A bronze charm hand-stamped with the latitude and longitude of her hometown hangs from the chain on Allie Jackson's neck. A soldered cross and resin-encased black coral from St. Croix adorn the silver bangles on her wrist.
"Jewelry is symbolism," says the founder of Allie M. Designs, whose bangles are also inscribed with her dog's name and the initials of her husband and cat. "It's things that are meaningful to me. ... I never take them off."
Since middle school, Jackson has been collecting charms. After learning wire wrapping, beading and metalworking in college, she was hooked on jewelry design.
Jackson sold pet accessories through her former company, Four Leg Designs, before starting Allie M. Designs in 2009. Today, she handcrafts jewelry out of her Akron home, travels to art fairs and sells her jewelry near and far, from Gestures in Rocky River to Teskey's Uptown in Fort Worth, Texas.
Jackson turns found objects into wearable art. Take her penny bracelets ($28), for example. Each coin is hand-stamped with expressions such as "be change" or "lucky." For her hometown pendants ($22.50-$55), she pours resin over vintage atlases bearing a city's name.
"I think that jewelry is more meaningful to the wearer if it's symbolic," says Jackson. "It stands for something. It's a little keepsake that's yours."
Her build-a-necklace-or-bracelet options allow customers to add charms and beads to a chain. "One time, I had someone from Etsy ask me to put a single poppy seed into a bezel," she recalls. "She later told me it [represented] a baby she had lost because it was so small."
Her idea to put herbs into resin charms spurred her most popular collection. It started with a trip to a Medina farmers market, where a woman asked if she had any jewelry featuring a mustard seed.
"I began researching [herbs]," she says. "Everything spiraled from culture and history. Like the poppy seed, a lot of people like it because it stands for fertility, but it also [represents] sleep and dreams."
Jackson's symbolic herb collection now features 11 varieties, each holding a specific meaning. A mustard seed, for example, stands for faith and change.
"I like being creative and creating pieces that would be meaningful to my customers," Jackson says. "I love it when someone from Etsy or someone I see at an art show is like 'I love your jewelry' and that it's something special for them."