Photos by Cat Fennell
If a sunny afternoon in Berkeley, California takes you to a quaint row at the foot of the city’s crowning madame of a hotel, the Claremont, then you’re in for a delight. Domingo Avenue is bustling with shoppers and coffee drinkers making the most of their Sunday, and among the faces here, you just might find Kelley Hollis.
Since discovering her grandmother’s jewelry box of screwback and clip-on earrings as a young girl, the Bay Area jeweler knew that delicate and detailed accessories would be her long-life love. In collecting unique pieces over the years, Kelley discovered how amazing the quality of items in her collection were compared to contemporary ones, particularly her gold plate and sterling pieces. “The 1930s and 1940s were an amazing time for “costume” jewelry,” she explains. “Jewelry designers still used excellent components, such as sterling and often 22ct gold overlay. The stones used tended to be high quality glass or crystal. There was much competition during this period to create the most unique design. Pieces became increasingly elaborate. ”
For about 10 years, Kelley Hollis has been creating her own stunning works of out out of the old, reworking pendants and studded earrings into more versatile accessories adorned by the modern woman, in love with the past while taking fashion forward. Most of these women are in their 20’s and 30’s, a great age that Kelley sees as right when they would be refining their jewelry palette and seeking quality pieces that speak directly to that palette. With Kelley’s vision, they find themselves in great company.
“The pieces I create are unique. They may have a theme such as flowers, or Art Deco, but each piece is different. They are also timeless pieces.” Among her most unique, and most difficult, she professes, are the elaborate collage necklaces that at times can take up to six separate components to hand make before they can all come together for the finalized piece. Despite the tedious attention to them, she assures they’re also the most fun to create.
Another one of her favorites among her collection can speak for itself, a hefty but elegant gold cuff elaborated by the fastening of two opalescent pink clip-on earrings– 1950’s glass. “The earrings were extremely heavy, even to wear as clip earrings,” Kelley tells us. ” I knew they should not be made into pierced earrings as it would place far too much stress on the ear. But they make a fabulous cuff!”
Kelley’s magical touch on these timeless treasures have proven only to sing to the romantic yet innovative sensibilities of her clientele, many flocking into the locations at Lesley Evers in Oakland or The Vintage Net in Berkeley, where her jewelry is carried. The online store is also a bustling marketplace, especially in the digital age where eCommerce finds itself an easy contender for fast-paced consumers. Even as the way stylists shop evolves, how they style their sense of taste and accessorize to express themselves remains a constant that Kelley can easily cater to. “I try to select vintage pieces that are not often found,” she explains, “then set them to enhance their unique beauty and fit the sensibilities of the modern woman.”
We leave Kelley that Sunday afternoon, delighted to have and to hold these one-of-a-kind treasures that few can say they could craft themselves. The dream of breathing new life into beautiful bygone pieces as those of Kelley’s own is something we often think about and marvel at, admiring the dedication and vision borne out of one woman’s passion for the past, evoked by simple memories of family and the fabulous finds in her grandmother’s box that she was fortunate to come across. In turn, this reality would be nothing without the support of the community to which she is constantly inspired by. She remembers that moment when her lovely creations would find a place in the world, starting with finding a place to be sold over on Molte Cose, a vintage boutique on San Francisco’s Polk Street.
“One day I walked into Molte Cose– the owner, Theresa, loved my earrings and wanted me to make some for her store.
“Thank you always to Theresa Nittolo for encouraging me. ”
Find more of Kelley Hollis’ wonderful jewelry online at kelleyhollisjewelry.com, and in stores at
5501 College Ave
Oakland, CA 94618
The Vintage Net
2918 Domingo Ave
Berkeley, CA 94705