The Island of Martha’s Vineyard can have such an effect on people. Meet Kelley Solomon of Aquinnah Jewelry. Growing up, Kelley spent her summers and many holidays here on the Vineyard. Her parents have a house in Oak Bluffs, and this was where she loved to be.
As a child she fell in love with the beaches of course but she also fell in love with making jewelry. Whenever she could, Kelley would make her way to Beadnik’s in Vineyard Haven.
There she would get lost in all the fabulous beads and stones and in her jewelry designs. Being a just a kid, who knew that someday she would end up designing her own jewelry?
In 2003, after college (where she studied fashion and photography), Kelley spent a year on the Vineyard.
It was a remarkable year filled with long walks in Aquinnah and up Island, and all the other adventures that come with being here during the off-season. For Kelley, being on the Island was being in another world.
The beauty surrounding her was inspiring. It was at this point that she started making jewelry again, but this time, as a way to make money. Her first line was called KDesigns.
You could buy the pieces at The Great Put On in Edgartown. Sadly, living here year round was not an option, and after that year, she moved back to Connecticut where jewelry making sort of fell by the wayside.
Kelley got a job at a popular bridal shop, The White Dress by the Shore. Of course, she would wear some of her own jewelry to work. Her boss was practically begging her to make jewelry to sell in the store, and bridal clients began asking her to make custom pieces for them to wear for their wedding or for bridesmaid gifts.
In 2011 in a small space she shares with her husband at their house in Connecticut, Kelley started the jewelry line, Aquinnah — named after her favorite, most inspirational place in the world. Her jewelry is a perfect mix of Island-style and couture — a sort of haute hippie.
At the same, Kelley got pregnant with her daughter, who is also named Aquinnah. After having her, Kelley never went back to her job. Aquinnah and her Aquinnah Jewelry became her new jobs, and she’s never been happier.
Her collections are filled with one of a kind vintage pieces that she has refinished. Her pieces are bold, fresh, vintage, modern, unique, colorful, playful and those are just a few of the adjectives I could come up with to describe her jewelry, which by the way I have to say I love.
Here’s the really cool part. For her work, Kelley goes to these giant warehouses in Rhode Island and New York City that are filled with vintage jewelry. She scours through boxes upon boxes of pieces that were ordered decades ago and never used.
She finds ones she likes — could be one piece of a style or 300 pieces of one style — and has them plated with Rhodium, and then with either silver or 18-carat gold. She’ll then add Swarovski crystals or a monogram or whatever she’s inspired to do by the piece. These salvaged pieces become wearable art.
This year, Kelley is all about the lockets, all of which can be monogrammed with different styles. She has found a number of lockets to work with. Then she adds different chains, different Swarovski crystals and other embellishments and you have a unique piece of Aquinnah Jewelry.
Not that you can’t wear a fabulous pair of beaded earrings on a Monday, but sometimes a girl likes to be a little laid back with her accessories while still wearing a piece of art.
Kelley never knows what new pieces she’ll find, or as she likes to call them, elements. So, if you see a piece you like on her website or in a store that sells Aquinnah Jewelry, you might want to get it right away.
If you live on Martha’s Vineyard, you can find Aquinnah Jewelry at the Green Room in Vineyard Haven. She and owner Elaine Barse are old family friends. Actually Elaine wears her Vintage Scalloped Coin Pendant all the time.
Aquinnah pieces are moderately priced from $50 and up. So, there’s something for everyone.
Kelley loves the hunt of finding the perfect elements and giving them new life, while knowing there is a limited supply. Never short of ideas, she is constantly inspired by the world around her, and of course by Martha’s Vineyard. She comes back as often as she can, and luckily it’s not a far trip from where she lives in Connecticut.
Kelley’s dream is that she will eventually be able to buy a house with her family Up-Island. There, she can have a barn for her studio, and spend her days making jewelry and enjoying the Island with her Aquinnah. I think she might just be on to something there.
She loves making custom pieces. Have a piece of jewelry from your Grandmother that you have no idea what to do with? Kelley can make something magical for you.
If you’re like me, and struggling to find a unique necklace with the initials of both your children, since most necklaces are really for one child, Kelley is the one to work with. The joy that she gets from her work is evident in the work itself and when you meet her.