When Denver transplant Amanda Harper started making jewelry, it was purely a creative outlet — something she did sitting at her kitchen table in her apartment. Now, Harper owns Harper Made, her own line of accessories that have been featured at Denver Fashion Week and are found at more than 150 stores in the United States and Canada. “I am pretty much all self-taught and I started making jewelry as a hobby about six years ago. I needed a creative outlet and I started playing around with jewelry, and I just became obsessed with it. The rest is history,” she said.
In Harper Made signature style, quirky designs featuring cacti, crystals and fringe are right at home next to dainty diamond-shaped gold chokers and mountain-shaped gemstone necklaces. Harper does all of her designing and creating here in Denver, making this line truly local and affordable — with everything priced at or less than $50. We recently sat down with Harper to hear about how all of the pieces of her successful business came together.
303 Magazine: When did you see your line start to take off?
Amanda Harper: When I first moved to Colorado, I used Instagram and I was selling a little bit on Etsy for fun. It was very much a side hustle. I had a store in Georgia reach out to me for wholesale. That’s when it first clicked that I could support myself on this. I just started working towards that ever since that point and moved to Denver four and a half years ago and about a year after that, I took it full-time. The first show I did was the HAHO, Denver Handmade Homemade. I sold a lot of stuff there and I thought this could be another avenue of business.
The first Denver boutique that started ordering super regularly was fab’rik in Littleton. She really got behind the brand and they have a whole table dedicated to it. They’re the boutique I showed with during Denver Fashion Week as well. In Denver, there’s fab’rik, Meraki Moon, Stitch Boutique and Steele Angel. I have a couple salons that do smaller orders as well. I have about 150 stores that carry my jewelry across the US and one in Canada.
303: Where do you draw inspiration for your line when creating jewelry?
AH: I just wanted jewelry that was fun to wear. I love raw gemstones so those have been a huge inspiration for almost all pieces from the very beginning. I’m super inspired by nature and also art. I love old-school Western jewelry and I try to do a modern spin on that. For example, I have these rings that can be a big statement ring or you can put it on your bandana. I also designed a necklace to look like a bolo tie. I’m really inspired by the Southwest.
The technique that I use to plate the stones is called electroplating. Instead of putting the stone into a setting where you have to cut the stone and make it uniform, that technique allows the natural edges of the stone to show through. This is just how it’s formed and you work with the stone itself, instead of having to cut the stone to fit the setting.
303: What brought about your decision to stay at such an affordable price point compared to other jewelry designers?
AH: I really wanted to create a line of jewelry that I felt that was on-trend, high quality but also super affordable. From the very beginning, everything has been under $50. I’m super dedicated to that and keep that in mind every time I design something new. I just felt like that was a gap in the market. There were high-end brands where you’re paying $100 for something and then there’s Forever 21 fashion jewelry. I just wanted jewelry that was fun to wear. I love the raw gemstones so those have been a huge inspiration for almost all pieces from the very beginning.
303: What types of materials do you use for your jewelry? Where are they sourced from?
AH: Colorado does have some gemstones but not all the ones that I like to use. The stones are sourced directly from mining towns in South America and they cut them all into custom shapes that I want. I design everything, source the stones, get them custom cut and then I assemble everything here [in Denver]. I use gold and silver chains and findings and some brass too while incorporating the gemstones throughout the line.
303: What is the importance of supporting local craftsmen, designers and businesses?
AH: It’s extremely important because instead of having the money spent go into the pocket of a corporation, is going into the life of your neighbor. It’s helping them feed their family and send their kid to college. It’s staying so much closer to you just by spending within your community and I think it’s just so important. Whenever possible, I shop local and support the businesses that support me. Denver is such a great city where you can shop locally so easily. It’s not like that everywhere, so I try to take advantage of that as much as possible.
303: What are your favorite jewelry trends at the moment? Which of your styles are currently in your personal rotation?
AH: I’m loving hoops. I love that they’ve come back; I think it’s so fun. I’ve been loving layered necklaces for years now. My favorite pieces in my rotation right now are the Stella Earrings, the statement ring as a bandana slide and small necklaces.
303: What events do you have coming up?
AH: My next event is going to be the Denver Flea at the end of September and Horseshoe Market at the beginning of October. Then it’s the holiday hustle after that. My brain is already in December because it’s coming up quick and I have to have everything ready for people to shop holiday.
Photography by Amanda Harper and Jaicee Morgan.