get an email and I have to travel the next day. 'Go with the flow' is an understatement these days.
I [also] have a very supportive boyfriend who loves to travel with me, and that
makes life a lot easier. He understands how challenging it can be and encourages me to take chances and do new things. FaceTime helps, too! Lately, I have been realizing that I need just a bit more time for me — like, it's okay to get my hair highlighted! Sometimes life just keeps going so quickly that I forget!"
Diament models a delicate link necklace from her collection.
Where do you hope to be in five to ten years?
"This is a fun question to dream about. I would love to be the
vintage jewelry company. My plan in the next few years is to keep growing my online shop
. I’d like to be the Nasty Gal of jewelry! They are my inspiration these days, business-wise. I would love to have about 10 to 20 employees — I envision a small office of people that love what they do and enjoy going to work.
Personally, there are lots of things to look forward to — spending time with the BF, friends, and family, watching this pup grow up, and who knows...kids maybe?"
A collection of vintage wire "Love" bracelets that Diament had replated for her shop.
Tell us about your amazing work station.
"My dad designed my bench! He builds amazing custom houses in Pennsylvania. He has a woodworker-guru named Dave who makes custom furniture — he spends hours in the shop, and out comes a beautiful piece of furniture — well, really, it's art. My jewelry bench even has secret compartments all throughout. It was made from leftover materials in the shop. It also takes three grown men to carry it."
If you weren't in the jewelry business, what would you have chosen for your career?
"A hairdresser or a fashion buyer."
J.Crew top; vintage bracelet.
What do you like about running your business from the D.C. area? What's your favorite part about our city?
"D.C. is a really fun place to be right now. There is something happening right now that I see when I do craft shows like the DC MEETMarket
— more and more people are getting into fashion, and I'm seeing droves of young people who are interested in the creative indie scene.
I think there is a major shift happening, and I think D.C. is carving out its own fashion culture. There are some very savvy small business owners and creative types who are making waves, too. I am so glad to be part of this energetic group of people. The best part is that everyone I have met lately is so down-to-earth and really happy to help each other out. This may not be NYC, but perhaps it’s the perfect mix of fashion and a friendly attitude."
Was there one moment when you felt like you'd "made it"? Or maybe an, "I'm so glad I did this!" moment?
"There are two things in particular that stand out as highlights so far. The first was when I went to Urban Outfitters to show them my jewelry. While walking into the office, I was full of nerves, [but] by the time I left, I must have had a huge smile on my face after [because] they wanted to buy some things. That was a great moment that I will never forget.
The second really neat thing is whenever I get placed in a great magazine or blog. No matter how big or small, I still love that I am being included in something that is so creative and, frankly, cool. I am in awe of how cool and hip people are, and it’s amazing when I see them wearing my jewelry and talking about my brand. I look up to a lot of other fashion brands and they keep me on my toes and wanting to raise my bar higher and
What's your absolute favorite part about being your own boss?
"The freedom! As the business grows, I will say that my freedom has been dwindling a bit, but it’s the best thing in the world knowing that I am free to run my own day and own schedule. The challenge will be to keep that freedom while changes and growth take place.
My second favorite thing about running a small business is to see it grow. It’s one of the most amazing things that has ever happened to me. It’s so rewarding to see the results and growth when you work so hard for your baby (the biz)! It’s like a high for me — it can feel like a game or a puzzle, and the small successes can make your day."