Learn How RioPro Helped Monica Branstrom Grow Her Business

RioPro Case Study: Metalsmiths in Florence

Last edited: 8/5/2020
 
Metalsmiths in Florence
 
 

Monica Branstrom and Rio Grande have always worked together well. “Even before being a RioPro, I knew that I could call Rio. They would somehow answer my question, and they wouldn’t make me feel like it was a bad question.”

The RioPro program and her dedicated consultant took the service a step higher. She says, “RioPro is about support and ‘let’s figure it out.’ They’re helpful and happy.”

Monica’s jewelry work is in something most of us wouldn’t think of as a gemstone: beach glass.

Beachcombers admire the rainbow of colors of sea glass they step over; some may take a piece or two home. Growing up in Florida, Monica Branstrom essentially lived on the beach and on a surfboard. She collected the pieces of sea glass she found and put them in a jar.

Always artistic, it wasn’t until after she’d moved to Santa Barbara, California, that someone suggested she take a jewelry-making class and her sea glass found a home.

She crafted her first ring with a turquoise cabochon. As she admired her work, she says, “I wondered if sea glass would work.” She discovered that it would. When she moved to San Clemente, California, she found a mentor and refined her skills.

Monica Branstrom Studio began in 2007. In many ways, she’s found another mentor through RioPro. She says, “RioPro is always super supportive. If they don’t know, they’ll transfer me to someone technical who does.”

Monica uses jewelry quality sea glass in her growing business. She hunts for the glass herself, searching for pieces that have the right color and condition, and keeps it as found. The bezel-wrapped stone in a piece of her jewelry is the natural shape of the glass. Not shaping or cutting the glass makes two matched stones for earrings a challenge, so they’re not as common as other jewelry pieces in her collection.

She works in yellow gold and fine silver, often both in the same piece. Monica says, “Since the focus of my jewelry involves using genuine beach-found sea glass, I think my signature is mixing this ‘low-end’ material with more ‘high-end’ additions such as high karat gold and diamonds. The dichotomy intrigues me.”

Monica enjoys texture and plays with different ways to put that texture on her jewelry. She has a signature style of earrings, and their special texture is from the metal being put through the rolling mill with eggshells.

Sea glass jewelry by Monica BranstromSea glass jewelry by Monica Branstrom

When asked which tools are her favorite, she says, “It’s a death match between my torch and my saw.” Why the torch? “Because I love fire. When I get solder to flow well, it’s the best thing ever.” Herkules White Label saw blades are her favorite blade in that saw.

For those saw blades and other Rio purchases, RioPro has helped Monica grow her business. She says, “My favorite perks of being a RioPro are definitely the price breaks and the lower shipping costs. Let’s not forget the dedicated consultant though. It’s another level higher than the regular fantastic customer service that Rio is known for.”

Monica BranstromMonica Branstrom

The founder of Metalsmiths in Florence, Monica hosts the weeklong workshop and retreat in Italy every spring and fall. Always taught by a master goldsmith, this fall’s class will be on granulation, the ancient art of creating and attaching tiny spheres of metal to jewelry.

The idea for the workshop came about during a trip to Florence. She wanted to combine her love of metalsmithing and live like a local in Florence, if only for a short time. She says, “From the get-go, the program was life-changing. It’s the trip of a lifetime, learning from a master.”

There’s a translator, so Italian isn’t necessary. Each of the six participants does need to have three jewelry skills: sawing, filing and soldering. She says, “You need to know how to change your blade, how to file, and be able to use a torch including how fire and solder work along with some simple safety procedures. If you can do that, you can come.”

 

When the workshop ends, each person there will definitely have a better understanding of working with gold. “The underpinning purpose is to get all the participants comfortable with understanding and using gold.” Monica says, “I wanted people like me to get over the fear of using gold. For some metalsmiths, it’s too scary. Too expensive. That’s one of the best parts of Florence. I want people to be the boss of gold.”

Her relationships with Rio and RioPro have been ones she’s happy to tell others about. “While the price breaks certainly help with the bottom line of my business, I would have to say the support, knowledge, and encouragement I get from RioPro’s dedicated consultant has helped me in making decisions that allowed me to grow.” When asked who should join RioPro, Monica says, “The RioPro program is right for any jeweler who has a business to run. Simple as that!”

To learn more about Metalsmiths in Florence, visit monicabranstrom.com/italyworkshop/.