(credit: Laura Tanner Swinand)

Laura Tanner Swinand discovered her love for making jewelry as a teenager. You could find the teen selling funky enamel earrings and safety-pin bracelets to local boutiques in her hometown of Santa Barbara, California. Years later her first trunk show yielded great success, convincing Tanner to transform her hobby into a business. Now, Laura Tanner Jewelry (LTJ) is located just outside Chicago. What grabbed my eye about Tanner’s collection are the gemstones, freshwater pearls, silver chains, and ability to mix, match and–my favorite–layer across her collection. I asked the designer several questions about what’s in for the season, tips for a few classic pieces to pair with any outfit, and more!

Q: What can customers expect from your custom designs?

A: In a sense, all my jewelry is custom as each piece is handmade to order for each customer. You can order jewelry to fit your measurements or preferences, such as necklace length, bracelet size, earring type (hook, post, clip, etc.). I love collaborating with clients to create a completely unique design, reconfigure heirloom jewelry, or convert a rarely worn piece from their jewelry box into something new and fabulous.

(credit: Laura Tanner Swinand)

Q: What is one of your classic pieces that can be paired with any fall/winter outfit?

A: The BonBon Duo necklace is an innovative, original LTJ design classic. It is a convertible piece you can wear six different ways, including as a separate bracelet and chain necklace. The multi-hued gemstones and warm gold-filled chains of the versatile confetti mix is a great piece for fall and winter as it goes with everything from deep jewel tones to neutrals, and can be worn with anything from jeans to a little black dress.

Q: What is a necklace and bracelet for the fall/winter?

A: I love pyrite (fool’s gold!) and labradorite, which are currently very popular gemstones and are great neutrals for fall and winter fashion. My long Terra Tassel necklace features pyrite nuggets on a long chain with a chain tassel, and looks great over a fitted sweater or shirt. The Trilogy bracelet with beautiful, faceted labradorite briolettes is a great choice for fall and winter and is delicate enough to be worn under coats or gloves.

(credit: Laura Tanner Swinand)

Q: Where do you find your inspiration? Do you follow trends or go off your own vision?

A: I am often inspired by nature’s forms, colors, and textures in my immediate surroundings and on my travels. Chicago’s museums also never cease to provide me with a creative jump start, particularly the Field’s gemstone and ancient jewelry exhibits. I seek a balance between contrasting elements (e.g., translucent and opaque, soft and hard, dull and shiny, or delicate and rough). I am drawn to the meditative, tactile, and often unpredictable process of creating jewelry, as well as to the innate natural beauty and subtle imperfections found in the raw materials with which I work. More than anything, I love seeing women wearing my designs and hearing from happy clients.

Q: What is your philosophy on style for your pieces?

A: My style philosophy tends toward simple, delicate, sophisticated, and versatile and inventive. Most of my pieces come in a range of gemstone colors, and in either silver or gold, which give customers many options and choices. I encourage my clients to mix pieces across my collections, as they are all designed to work together

Q: Can you give us any tips for some accessories on a classic outfit?

A: A great combination with a classic outfit like skinny jeans, a white tank, and a black blazer is the delicate PomPom necklace with large, bold Twist hoops or Pierce earrings. The PomPom is a great layering piece and can be worn long, doubled, or as a bracelet by wrapping it several times around your wrist (available in labradorite, pyrite as well as many other stones).

Jenny Schooley is a Chicago-based writer and editor. She currently works as a communications analyst for a financial corporation.