Conjure Jewelry: Sustainable, ethical and magical02/09/2021 10:35AM ● By Richard Gaw
By Richard L. Gaw
The story of how Chester County artist and musician Nicole Zell started her Conjure Jewelry line last year began not by what was happening, but by what was not happening.
For the past decade, Zell has made her mark and most of her living as a solo singer-songwriter and a member of the alternative rock band American Wolves (now THRILLCHASER). As the calendar turned to 2020, she was living a ten-minute train ride from downtown Philadelphia, and her career in music was dotted with recording sessions, songwriting, video production and live performances with the band.
When playing solo, Zell embraced a seemingly never-ending tour of clubs, coffee houses, wineries and restaurants – a “Have Stage, Will Travel” troubadour with heartfelt lyrics and a voice like an angel. Then the pandemic came in March, and the world of live performing went on immediate shut down, and the gigs that had fortified Zell suddenly dried up.
“Last year changed so much for so many people, and for me that meant no live shows,” said Zell, 26, who grew up in rural Honey Brook. “I was quarantined inside an apartment that was so close to the music scene and art and social events, and suddenly everything was quiet. I thought, ‘Why am I stuck here when I can be stuck in nature?’ I realized that I was missing life in the country. As the pandemic continued, I felt the need to move away from the modern rat race.”
New home, new business
Last Spring, Zell began looking for a home in the Chester County countryside -- preferably a small home on a working farm. The process took about nine months, but last December, she moved to a farm on the outskirts of Coatesville. During that time of isolation, another part of her life made the pivot as well -- a new business called Conjure Jewelry that she started last March.
Zell’s interest in turning stones into necklaces and earrings seemed to spring out of the ground beneath her childhood, one inspired by the fact that her father was, in her words, a “rock hound.”
“He loved hiking and mountains and rocks and geology,” she said. “He’s the kind of guy who if you ask him about any random rock on the ground, he’s able to identify it. Everywhere in our basement, there were boxes and boxes of gems and crystals, and he would often walk up to farmers and large property owners and ask if he could look through the fields to find arrowheads.
“For years I would make fun of him, and years later, I have turned into the same rock weirdo.”
As the pandemic continued to take away the stages and venues and performances that had become so defining for her, Zell began to find herself transitioning in a more personal way. In short, she went “minimal” and “sustainable,” in an effort to live a simpler lifestyle. She tore through her closet and removed environmentally-unfriendly “fast fashion” clothing. She then altered the means by which she was obtaining her food and her household supplies, and soon, she began to look at how she was beginning to operate Conjure Jewelry.
Searching for -- and finding -- a sustainable supplier
She needed stones, but they had to be the right kind of stones.
“I realized that if I was only going to buy materials that are ethically made and sourced, then I needed to do the same for my own business,” she said. “I began to do a lot of research about the reality behind how and where these beautiful treasures are actually obtained, which is usually through unethical and unfriendly methods.
“Unfortunately, much of the mining industry is widely unregulated, so I began to put it out to the universe to find me an environmentally-responsible supplier and drop it in my lap.”
Zell posted a call for the right kind of supplier on the social media page for the rock and gemstone industry. Soon after, she received a response from Rodrigo Delgado Haro of Crystals from Peru, an ethical, sustainable mining company based in the majestic Andes Mountains of Peru. Together with his business partner Paco Solano Santiago, Haro and Crystals from Peru have been part of local community cultivation projects such as instituting rural credit programs, reforestation efforts, and the establishment of potable water systems.
With the assistance of native llamas, the company’s miners –
who themselves live and work in the rugged terrain of the South American
country -- gather specimens that are located in fields, in stone walls and in
area mines, with very little impact to the environment. In exchange for their
all-year work, the miners receive a fair profit due to their province abiding
by a low tax system in order to promote employment and benefit the community.
“Rodrigo and I began to build an online rapport over the next several months, and as I began to learn more about their story, our partnership grew from there,” Zell said. “We have Facetime shopping appointments, and weeks later, these incredible stones and crystals arrive at my studio, untouched.”
Working from her home workshop, Zell takes the shipments she orders from Crystals from Peru and using delicate drill tools, she creates pendulums, necklaces and earrings made of clear quartz, smoky quartz, citrine, and amethyst.
In an effort to reuse and reduce waste, the hardware used in the making of the jewelry is either vintage or repurposed, and its eco-friendly packaging consists of jewelry card holders which are hand-created from recycled cardboard, package cushioning alternatives such as corrugated cardboard and recyclable and biodegradable EcoEnclose mailers.
Through Etsy, Zell has already made close to 100 online sales of her jewelry, and hopes to expand her marketing reach post-pandemic with appearances at small- and large-scale artisan festivals, as well as shops, throughout Philadelphia and Chester County.
If there is a mission attached to the work she is doing with Conjure Jewelry, Zell said that it can be found in the three words that make up the company’s slogan: Sustainable. Ethical, Magical.
“It is important for me to know that whoever purchases my jewelry understands where the stones they now wear come from, and that their purchase has made a positive impact on the environment and not a negative one,” she said. “By purchasing this jewelry, I also want them to know that they are supporting the company’s mission, which then supports the people of Peru, and allows them to build their infrastructure and other sustainable goals they have.
“These stones I am blessed to be able to make into jewelry have been here so much longer than we have, and I look at my purpose as simply to be a vessel for them. We are all conduits to everything in nature, and we’re here just to be good stewards.”
To see Nicole Zell’s full line of jewelry, visit Conjure Jewelry’s Etsy shop at
To learn more, email [email protected], visit @conjurejewelry on Facebook, or visit YouTube to see a number of videos Zell produces that cover a variety of topics related to running a small business, the mining industry, sustainable living and living in Chester County.
To learn more about Crystals from Peru, visit www.instagram.com/crystalsfrom_peru/
To contact Staff Writer Richard L. Gaw, email [email protected].