Meet Your Designer, Rebecca

April 10th, 2020
Categorized under: Jewelry

Green Lake Jewelry Works is a destination for couples to come and create one-of-a-kind jewelry for themselves, but what you may not know is the studio is also sought out by artists across the country as a unique opportunity in the field of fine jewelry. Senior Designer Rebecca Pappas speaks to her life in the New York fashion scene before arriving at Green Lake Jewelry Works, how she likes to find her client’s style, and shares mini-collections of her favorite brooches and works she has designed in the studio. Let’s get to know Rebecca!


Did you always know you wanted to work in fashion and jewelry? Or was it a chicken/egg scenario? 

I’ve always had a love affair with jewelry. From a young age, I’ve been attracted to anything that sparkles. I got my first bead kit for my birthday when I was five years old, and from there on out jewelry and jewelry-making was always in my life. As a high school student I knew I wanted to go to art school and pursue a career in the arts, although I wasn’t so sure exactly what that looked like. As a student at Rhode Island School of Design, I followed my instincts and joined the jewelry program. We learned bench skills and were encouraged to pursue careers in the fine arts, but were well prepared for commercial design jobs as well.


Rebecca making her ‘cameo’ in the New York world of fashion. Look inside Rebecca’s portfolio below!


Having grown up and gone to college in New England, it was a natural step to move to New York City where many of my design school friends flocked for job opportunities. From there, I found my way into the fashion industry where I spent eleven exciting years working across a wide breadth of aesthetics for global brands like Banana Republic, Steve Madden, and Nadri Jewelry Group.


[Ready to Wear: Step-By-Step]


What’s the biggest difference between designing for
a fashion line and custom jewelry? How would you compare ready-to-wear fine jewelry to custom jewelry?

Well, I’d say that the biggest difference in the design process is that in custom design, we get to work directly with the client. Designing for fashion, we are setting the scene, offering up the look for the client to purchase and style as they see fit. With custom design, I get insight directly into my client’s preferences before I start designing.


[Creating On-Trend Looks]


Having had the experience of concepting multiple collections per season, I’ve developed a strong sense for identifying patterns across different styles. I can develop a good sense of my client’s sense of style and aesthetic at a glance based on images they show me of rings that they like. I love when my clients share their Pinterest boards, favorite personal jewelry pieces, and tidbits about their lifestyle and hobbies. Discussing their likes and dislikes quickly reveals what elements to eliminate and which details to focus on. NYC also made me a very social person, so I always have a wonderful time taking my clients on the custom journey!


[Collection Concept]


Another difference, of course, is that fashion jewelry is ephemeral; made in a trending moment and only intended to last for the life of that trend. The custom pieces we make at Green Lake Jewelry Works are intended to last a lifetime. With the bulk of our business in wedding band and engagement rings, it is a true honor to work with someone to create such a meaningful piece for them that will be treasured for life and passed down through generations.


[The Diamond District]


What are some of the iconic neighborhoods and institutions you experienced in the city? Can you give us a little walking tour for the folks at home!

West 47th St, between 5th and 6th Avenue in Manhattan, is the diamond district. Every window is packed with fabulous jewelry and every skyscraper is packed with jewelry businesses. The majority of the diamond suppliers serving the entire country are located on just that one block!

Walk a little further west to 7th Avenue and you’ll find yourself in the Fashion District, where you can find a store that sells only zippers in every color, length, and quality. There are stores that specialize strictly in spandex, and all kinds of garment-related specialty businesses.

One of my favorite things about New York City are all of the cultural institutions and museums. I was lucky enough to attend so many amazing exhibits over the years, often attending with my team from work. We never missed a fashion or jewelry exhibit! Some of my favorite shows were Alexander McQueen, Jean Paul Gaultier, Charles James, and the incomparable jeweler JAR.


[The Fashion District]


Have you ever seen your designs worn on the street?

Yes!!! Summertime in NYC especially, when women take off their coats I see all my necklaces. I’ve even seen a few in movies and on TV!



Where do you find inspiration?

Inspiration can truly come from anywhere. As an artist I always have my eyes open and I’m always observing. When I worked in fashion, we would often go out trend shopping to as many stores as possible to see what new ideas and techniques were cropping up on the market. We would also look to vintage fashion jewelry for examples of color, shape, and technique. I’ve always had a passion for vintage fashion jewelry and my exposure to many fabulous vintage clothing and accessories vendors have allowed me to build a nice little collection of my own!


[Accessorizing in New York]


Around the office, Rebecca was well-known for being able to hand manipulate jewelry samples for collection mock-ups since she was the office hands-on ‘Fine Jewelry / Bench Expert.’

“When I worked in fashion, I was always known for my fine jewelry expertise, and here at Green Lake I’m known for my fashion experience. It’s a fun swap!”



What draws you to a piece to add to your personal collection?

I love ALL jewelry, from plastic to platinum! I love rocks and gems and I love history. Jewelry is where those things often coincide. Of course, building a collection of historic precious jewelry isn’t the most accessible hobby, and I find fashion jewelry to be just as satisfying to acquire. I love collecting vintage fashion jewelry from the second half of the twentieth century. I especially love the old brooches from the ’50s, ’60s and ’70s. So much character in each one!


[A Woman of Many Brooches]


Do you have any tips for someone interested in building a collection of jewelry with vintage elements?

The best tip I can give you is that precious metal is stamped inside by law. So if you like to regularly peruse the flea markets for cool finds, you’ll know it’s precious metal if it has the following stamps inside: 925 for sterling silver, 585 or 14K for 14 karat gold, 750 or 18K for 18 karat gold. If the metal is real, it usually means the stones are genuine too.

If you’ve always wanted to dip into a vintage style, but your wardrobe tends to be classic and simple, starting with something small like a dainty ring is a great way to begin your collection.



How does your New York background influence your style versus the Pacific Northwest aesthetic?  How do the Seattle and New York art and design scenes differ from one another?

New York is a true hub of art and design on a global scale, and the general accessibility to cutting edge art, design, and fashion from around the world can’t be beat. What struck me about Seattle was how every boutique I went into was showcasing local goods by local designers. After spending so much of my early career working in mass production, I found myself missing “craft.” The idea of a city that supported its local craftsmen and valued hand-made and local made felt very appealing to me.


Anchors Away!

My working here at Green Lake Jewelry Works is in part a direct backlash to the waste I’ve seen in fast fashion and mass production in general. I’m very proud of the commitment to integrity, quality, and sustainability we provide at Green Lake and appreciate our like-minded clients!


[Rebecca’s Favorite Seattle Shopping Spots]

Show Pony: Located in Fremont, I got one of my favorite dresses there by local designer, Frock Shop!

Trove Vintage: Stroll down to Market Street in Ballard for beautiful vintage in pristine condition.

Standard Goods: Up on Capitol Hill has well curated clothes and accessories and the best selection of Good and Well Supply Co. candles and other products. Hands down the best woodsy scents out there and handmade in Ballard.

Retrofit Home: A great stop on Capitol Hill for home accessories. You can’t help admiring/drooling over their reproduction Mid-Century Modern furnishings.

Pike Place Market: Spend a day exploring all the vendors and tiny shops tucked into this historic Seattle icon!


How do you help people discover/ embrace their own personal style in the design process? 

I am a very social person and I have a firm belief that shopping should be fun. Design consultations are a lot like shopping with a friend! Sometimes my client’s have practical concerns, such as my clients who work in healthcare and need an engagement ring that will fit under their gloves. In that case, lifestyle can dictate a lot of their initial choices. In many cases, this is the first high quality ring my clients have owned and it can be a bit intimidating to make definitive choices.


Celebrate your engagement, birthday, or anniversary in a virtual consultation with Rebecca. Share what’s in your jewelry box and what pieces you love to wear everyday to inspire your new custom design!


Sometimes talking about what you DON’T like is just as valuable as talking about what you DO like. For my clients, this is all about their ring, their preferences, and their relationship. There’s no ego on the part of the designer, it is my job as the designer to draw my client’s preferences and styles out of them. I really enjoy the experience of trying rings on at each case with my clients. The casual comments and conversation that come up are very telling of a persons preferences and styles. Online, I can compare styles from their Pinterest boards, favorites on our website, or whatever references they may have, ask some leading questions, and provide suggestions from there. A phone call or a video conference is a nice way to connect with online clients as well. Hearing a persons voice, or seeing their face, can go a long way towards assuring you that you are in the hands of a real person that really cares.


Rebecca’s Green Lake Collections

-Sapphire Ring Designs-

No. 145121

If you don’t want a diamond engagement ring, what’s a cool alternative?

Many of our clients are looking for an alternative gemstone for their center stone and sapphires make for an awesome alternative. They’re just underneath diamonds on the Moh’s scale of hardness, so it will stand up to daily wear over time. They also come in a huge range of colors!  We specialize in Montana sapphires here, which offers a particularly interesting range off colors, and each one is truly one-of-a-kind. Sapphires make for a great accent stone too, if you love the idea of a different color but want that white diamond sparkler in the center. I love working with color!


-Vintage Inspired Designs-


Why do vintage-inspired details make Green Lake rings so special?

This is a funny coincidence, because this is actually how I found Green Lake Jewelry Works on Instagram and knew I wanted to work there!  When I first started thinking of moving out to Seattle, I started following as many Seattle artists and craftsmen, boutiques, and galleries on social media as possible to see where my particular design skills might fit in. Eventually I scrolled across a rose gold antique inspired ring with a teal Montana sapphire center stone loaded with hand fabricated filigree, milgrain, and hand-engraving. Nowadays most details are cast into place resulting in a muddied look. It is very rare to come across a shop that offers hand-fabricated filigree and hand-engraving. I’m constantly impressed by the workmanship of our craftsman and watching them bring my ideas to life is one of the true joys of the job!


-Bold Engagement Ring Designs-


Share your Pinterest inspiration board with Rebecca to start honing in on your design aesthetic! A pinning session to a shared board is a great way to narrow down your style and discover what can be customized to your taste and style.


-Nature Inspired Designs-


Is there an area of design that more couples should know you offer?

I love having the opportunity to have fun with men’s wedding bands! More often than not, women get to have all the fun and creativity and men want to keep it simple. I’m always excited to work with a client that is interested in pushing boundaries. Whether it’s using custom cut gemstones to create geometric patterns or creating a scene from the mountain you got engaged on, I’m happy to make suggestions about techniques, layout, and materials.


-Unique Men’s Bands-


How can you be adventurous in your ring design when you have a strong personal style and aesthetic?

Being adventurous in your ring design can have so many different meanings! It can be something as subtle as a pop of color on the side of the head of the center stone of your engagement ring, or as wild as a custom-carved mountain range with a wolf howling at a diamond moon. A nice way to include a subtle custom touch is an engraved message on the inside of your ring or even a small stone set in there. Adventurous doesn’t always have to mean eye catching, it can be a small detail just for you!


-Looking Through Gallery Details-


Do you have any advice for someone nervous about starting a custom design? Or who isn’t sure they have a clear direction?

Well the first step to every project is research, so I would say start by seeing what is out there! Keep tabs on what you like. You can always decide you don’t like it so much after all once you start digging into the details. Pulling together some images of things you like, and going over what you do and don’t like about them with your designer are great ways to start. We’ll work with you through images and examples, drawings and digital mock ups until you feel confident enough in the design for us to start making the ring. When your ring is in process your designer is following it through the shop every step of the way to make sure that when the ring is complete, it looks exactly how you imagined it.