UNL sophomore expresses creativity through jewelry business

UNL sophomore expresses creativity through jewelry business

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When Justine Mileski’s family discovered a pebble beach during their summer trip to California, she found a way to turn ordinary rocks into a business.

“I ended up going home with a gallon-sized bag of them,” Mileski said.

Mileski, a sophomore environmental studies major, turned her collection of colored pebbles and crystals into affordable handcrafted necklaces and earrings all under $20.

“It’s super fun to get something custom and handmade that’s not just been purchased in a boutique,” Mileski said. “I think it’s a little bit more unique than that.”

Mileski said the idea was first conceived last summer as a crafting project to pass the time.

She kept the pebbles in a glass jar but decided to make a crafts project out of them. She had experience painting and doing other crafting projects before, and she’d seen video tutorials of the stone necklaces.

“What was I gonna do with them? It was summer and I was bored,” Mileski said. “I think stone jewelry is pretty cool and I didn’t want these sitting in a jar somewhere. I wanted to be able to do something with them.”

Mileski said she starts the process by randomly choosing a stone or crystal and matching it up with a faux suede necklace. Then it’s all a matter of wrapping it up in a wire, which Mileski said was the most challenging aspect of the process to learn. She said she spends half an hour on each piece.

“I always have liked to craft or just paint or do something,” Mileski said. “This is a good way for me to express creativity.”


working with jewelry
Photo by Hannah DePriest

Mileski charges $12 for most of her pieces, but some of her more intricate works cost about $15. She advertises her work on a private Instagram account and sells most of them on her Etsy store.

Mileski said she initially made them as gifts for her friends and family as practice but has made around 25 sales this past year. She said she is starting to break even after spending $220 on crafting supplies.

“Michaels isn’t cheap,” Mileski said.

Mileski said she is planning on setting up a booth at a craft show next fall at Millard West High School in Omaha. She said she expects to sell more there than she would with her usual online crowd.

“Sometimes when you post your stuff [online], people aren’t looking to spend money,” Mileski said.

Mileski said she hopes to use the money she’s earned to fund her study abroad trip in Spain this summer, as well as have something to show her host family.

“It’s typical to bring a gift to your host family in Spain, so I was just going to bring a couple and show them what I do,” Mileski said.

Mileski said she has received support from her Alpha Phi sorority sisters and family, as well as other online buyers.

Jessi Sher, a senior management major, is one of Mileski’s sorority sisters and has bought one of her $15 pieces: black leather with a polished purple pendant.

Sher said she enjoys simple jewelry and wanted to help out a friend pursuing her passions. She also sees it as having a personal significance.

“We are college kids on a college budget who don’t put a lot of value in material possessions,” Sher said. “I love my necklace for the backstory of it and because I helped benefit a dear friend.”

Mileski said her work is special in its own way, regardless of price. She said she thinks her customers see something more in her pieces than those they would find in a jewelry store.

“I think it does definitely have a more unique style,” Mileski said. “Not just anyone would pick this up and think it’s for them and would want to wear it.”