Thursday, August 23, 2007
By day, Raquel Salati and Carol Ziegel are research scientists in plant pathology. From 8am to 5pm Monday through Friday, the best friends get their kicks injecting plants with killer diseases to test their resistance. But when the clock strikes five and the lab coats get stripped off, the hyper-educated pair flees the sterile environment for the sanctity of their business, designing jewelry.
The idea to start Arte Do Mundo came a couple of years ago when Ziegel, a longtime ceramic artist, told Salati she was thinking about doing something creatively on her own. Salati said she’d join, and the two started kicking around business ideas.
“We thought about furniture, but that wasn’t going to work,” Salati says.
“Then Raquel took me to Brazil, where she’s from, to visit mines. The things I saw were just beautiful,” Ziegel says of the rare jade, citrine, amethyst and topaz unique to the region.
The two brainstormed and worked with designers to come up with one-of-a-kind necklaces, earrings and bracelets made with sterling silver and semi-precious gems collected from Brazil, Guatemala, Greece, and other mining regions.
In weeks, they had an entire line of personally designed, exquisite jewelry. Then they hit the road. While they tried selling their creations at a Northridge Mall kiosk in Salinas, the $5,000 cart fee was simply too steep. Now the Salinas duo is a staple on weekends at the farmers market in Oldtown Salinas. Last week, they launched a new web site, mysilvergems.com.
“Customers come and tell us what they want, and we make it,” Salati says. “A lot of times, we end up creating it right there on the spot.”
Their big seller is a serpentine bracelet, with silver and gems that hug the wrist and snake upward. But for all their successes in the past two years, they’re not ready to hang up their lab coats just yet.
“We love science. We’ll never give up science,” Salati says. “But we love jewelry too, and we’re having a really great time.”