Heavy Metal

Heavy Metal

This Emmaus jeweler creates affordable, quality pieces That are perfect for gifts.

You may have missed the storefront if you weren’t looking for it. House of Metalworks is tucked away on the lower level of a Main Street building in Emmaus. But walk down a couple steps and you’re greeted with a sign on the door: Come in, we’re awesome.

“It’s from Canada,” says creator Jill Italiano, who opened the studio and store in 2015.

The Emmaus native returned to her hometown to set up shop on Main Street, after starting to sell her jewelry on the website Etsy in 2012. But before becoming a jeweler, Italiano went to culinary school and worked with a French pastry chef in New York City. Which sounds glamorous—“but I hated it,” recalls Italiano.

The pieces she made were worn by celebrities, including Blake Lively

She’d always been a crafty person, so soon after, she took a job at a gold importer where she learned about jewelry-making. It was there she thought that making her own jewelry was something she could do.

Italiano began working as a studio director for an up-and-coming jewelry designer in New York City’s garment district. The pieces she made were worn by celebrities, including Blake Lively on the set of Gossip Girl. It was at this studio where she took discarded metal to the basement and started playing around with it. “It was very liberating,” she says.

Italiano was laid off from that company, but that gave her the opportunity to launch her own jewelry line, which she started selling on Etsy—and it was steady growth from there. Now, Italiano works out of the studio-slash-storefront with a small team. Her favorite metal to work with is silver, but she enjoys experimenting, especially with brass.

Part of what Italiano prides her business on is the use of recycled materials and the effort to be as sustainable as possible. “In the beginning, I wanted to keep using found metals because my first pieces were created using the discarded metal I found while working as a studio director,” she says.

After going through a batch of scrap metal she got from a fellow designer, Italiano turned to her father, a scrapper, who brought her brass she could melt down to start making jewelry. But due to the popularity of her product, she couldn’t sustain this process. After moving to Emmaus, Italiano started buying her aluminum and brass from Wentz Hardware, just a couple of blocks away. “While it isn’t recycled [material], I just walk down and buy it locally,” she says.

Italiano sources her sterling silver from a refiner in New Mexico, which takes in scraps from all over and uses it in the manufacture of its products. “And then we save our metal scrap and dust that we can’t use and either recycle them locally through my dad or send the silver back to New Mexico to be used in new raw materials,” she says.

House of Metalworks also aims to be plastic-free, says Italiano, by using paper packing tapes, cello bags, and biodegradable packing peanuts. “We also welcome packing peanut donations,” she says.

When it comes to the look and feel of her design, Italiano’s preference for small and simple is evident in the store. Charms, stud earrings, and simple pendants adorn the jewelry racks and cases. “I really like tiny,” she says.

Some of this inspiration came from Michelle Kwan, the Olympic figure skater, who wore a simple red string necklace for good luck. “I was obsessed with that red string necklace,” she says.

Italiano likes experimenting with new processes and trends, like tassels and aromatherapy. House of Metalworks offers classes in which participants can try their own hand at these jewelry-making techniques.

“When I was a kid, I loved making stuff with my hands, and it’s important for people to have access to learn how to make stuff,” she says. “A lot of people in the area love creating, and it’s important to be involved in the community and have classes that are affordable.”

To date, classes have included hammering techniques, tassels, leather, aromatherapy, and enamel. But people’s favorite class is kumihimo, which is a form of Japanese weaving. Italiano has simplified the technique for her classes to the level of a sophisticated friendship bracelet, using nylon material and charms.

Italiano is happy to be back in Emmaus doing something she loves. “We’ve really been welcomed in this community,” she says. “It supports artists.”

The sign on the door has become known in the community, too. “People come in here, saying, ‘I hear you’re awesome’,” Italiano laughs. “I try to make this a happy place. I want people in here to be happy.”

Try Your Hand at Jewelry-Making

Sign up for a class! They run for 2 hours and many are BYOB.

Prices range from $15 to $50.

For more information, visit houseofmetalworks.com/events

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