Future Heirloom

STYLE | BEAUTY
2014
September

While you may not know 27-year-old Tylerite Hillary Carter by name, it is safe to say that very soon her jewelry line, Hillary Catherine Jewelry, will be a household name.  The young designer is making waves in the industry with her unique line of top-quality costume jewelry and is currently in the process of producing a high-end line of fine jewelry that will be released this October.  Carter prides herself on maintaining a line that features only the finest materials available, always using authentic stones and precious metals as the base for her designs.  While her dream career has always been to be a jewelry designer, Carter’s path to pursing that dream took a few twists and turns along the way.

The daughter of Bruce and Judy Carter, Hillary grew up in Tyler and graduated from Robert E. Lee High School in 2005.  After graduation, she headed to the University of Mississippi (better known as Ole Miss to all of the SEC football fans) and began to take science courses with the intention of following in her father’s footsteps and pursuing medicine. Her dreams of becoming a jewelry designer were still in the back of her mind, but Carter struggled with selecting a major that would lead her down the path to pursue her passion. In the spring of 2009, Carter graduated from Ole Miss, as she puts it, “somehow ending up with a major in Political Science and Italian.” 

Deciding to try her hand in the jewelry business, Carter took a job with a Dallas-based designer and began to learn the industry.  She worked in the designer’s studio by day, and in her spare time took metalsmithing classes and worked on her own designs. During her metalsmith class, Carter was introduced to the Gemological Institute of America, the premiere gem and jewelry educator in the United States. With the goal of becoming a certified jewelry designer and gaining all the technical knowledge possible to perfect her craft, Carter made the decision to move to Carlsbad, California, to pursue her diploma in Jewelry Design and Technology. The California-based program offered a unique opportunity to learn the art of “hand-rendering,” where the designer actually uses watercolor paint to depict a scale model of the intended design. With the majority of the jewelry industry relying heavily on computer aided design (CAD) and manufacturing programs,  the ability for a designer to be able to do hand-rendering opens a new level of creative opportunity in design.  Carter was also trained in CAD design, product concept development, and manufacturing techniques, and in April of 2014, she completed her degree and headed back to Tyler.

In May of this year, Carter’s dreams became a reality when her Hillary Catherine Jewelry line was picked up by Spinout in Tyler. The exposure she received from having her line displayed in the store also opened the door for her to pursue another passion she has in her trade, custom jewelry design.  Carter loves to work with clients to design custom pieces, both on the high-end and costume jewelry sides. Carter has a very romantic viewpoint for all her designs, but especially custom pieces that she envisions being passed down as heirloom jewelry. “I have a few of my grandmother’s pieces and I just love heirloom jewels. When you wear them, they make you think about who originally wore it, what they were feeling, and what they were doing. It connects you to the past and makes you feel good thatfor generations to come, people will be enjoying it,”
Carter says.

Carter also draws inspiration for her designs from architecture.  When she’s coming up with ideas for a new piece, Carter often searches for unique lines in architectural designs or a pattern in a painting that catches her eye, but she never looks to other pieces of jewelry to draw inspiration.  She explains that if you search for inspiration for new ideas in existing designs, no matter how hard you try, there is always a little bit of the other person’s design that comes through in your work. Carter feels very passionate about maintaining the integrity of her designs and creating a one-of-a-kind design for each and every piece that carries her name. She also loves to incorporate symbolism in her designs and draws from Christian and Gothic-style churches and architecture to come up with pieces that reflect a symbolic message. 

While she doesn’t have a hands-down favorite design of her career yet, one of her most memorable designs drew its inspiration from her days as a pre-med hopeful.  Since Carter spent so much time during her college days in the science lab, when she was tasked in design school with creating a piece inspired by something non-traditional, she immediately thought about the chemical and molecular reactions that had been such a large part of her education.  Using a molecular reaction model as her inspiration, Carter designed a piece that both wowed her teachers and stands out in her memory as one of the most unique pieces she’s ever designed. 

Just last month, Hillary Catherine Jewelry expanded to include a new line of “Little Girl Pearls,” carried and sold by Haute Totz Children’s Boutique in Tyler. Carter’s line of little girl necklaces and bracelets are made of cultured pearls and sterling silver.  She is also currently designing some custom pieces that are sure to please even the smallest of clients, incorporating crosses and birthstones into the designs.

While Carter is enjoying plenty of personal and financial success with her Texas clientele, she dreams of expanding her business on a national level. The first steps towards achieving this dream have already been set in motion, as Carter has meetings with several national  store brands scheduled this fall.  She will be primarily introducing her fine jewelry collection and hopes to have some presence in these stores in time for the holiday retail season.  While gaining success in a nationally recognized store would be a dream realized for Carter, she also hopes to continue to pursue one of her primary passions, doing custom design work directly for clients. 

“I want to be people’s go-to custom girl. I want people to enjoy my jewelry, to look at fine jewelry as an heirloom,” Carter explains of how she hopes people will view her work.  “Designing jewelry is truly my passion and I am lucky to get to do this as a profession.”

After meeting this talented, young East Texan and viewing her artistic and inspired designs in her jewelry line, I know I’m going to invest in some heirloom pieces so that I can tell my grandchildren, one day, that I knew Hillary Carter before she was a world-famous designer. 

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