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The Daily Wildcat

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The Daily Wildcat

The Daily Wildcat

 

    Romeo & Jewelry

    Christy Long’s workbench is littered with the remnants of decades past. Scattered among her jewelry-making tools are depictions of women basking in the sun, tobacco leaves and ancient medallions, tinged with patina from old-world Europe. Eventually, Long will piece together these scraps from the past, encapsulate them in glass and hang them from a chain, affixing the recycled images around the wearer’s neck.

    After years of working with her husband in real estate, Long decided to put her art major to work, and found her calling in creating jewelry fashioned from cigar labels, vintage medallions, and gemstones.

    “”I’ve always wanted to make jewelry, but I didn’t want to make jewelry that everybody made. I wanted to be a little different,”” said Long, who took classes in metalworking while attending the UA. Growing up in Tucson made an indelible mark on Long’s art, which she describes as having a “”southwestern look.”” But, it was her grandparents who truly inspired her line’s aesthetic. Her grandmother’s affinity for delicate lace mantillas – or lace head coverings – contributed to her line’s southwestern style, and her grandfather’s old cigar boxes provided inspiration for using cigar labels as focal points for charms.

    “”These artists would draw actual women who worked in the fields. They would wear these mantillas, and I just get a kick out of finding them, with the cutest faces and the 1920s look. They date all the way back to the turn of the (20th) century,”” Long said of the stone lithograph labels that can often fetch hundreds of dollars in resale.

    “”There’s a great many pictures of these women that modeled these cigar box labels. Each one is individually done by an artist – it’s not about smoking,”” Long explained. “”It’s just about the art -it has nothing to do with cigars. They just have such gorgeous pictures.””

    Over several years, Long researched the steps she would need to take to turn her hobby into a business. With the famous Romeo & Juliet cigar box line in mind, Long dubbed her company “”Romeo & Jewelry.”” Though Long sells much of her jewelry at art shows, local Tucson boutiques like Bon, ZoÇ Boutique and Cele Peterson have taken notice of her unusual line and currently stock her bracelets, necklaces, and earrings.

    The cigar labels used in her designs come from her own collection, some of which can reach hundreds of dollars on the resale market. Though Long will use the more rare labels in her jewelry, she tries not to raise her prices accordingly, preferring to keep her designs at more accessible prices (charms typically cost around $80; bracelets around $195).

    Currently, Long is experimenting with different materials, like silver polymer clay, to diversify her jewelry. However, she plans to keep her company fairly small and local.

    “”I love it – I wish I had more time. It’s tough, but I do plan to keep doing it. It’s so important to me to do creative things, and I never want to let that go – it’s too much a part of myself.””

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