Starlust Jewelry: Zodiacs Unite
Starlust Jewelry brings two zodiac symbols together, suggestive of one’s self, and his or her relationship to a loved one. With intricate detail, high quality craftsmanship, and a seemingly endless amount of sign combinations available, designer Kennon Young has created a new twist on meaningful custom jewelry. Read along as he introduces his Starlust Jewelry collection.
Starlust Jewelry embraces astrology; can you talk to us about your personal experience with astrology?
I grew up in Vermont, where stargazing was almost a daily routine during the summer months. I believe that if people were to stop for a minute and look up at the stars, many would be humbled by our place in the universe and in turn be more empathetic and caring to the people around them. It’s meditation by nature, and I think that we all can learn a lot from it. For example, it’s the connections, love and support that we share with other people and our home (earth). It’s those very connections that are at the core of what Starlust represents.
Your collection primarily focuses on the combination of two zodiac signs; what inspired you to create this unique collection?
One of my mentors once told me that I don’t sell jewelry, I sell romance, and Starlust is just that. The symbolism of one’s self and their relationship to their loved ones and the world is a very personalized thing. It was serendipitous that my passion for jewelry met my passion for the natural world. I’m lucky to have both as my inspiration.
What is your zodiac sign? What characteristics of your sign do you feel you exhibit the most?
I’m an Aries, and I am absolutely stubborn, as they say. But that stubbornness is also the tenacity that has led to many of my life’s successes so far. I’m not sure how many times that I felt like giving up- but it was a lot over the last couple of decades. But this is part of it, and it’s also why many people don’t do it, or don’t succeed. An imperative part of growth can be found by understanding one’s self. It’s a key step in understanding the world around you. Which is one reason why I find astrology so fascinating.
Tell us about how your interest in astrology started. How has it impacted your life?
Spending long youthful nights in the Vermont countryside, one of my favorite things to do was look up at the stars, at the vastness and great wonder of the stars above. That single obsession continued through school and into my adult years as my love for such things expanded into science, gemology, astronomy, and astrology. The observable universe relates to, in one way or another, everything that humanity is and experiences. The more we understand, appreciate, and respect the universe and our environment, the closer and more loving and functional we become. If everyone considers life on Earth to be the greatest and only thing in existence, we often find ourselves back in tribalism. But if we consider the vastness of space and our observable universe, we confront a somewhat uncomfortable reality that we are extremely insignificant in contrast to what else is out there. But, in turn, existentialism often brings humanity together. It also shows us that we must be accountable to each other, as we are all in this together.
How have you stayed inspired during COVID-19?
As fear doesn’t solve problems, I’ve thought deeply on how to think about the silver lining with COVID-19. The world just had an opportunity to stop, reflect, and reset (albeit forced). As someone who practices mindfulness and meditation, this is at the core of these teachings. Having the opportunity for the entire world, simultaneously, to be able to slow down for a second and reconsider their/our ways, is extremely powerful. I might argue that this by-product of COVID-19 was long overdue. There has been a surge of new websites popping up from people finally taking the leap into entrepreneurial ventures. Families have had tons of time to be together. There are mass migrations of folks from city life into a slower paced country lifestyle. We’re seeing a baby boom. Imagine the amount of pent-up tension in our families and our society that was just released. Humanity is going to come out of this very different than when it came in. I’m confident that, aside from the tragic loss of life, we will have some unexpected positivity that comes from this. It’s this concentration on positivity that keeps me motivated during dark times.
What was the first combination you created? Can you tell us which zodiac sign combination is most meaningful to you?
I owe it all to my wife. Several years ago, for her birthday, she told me that she wanted both of our signs, Aries and Libra, combined into one necklace. As I was creating this piece, I realized that no one had created “Starlust”. There are a few combination wire wrap versions available online, but none that are made with small fine details, high quality, and high-tech manufacturing.
Can you elaborate on your favorite part of the process when creating one-of-a-kind designs?
My absolute favorite part is watching someone open the box. I love reading their facial expressions when they make the connection to a piece and its symbolism. The expression of the person seeing the piece for the first time validates, celebrates, and satiates all of the hard work, frustration, and difficulty of creation and manufacturing. It’s one of the most beautiful things to be able to give someone that feeling.
You grew up in Vermont and traveled across the country to San Francisco, California at the age of 18. Can you discuss how this experience has impacted where you are now?
California was a breath of fresh air for a young man who spent his youth growing up in the small state of Vermont. Being so far away from home opened up the world to me. I’ve since traveled all over Europe, SE Asia, South Africa, and more. The more I travel, the more that I understand about how humanity lives. California opened many doors for me and in many ways turned me into the person that I am today. I was able to see the world in a way that I probably wouldn’t have otherwise.
Who has been your jewelry and design mentor? How have they influenced you?
I’ve had several mentors over the years. David Wolf of Just Appraisers in Sedona, AZ. Thom Underwood of Quantum Leap in San Diego, CA, and Gary Smith of the PA Gem Lab are a few of those that have greatly helped me along the way.
Mr. Wolf helped me grow my appraisal practice and was always there for me when I was stuck on an equation. He spent the majority of his years in the diamond district in New York, New York. His advice and market updates were always invaluable over the years.
Mr. Smith is a very unique blend of professional appraiser, jewelry restoration expert, and custom designer. His depth of knowledge in manufacturing helped me grow my custom design practice. In the last 17 years that I’ve known him, I’m not sure that I ever had a question that he didn’t know the answer to.
Mr. Underwood first introduced me to Valuation in Personal Property and The American Society of Appraisers (ASA) in 2003, after I graduated from the GIA in San Diego. He was also kind enough to introduce me to David and Gary, as well as a plethora of other incredible industry folks that I look forward to seeing every trade show or class.
In 2016, you were awarded with one of the highest credentials in the jewelry appraisal industry. What did it feel like to be highly recognized?
It was a bit surreal at the time. Getting the ASA-MGA title was not easy and it took many years. On one hand, it still doesn’t feel like I’m at the level of my mentors and many of my colleagues. But I suppose that this feeling may last into my later years, as I’m still one of the youngest in the ASA. Above all, it’s an incredible honor to be a part of the ASA and have the opportunity to give back to an organization that has helped me through some of the toughest times of my career. Just a month ago, I was awarded the Rising Star Award from the ASA from my efforts on the membership committee and the marketing committee.
Having discovered your passion for jewelry in high school, did you think at the time that it would turn into your career?
I actually had to get special permission to take the elective three extra times. I pretty much told my high school administration that I was going to show up to class, whether they accepted it or not. So, it really was my chosen path- even at an age of uncertainty. I’m pretty sure it’s in my genes to be a creator and entrepreneur and I can’t imagine doing anything else.
When you first started this jewelry and design journey, what did you find to be the most difficult obstacle? How were you able to overcome it?
The first obstacle was my mental block. Starlust consists of 12 symbols, combined with each other, and in 5 different metals. That equates to 84 CAD models, ~200 3D printed prototypes, 256 CAD renderings, and 420+ finished photographs (each of which require processing and search engine optimization descriptions). It took me three months of trying to get my head around if I could pull this off. After not being able to let the concept go, I sat down and started to break the parts into sections, and the sections into little workable bits of time. For example, I didn’t need to create 84 CAD models- I needed to create 12 perfect symbols and then combine them with each other. Once I was able to present it to myself in a way that was within my perceived capacity, I got to work. Three months later, the 84 models were finished. Three months after that, the renderings and the “soft launch” website was finished. It’s all about taking one step at a time in order to complete big things.
The second huge hurdle for me was even greater and had taken me even longer to solve. I realized about a year into developing Starlust that I wasn’t going to be happy with rubber molds due to the slower speed of manufacture (both in making molds and pulling waxes) and the lower quality results compared to metal molds. This sent me on my current journey, which has spanned over the last six months, in learning CNC machining on a Tormach PCN440. CNC milling, in my opinion, is no less than 100 times more difficult to master than a 3D printer. It requires advanced mathematics, obscure/industry terminology and you can actually get hurt if you crash the machine. You’re constantly walking the line of potential failure. But I’m very confident that this great effort will pay off. My product will be higher quality, less expensive, and far more efficient to manufacture. The benefits will allow me to compete on a bigger playing field. I’ll also be able to easily produce new designs, which are already occupying space in my thoughts.
I’m currently half way through milling Starlust’s master molds and I’ll be able to fully launch sometime in early 2021 with a product that I’m very excited and proud to share with the world. If I could give my best advice on anyone trying to create something, I would say that tenacity and the ability and willingness to pivot are two of the most important traits to hold.
We are loving Kennon Young’s highly personalized pieces, which beautifully combine two zodiac signs. Visit starlustjewelry.com and vermontgemlab.com to learn more about Kennon Young, and Starlust Jewelry.