Allison Morgan and Elizabeth Read share many similarities: a quick wit, a love for storytelling, and a keen eye for beauty and design. They frequently interrupt each other and occasionally even wear the exact same expression on their faces. It’s not surprising really, since the two jewelry designers are also mother and daughter.
Together Allison and Elizabeth are the creative force behind Charlotte Allison Jewelry—a partnership tied together with equal measure of determination and inspiration. The duo have been working together for several years, and big things are on the horizon for the family business. “Our vision is that our jewelry will be widely accessible in 2019,” daughter Elizabeth says. Allison agrees, saying “2019 is our year.”
A Family Tradition
Allison brings a wealth of experience to the design venture. She operated Allison’s Custom Jewelry in Mountain Brook Village for years, traveling frequently to Bangkok and Hong Kong in search of just the right stones and materials for the pieces she designed for her clients. Along the way, Elizabeth and her sisters developed a love for art because of their constant exposure to their mother’s beautiful designs. “She would bring home these amazing pieces,” Elizabeth says. “They were works of art, really.”
It was while her girls were young that Allison was inspired to create a ring design that she envisioned as the centerpiece of her business. She obtained a patent and spent years trying to get her design into production. Frustrated by her inability to find a means of production that met her exacting standards, she stepped back from the business. “I’m a perfectionist,” she says. “And so, I put it aside. I retired.”
But not for long. “She always said, ‘I’m going to come back to it. I’m going to do my ring,’” Elizabeth says. And five years ago mother and daughter started afresh with Charlotte Allison Jewelry—a line with a name that represents five generations of the strong women in their family.
Initially, Elizabeth didn’t see herself in the role of designer. With her business background and her degree in finance, she imagined she would be primarily involved in sales and marketing. But it wasn’t long before she found herself giving expression to what she calls the “creative side I had that was always dying to do something different.” She credits her mother’s experience with helping to refine her vision. “I would take her these drawings and she would say, ‘That looks really pretty, but you know that is completely impossible to do with that particular stone.’” “We’re a great combination of forces,” Allison says.
Traditional, Modern, Sophisticated
Allison and Elizabeth focused at first on Allison’s ring design, once again seeking out a way to produce it that was efficient while maintaining the standards they desired. But along the way, they found their priorities changing. “(My) mentor said, ‘You know, sometimes the thing is not the thing,’” Elizabeth recalls, admitting she didn’t initially take the advice well. “I was like, ‘What do you mean the thing is not the thing? The ring is why we’re doing this!’” But after consulting with other industry professionals, they began to see the possibilities in expanding their designs to include pendants, earrings and bracelets.
The result is their first collection, the Elliptic Collection. “Elliptic” is their word for the oval shape of the stones that they are both drawn to. “It’s feminine, yet strong,” Elizabeth explains. One stone that features prominently in the collection is the rainbow moonstone, an almost translucent stone that shows a slight bit of color and can be worn with almost anything because of its more neutral presentation.
For these designers, inspiration is everywhere – nature, fashion, even childhood memories. Their second collection is inspired by the leaded glass window over the front door of Elizabeth’s grandmother’s house where she visited as a child. The front of the house faced west. “In the afternoon when the sun came through that window, the foyer would be lit with rainbows,” Elizabeth recalls. “We would try to catch the colors on our fingers. It was magical.” That memory sparked the Spectra Collection, which is more colorful and allows Elizabeth to experiment more with using enamel in the pieces. “Enamel really allows you to expand your color palette,” she says. “If you have a favorite color you want to use and there is no natural stone that is that color, enamel is a great way to add that color.”
Allison and Elizabeth are passionate in their belief that jewelry helps define a woman, noting that even women who aren’t really into jewelry usually wear it. “It helps tell the story of your life and your style. Jewelry can tell others you’re married, when your birthday is, if you have grandchildren,” Elizabeth says. Allison adds that “jewelry speaks about you at least as much as clothing does because you don’t change out your jewelry the way you do your clothes.”
Their collaboration results in a seamless blending of the modern and the traditional in a cohesive and distinguishable style. Mothers and daughters working together can lead to a few disagreements along the way, but “In our biggest disagreements, we’ve found that we are usually saying the same thing, just in a different way,” Elizabeth says. At the end of the day, they agree that question becomes, “Do we both love it? Would we both wear it?” “We’ve found that if we bring our personal creative preferences together we can design a piece that we both really like,” Elizabeth says, “and if we do that, there’s a strong likelihood it will be successful.”
Shop Charlotte Allison
Charlotte Allison Jewelry is primarily available through private appointments now, but Allison and Elizabeth are anticipating their designs will soon be available through select retailers and trunk shows.