Erica Weiner

ERICA'S STORY

 
Photo:  elk/Erin Kornfeld and Erica Leone

Erica was born in Brooklyn and raised not too far away, in a small suburb in New Jersey. After earning her degree in Art History at Vassar College, she spent a few years touring the world as a costumer on Broadway shows, then a few more in the trenches as a sample-maker for various NYC fashion designers.  She began making jewelry as a way to relieve stress after work, but before long, she had a full-fledged cult following, and after a year her hobby was her new career.  

On the fly, Erica taught herself everything about the business and craft of jewelry-making.  She called on creative friends for advice, and made a lot of mistakes along the way.  In 2006, she moved operations from her kitchen table (her first HQ with business partner Lindsay Salmon) to a sunny studio on Chrystie Street, where now, on any given day, there are eight to ten women working together, designing, making, photographing, shipping, and promoting the line. Erica is amazed, still, that she gets to be creative and make money doing it.  Her favorite thing is traveling the world—Morocco, London, and all over the United States just this year—to collect antique jewels to sell in her shop.

Erica is among the third generation of Weiners to wheel and deal in lower Manhattan. Members of her family have hauled ice, sewn fur coats, and hocked candy here over the past century.   Her paternal grandmother, Mollie, was born just down the street from today’s EWJ store—hence the fine jewelry line, “1909,” named for the year of her birth.  Mollie, suddenly left with two small children to raise alone in the 1950’s, faked her way into a great stenography job at St. Vincent’s hospital in Greenwich Village.  The story is a little murky—she may have forged a diploma, and definitely learned stenography from a book— but the fake-it-’till-you-make-it attitude is definitely in Erica’s genes, and it’s served her well over the years.

THE TEAM

Lindsay
partner

Favorite Erica Weiner piece:
Hummingbird Skull Necklace in sterling silver
Ashley
production manager

Favorite Erica Weiner piece: 
"Nuts to You" Locket in gold vermeil

Emily
public relationsFavorite Erica Weiner piece:
Dogwood Earrings

Kaley
wholesale accounts manager

Favorite Erica Weiner piece:
Friendship Bracelet Cuff

Adnelly
general manager

Favorite Erica Weiner piece:
1909 Two-headed Snake Ring

 Kelsy
sales associateFavorite Erica Weiner piece:
1909 Bow Ring with turquoise

 

Lucy
production assistant 

Favorite Erica Weiner piece:
Elephant Hair Ring in gold vermeil

Christy
sales associate

Favorite Erica Weiner piece:
Teepee Earrings

Eva
sales associate Favorite Erica Weiner piece: 
1909 Bow Ring with diamonds

Bunny
Yorkshire Terrier

Favorite Erica Weiner piece:
What is jewelry?

 

 

ENVIRONMENTAL AND SOCIAL PRACTICES

The company’s environmentally responsible practices have remained the same from day one:  Packing materials are reused, and mailers are 90% post-consumer paper and 100% recyclable.  We offset 300% of our carbon output through www.carbonfund.org. Most importantly, all of the jewelry we produce is handmade in NYC.

How do we keep our manufacturing processes in line with our environmental stance?  We re-use materials that were mass-produced in the USA in the 20th century.  Up until the second half of the 1900’s, New England fabricated most of the brass jewelry parts in the USA.  When labor and manufacturing moved overseas, the American factories were shuttered, and surplus charms and chain were put into storage nearby.  We regularly scour the East Coast to uncover these forgotten warehouses and buy dead-stock material in bulk, paying special attention to bizarre, specific, and funny pieces that hint at having their own weird stories.  We like the challenge of basing our designs around our discoveries.  We also find that it’s impossible to duplicate the gorgeous patina that brass acquires over decades of rest.  Using pieces that already exist in the world keeps our costs low and our environmental footprint light. It keeps the collection fresh, too: finite supplies mean our jewelry styles sometimes are limited in quantity.  We do produce some of our jewelry from scratch, and when we need expert help (like with electroplating, casting, traditional stone-setting) to craft our jewelry, we employ like-minded NYC companies, most of which are family businesses.  
We worry about blood diamonds, too.  There's no way to tell if any diamond is "conflict-free", no matter how it's labeled.  But buying an antique diamond ring is not only classy as hell, it can also give you some peace of mind.  By wearing a diamond that was mined over a century ago, you're not investing in or encouraging unfair labor and trade practices now or in the future. 

We believe in responsible employment, and invent standards that we would like to see the rest of America adhere to, too.  We’ve found that providing free health insurance and reasonable maternity leave support can be prohibitively expensive for an employer.  We do it anyway.  Every year, as a team, we decide which charities we want to fund.  Last year, 11% of our after-tax profits helped support NYC public school arts education and AIDS research.  We also have a lot of fun doing this job.  Thanks for supporting us—you’ve given us the freedom to sustain ourselves creatively and financially. 

JOBS

Want to learn how to do what we do?  Intern with us.  You must be NYC-based and available 2 5-hour days per week.  Internships last 3 months and are unpaid, but we’ll buy you lunch and school credit is usually available (check with your internship office first).    
Email ashley@ericaweiner.com for more information.