Ronit Schulman did not set out to go into the jewelry business, but a fondness for coffee — coupled with a strong creative streak — has turned the Community Day School Hebrew teacher into a designer of chic necklaces and earrings now being sold at a trendy boutique in Squirrel Hill.
Schulman, a self-described “coffee lover” with a penchant for the individual cups she brews at home with her Nespresso coffeemaker, had been hauling scores of spent pods to a recycle center to dispose of them in a responsible manner, when she had a better idea.
Noticing the rich and varied colors of the aluminum pods, she began bending and shaping and turned a few into a bouquet of flowers. Then came the jewelry.
She began fashioning the pods into pins and necklaces and earrings and started wearing her creations to school, where the unusual pieces garnered lots of attention. She even introduced the method to her fourth- and fifth-grade students through a collaboration with CDS teacher Nicole Cerilli — a jewelry-maker in her own right.
The pod possibilities turned out to be endless.
“I came up with a lot of different designs,” Schulman said, noting that she incorporates hand-crocheted chains for necklaces and adds embellishments such as small seashells and eyelets.
She picked up a lot of tips from Cerilli as well as from the Internet.
“I never was a jeweler, but you can learn a lot on YouTube,” she said.
Schulman gave a lot of her pod jewelry to friends as gifts and also wore it herself.
A brightly colored necklace she wore one day while out shopping on Forbes Avenue caught the eye of Edna Galioto, the owner of Capriccio boutique. Galioto loved the jewelry and took several pieces on consignment that are selling well.
“They’re so unique,” Galioto said. “They are colorful and very pretty.”
Galioto plans to keep her shelves stocked with Schulman’s pieces.
“I have probably had a better reaction to that jewelry than other new things that have come in the store,” she said.
Although Schulman drinks a lot of coffee, she does not drink enough to keep herself stocked with enough pods to fulfill the demand for her pieces, which are also available on her website, creativedesignbyronit.com. Parents of her students now save their used pods and bring them to her for use in her jewelry.
“I like the thing about recycling,” said Schulman, who came to Pittsburgh 29 years ago from kibbutz Bet Alpha in northern Israel.
Prices for her pieces range from $20 for a pair of earrings to $60 for a more elaborate necklace.
It takes Schulman from 45 minutes to two hours to create each piece of jewelry, and no two pieces are exactly alike.
“I like the fact that people can buy something and not think that there is another one like it,” she said.
Although jewelry making started as a hobby, Schulman is now embracing it as business.
“I was hesitant at first because I have a full-time job as a teacher,” she said. “But there is no pressure for me to produce a certain amount,” although she has been keeping a nice selection available at Capriccio.
Toby Tabachnick can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.