Friday, May 29

Alumna’s jewelry business fashions handmade crystal crowns

Alumna Adaeze Njaka's crowns are inspired by fantasy narratives such as "Game of Thrones," in which the characters' accessories reflect their surrounding environment. (Aubrey Yeo/Daily Bruin senior staff)

Adaeze Njaka repaired her mother’s necklaces using only her fingernails and teeth when she was a child.

The UCLA alumna now creates her own jewelry – crystal crowns – for clients ranging from Renaissance fairgoers to Grammy-nominated Australian singer Sam Sparro.

“It’s really cool that different types of people enjoy my crowns considering I didn’t really care for wearing jewelry until recently,” Njaka said.

Njaka has been making jewelry since she was 10 years old but did not officially start her crown business until January. She single-handedly runs the online business on her website, from conceptualizing the crowns to sourcing materials to advertising on social media. So far Njaka has sold around 80 of her crystalline products to around 70 customers.

[Related: Alumna’s jewelry designs rooted in Korean folklore and tradition]

When making her crowns, Njaka said she draws inspiration from fantasy narratives like “The Lord of the Rings” and “Game of Thrones.”

“In different regions of fantasy worlds, headpieces reflect the topography and natural resources of the environment,” she said. “(In ‘Game of Thrones’), characters from the South wear warmer pieces than those in the North, yet they all suggest power.”

One of Njaka’s headpieces is inspired by the blood-filled “Red Wedding” scene in “Game of Thrones.” Some of the crystals in the Blood Crystal Crown are red or have red spots to resemble blood splattering, she said.

For all of her crowns, Njaka personally chooses the crystals she uses, which she sources from wholesalers in the Fashion District of downtown Los Angeles.

“I go out to feel and see the crystals I use for myself before I make crowns. I need to make sure that they’re natural and raw for that simple yet unique aesthetic,” she said.

Njaka then lays her chosen crystals out in different patterns and configurations on a jewelry board. After determining the order of the crystals, she takes an hour or two to wire wrap the quartz, agate or pyrite crystals by hand.

“It’s an intimate process to wire wrap a crown knowing that my customer will wear them somewhere special and will feel good wearing it,” Njaka said.

Todd Smoyer, one of Njaka’s customers, said wearing his dark blue crystal crown makes him stand out when he goes to events, like warehouse parties or music festivals.

Smoyer found Njaka’s crowns while browsing Instagram, where he said pictures of white and black skulls donning the crystalline headpieces caught his attention.

“I’ve seen flower crowns for years already and it was just not my style,” Smoyer said. “I’m always on the look for unique pieces that I can wear more than once and the crown just seemed to fit the bill really well.”

While he initially purchased the crown for a music festival, Smoyer said the crown can easily match casual wear as well. He also wears it with different drop-crotch pants and T-shirts.

“It’s not an everyday look, but it definitely makes me stand out,” he said.

Alyssa Poblador, another of Njaka’s customers, owns not just one crystalline product, but four – three crowns and one comb.

Poblador said she already had an initial interest in crystals and their healing powers, which she said she strengthens by leaving the crystals under moonlight before wearing them.

“With the crowns, I get to carry the crystals’ magic with me,” she said. “Wearing the crystals helps me feel more feminine, calm, confident and cleansed.”

One of Poblador’s crowns incorporates gold pyrite, which she said brings love, good fortune and success to business endeavors. Poblador wears the crown during work events and situations where she has to network. However, she does not strictly limit her wear of the accessories to professional situations.

“The beauty about the crowns is that you can dress them up or down,” she said. “I can easily wear them to nights out with the girls, birthday parties or in the office, and still have the crystals’ good vibes surrounding me.”

But while crowns have been at the center of Njaka’s jewelry making, she said she wants to expand her business past crowns. She aspires to eventually make chokers, bracelets and body chains in the hope of working her way up to designing costume jewelry such as body armor and more elaborate headpieces, she said.

While she would like to increase the amount of available products, Njaka said she wants her workforce number to remain the same. She said working on the crowns with her own hands allows her to give customers a piece of herself.

“I like having this close, personal relationship with each of the products I make and with the people that buy them,” she said. “It’s very human and necessary.”

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