I regularly meet fantastic women through Instagram. Women from all over the world who connect and share pieces of their lives with me. It really inspires me to see how women live on the other side of the country, the continent, and the world, what they do for work, fun, and well-being.
Sometimes there is also a unique opportunity to meet each other in real life, like the day I met Chelsea and Jade. Last month, they flew to Europe and combined a family visit in Amsterdam with their fabulous presence at the AndBloom party. And that’s how I met these inspiring American ladies (with Dutch roots) in real life.
A day after the party, I met them again for lunch in a typical Dutch lunchroom in Amsterdam to get to know each other better and chat quietly. Of course, what interests me most is their fantastic initiative to start a company together; George rings, and I ask them all about it. Enjoy this interview with these two beautiful women and their beautiful brand.
I have this clear memory of being scratched as a child by an adult’s giant diamond ring and wondering why someone would wear something that hurt people, lol.
How did George Rings come into existence?
Chelsea: The idea for George Rings was basically the result of not being able to find the jewelry that we wanted to wear. Prior to starting George, Jade and I didn’t own a lot of fine jewelry other than our wedding rings because most of it didn’t speak to our sensibilities. Everything felt too blingy or too … much.
For me particularly, I had this simple emerald ring in my imagination for over a decade — an emerald cut like a gumdrop and set inside a cup of yellow gold. I could never find anything even close. Emerald solitaires are almost always faceted, paired with diamonds, and set in prongs of white gold. And I know that those types of rings — faceted and glittery — are supposed to communicate that a ring is expensive, valuable, etc., but they have never been beautiful to me. They have never felt like “me.”
Jade: I’d never considered myself a “jewelry person” and that’s partly because most fine jewelry never felt good on my body, but also because much of it feels gaudy or impractical. Stones in prongs sit too high off my finger, they snag on my clothing and skin, and they have to be taken off for work, sports, or caregiving.
I have this clear memory of being scratched as a child by an adult’s giant diamond ring and wondering why someone would wear something that hurt people, lol. I understand why now, but it’s always stuck with me that the best kind of jewelry is the kind you can wear all the time, without fear.
I always wanted pieces with more substance and softness, the solid kind that would get more beautiful through use.
What is the idea behind the jewelry?
Chelsea: The idea behind our jewelry is that it feels as good as it looks. It’s made of the most precious materials, but it’s not loved because it can’t be worn. On the contrary, it’s meant to be worn daily.
Jade: A while ago, I got into a bit of tussle with a woman on Instagram over a post about a luxury pair of heels that were basically masochistic to wear. She wrote, “It doesn’t matter how much they hurt as long as you FEEL beautiful.” I was like, no. It matters, and we need to stop disrespecting our bodies.
All of that has been deeply fulfilling in many ways, but I always longed for a life that allowed for a slower speed, for creativity to flourish, and — in the words of fellow Bloomer Ligia Koijen Ramos — a life that would allow me to “just feel.”
I asked both women to tell me more about their backgrounds, the years before the decision to start George.
Jade: When Chelsea and I began talking about starting a jewelry brand, I had some mental barriers — it seemed risky, no one in my close circle had ever done it, and I was the breadwinner for my family and felt the weight of that responsibility. But I also was tired of feeling like I didn’t own my time or my life. I was tired of the stress of working for a tech company that had just gone public. I was yearning for more flexibility to spend time with my boys and to be a better partner with my husband, who had been the full-time parent for most of our marriage. And mostly, I was tired of ignoring my creative inner self.
I’ve always disliked the phrase, “Jack of all trades, master of none,” because what it implies is that you can either be good at one thing, or mediocre at many things. Whenever I’ve taken personality tests, my results are usually spread across 75% of the categories, meaning that I never strongly land in any certain bucket. I tried to establish my “bucket” early on in my life because I wanted to belong to something. That bucket was math, logic, and operational efficiency. And what that meant to me was that I couldn’t be creative and artistic, even though those were things I loved too.
I managed to squeak in a few art classes in high school, and I cherish the items I produced at that time: pencil drawings, watercolor paintings, and several pieces of jewelry I designed and created. I convinced the art teacher to let me take the jewelry class two more times, and by the end of the last class, he recommended me for an apprenticeship with a local jeweler. But as I moved on to college, creative arts didn’t seem practical, and I pursued computer science instead. I got married, had four sons, and at 31, started my career in tech and operations. All of that has been deeply fulfilling in many ways, but I always longed for a life that allowed for a slower speed, for creativity to flourish, and — in the words of fellow Bloomer Ligia Koijen Ramos — a life that would allow me to “just feel.”
A few years ago, when Chelsea and I began to talk about designing jewelry and creating a luxury jewelry brand, it just felt right. The day I told my manager I was stepping away from my career was a glorious day. It marked the start of really trusting myself, despite the many unknowns.
Chelsea: Prior to starting George Rings with Jade, I practiced law and owned a small business with my husband, Michael. We live in Portland, Oregon, with our three boys. After 14 years of full-time parenting and part-time legal work, I was feeling anxious to express other aspects of myself. At the same time my husband was wanting to connect more with our boys, so we started working on a plan to swap roles. It wasn’t possible for us to switch immediately — it took some years of preparation for each of us, both practically and emotionally.
At first I thought I would just go back to practicing law full time, but the more I considered it, the more stressed I felt. It wasn’t the pressure of litigation that worried me, it was the prospect of being in an environment where I was expected to answer to some kind of supposed authority. I hit 40 and I was like, “I’m not answering to anyone but me.”
I also just wanted to make beautiful things, especially rings. I had images of rings floating in my mind all the time, and I would search online and in stores hoping to find them. Then I realized they were mine to make, not to find.
That voice inside was calling out to me, and choosing this path of creating and owning a business with Jade was my way of saying “I hear you.”
When Jade and I decided to work on our creative dreams together, everything shifted for me. On the topic of self-trust — we grew up in a conservative religious environment that did not teach us to trust our inner knowing, particularly as women. There are a thousand ways that women are taught to betray themselves, and we do much of it without resistance so that we can stay safe, get along with people, and be thought of as good and trustworthy. But at a certain point, the discomforts mount and that voice inside starts to scream — either through a physical crisis or an emotional one. That voice inside was calling out to me, and choosing this path of creating and owning a business with Jade was my way of saying “I hear you.”
Jade and I have both learned to trust our own hearts. If something feels right to us, we do it. If it feels wrong, we don’t.
What is it like to start a new company together at a later age?
Jade: If women knew how great it is to start a business later in life, I think everyone would be doing it. People talk about a “midlife crisis” but that term doesn’t fit. “Awakening” or “empowerment” feels more accurate. There’s pain that comes from realizing society has stopped seeing us and valuing us as we age. But there’s also a massive freedom that comes from deciding that enough is enough — and why were we ever trying to play their stupid game anyway? This feeling of personal empowerment has given us the courage and strength to trust our intuition, push through barriers, and set aside well-meaning but unhelpful advice from others.
A lot of women start businesses on their own and there are strengths to that, but I’m so glad to have started this business with my sister. We were already close, but working together day in and day out requires the kind of honesty and self-reflection that leads to real growth, both personally and in our relationship. We both said we didn’t want to do this if it would harm our relationship, and certainly there are moments of difficulty. We’ve known each other all our lives, so there are old dynamics and unhelpful stories that sometimes show up.
But on the whole, it’s an incredible experience to work with Chelsea. She is brave, determined, and she has an eye for design unlike anyone I’ve seen. She knows my movie references, and how to sing the harmonies of all the songs I love. She, like me, enjoys the beauty and wonder of travel. We have a daily sync and half the time we spend talking about the deep things of life, or ridiculous things our kids have done.
And our skills and interests compliment each other. Almost all of George Rings is a result of just the two of us — the website, the legal stuff, photography, copywriting, catalog design and creation, marketing ads, Instagram, etc. Reflecting on what we’re building is the same feeling I would get when squishing the cute, fat thigh of my six-month old baby, knowing that my body created him. I’m proud and grateful at the same time.
Chelsea: I am so happy that we have each other as we build this brand. I can’t imagine doing this with anyone other than Jade, she is my North Star. As her older sister, I have watched Jade apply her creative excellence to everything she’s done — sports, academics, dance, love of nature, family, work, leadership, faith. She is formidable. And I feel so lucky that I get to watch her apply that same creative excellence to our business.
People sometimes ask us how long we think it will take to reach certain business milestones or markers of success. Our business is doing better than we dreamed, but success isn’t in the future. It’s right now, in successful present moments. We have those every day together.