A Gem of a Second Act
It’s early on a sunny Monday morning. Jessica Crabtree is in the backyard of her Kailua home, near the beach, sipping coffee and contemplating her plants. “These red plants,” she says, holding up a leaf, “these remind me of garnets and rubies. The greens are like vasunite. If you look at how these mix … you can sometimes put a gemstone in to look like that.”
Crabtree, a jewelry designer who launched her own business—Anje Designs—several years ago, finds inspiration for her pieces in day-to-day life, especially in nature. She studies the color combinations, focusing on the way they mix and flow together.
In the late 1990s, she had a successful career as the chief accountant for a property management company. On a whim, she started taking jewelry-making classes with a group of co-workers during lunch breaks. Crabtree loved the classes—and they reignited a fervent creativity that had lain dormant during her years of crunching numbers.
In 2005, Crabtree left her two-decade-long career and pursued her newly found passion. She named her company after her grandmother, Anje, who taught her to believe in herself and in her dreams. In just that short time, Crabtree has achieved much success as jewelry designer, including selling her products at string of local vendors and receiving a substantial amount of national and international recognition.
Originally from San Diego, Crabtree spent most summers on Maui. She and her husband, Tom, moved to the Islands to raise their two children, Haley and Piper. Crabtree’s home, complete with studio and boutique, makes it the perfect base for her business.
Anje Designs offers elegantly crafted necklaces, earrings, bracelets and rings. Crabtree has created a variety of themed collections, including Beach Glam, Zen, Gem Stones and Engraved Disks.
The Beach Glam collection features a visually stunning array of earrings and necklaces adorned with seashells and sea glass. There are long silver chain necklaces with a string of colorful gems and silver sand dollar pendants, as well as large, silver hoop earrings accented with turquoise sea glass. This collection in particular exudes a distinctly Kailua feel.
“I draw a lot of my color inspirations from the ocean, and from the surroundings in Kailua,” Crabtree says.
The Zen collection features Tree of Life, lotus flowers and Om pendants on both necklaces and earrings.
“I have been practicing Pilates for about seven years, and the being at peace that is incorporated in Pilates has been the inspiration for the Zen collection,” Crabtree explains, adding that many of the jewels used in the collection are from Thailand.
The Gem Stone collection features black sapphire, iolite, quartz, moonstone, garnet, labradorite and blue kyanite, which she arranges in an impressive variety of combinations. Some necklaces and earrings have a hand-crafted silver circle with a mix of colorful gemstones in the center.
The Engraved Disk collection features silver disks with a variety of inscriptions that are strung to necklaces or bracelets. Customers often request engravings of loved ones’ names or important dates.
“This was inspired by my children just because I wanted to keep a piece of them near me,” she says. “A lot of people want to have something with them all the time that reminds them of their family.”
The Disk collection earned Anje Designs widespread fame when Heidi Klum showed up on Oprah a few years ago wearing a similar necklace. While Crabtree didn’t design Klum’s piece, nobody could track down where Klum’s necklace came from. But they did find Anje. After that, the Disk collection started receiving a slew of international shipping requests. Anje Designs also has a collection of Wrap Bracelets—the newest of which feature silk in a range of vibrant colors adorned with a variety of beads and gems.
While Crabtree may be a bold business maverick, many of her creations are a family affair.
“A lot of the sea glass is found by my children and me,” she says, adding that much of her materials are sourced from around the world. “My husband travels a lot, and he always picks up things for me on his travels. Every time he comes home from a trip, he will take out this little sack of items he brought back for me.”
As a result, Crabtree has beads from Nepal, Africa, Thailand, Mongolia, Vietnam and Cambodia.
“I feel way more satisfied now in my job and in my business than I ever did sitting in front of a computer at a desk,” she says. “It’s been the best thing ever. Someone once said that you get to a point in your life where there are more yesterdays than there are tomorrows, and I am kind of at that point now in my life that I don’t want to waste any more tomorrows.” She gazes around the yard and takes another sip of coffee. After a pause, she says, “So that’s what I do.”
Anje Designs is sold at Global Village and Muumuu Heaven in Kailua and at Therapy at Kahala Mall. The jewelry can be purchased online at anjedesigns.com. Crabtree welcomes customers to her boutique by appointment only. Products also will be available for purchase Saturday, April 7, at a party at the boutique. Call 255-7345 for details or to schedule an appointment.