You read that right.
Any lover of estate jewelry will find themselves drawn to Sara’s posts on Instagram — which it turns out actually plays a huge part in her business! Despite COVID-19 temporarily limiting her professional opera performance opportunities, Songbird Sara Jewelry has flourished with her unique vintage and estate jewelry sales via her website, https://songbirdsaraantiquejewelry.com/.
I wanted to share Sara’s spectacular story of entrepreneurship, artistry, and curation. (And RV living!) Her love of people and passion for her product really shines in this video, and I think you’ll really be inspired by the highlights below!
JOTT: Sara, thank you so much for joining me today on Jewels of the Trade! Can you go ahead and just tell us about you and what you do?
Sara: I am a professional opera singer and I am also the owner, curator, president of Songbird Sara Jewelry which specializes in fine estate jewelry. Mostly vintage/antique, but if something modern-estate just really takes my breath away I definitely bring it on. I started the business three years ago and then when the pandemic hit and everything changed with the performing arts industry and all the gigs were canceled and everything just stopped, I had the opportunity to really focus on the business.
JOTT: Was opera your main thing (originally) and jewelry was kind of a side hustle?
Sara: Yes. And I have had a couple of resale businesses throughout my professional singing career because I love business and the entrepreneurial thing. Being a freelance musician, you can’t depend on a steady stream of income. So I’ve always loved having something else for that sense of security and to exercise a different part of my brain. I’ve always loved fashion and fashion resale. Jewelry was always my biggest love in the fashion sphere and I finally took the leap three years ago.
JOTT: Was your start in the jewelry industry as an entrepreneur or did you work for someone first?
Sara: It was always as an entrepreneur. I spent maybe a decade just being obsessed with antique jewelry, doing research in my spare time. I think its difficult when you’re a professional creative to have hobbies.
JOTT: Because they turn into jobs? (laughingly)
Sara: They turn into jobs. For a while, that was a really nice hobby of mine to come home from rehearsal and read the jewelry forums, read books on antiques, look at beautiful things, and enjoy an art form that wasn’t my job. And of course, I turned it into my job. When I would be on the road (singing opera), I would go into antique stores or pawn shops or estate jewelry places and see things and know the market and know that I could still sell it at a competitive price. Balancing that with the fact that as a freelance opera singer I don’t have tons of money to buy jewelry for myself, so it came from like “I know all these things. This is something I’m really passionate about. Also, if I can buy jewelry for other people, then I can shop for jewelry nonstop and not bankrupt myself.”
JOTT: Do you have your own collection?
Sara: I do. It’s grown since I have started my site but I try and be really good about letting something go if I bring something else in or else I could totally get out of control. The other thing about my business is that I only bring things onto my site that I would be proud to own myself. Everything that I source is something that I love that I would love to own. As I’ve grown the business, the people who follow me and shop from my collection do so because they’ve gotten to know my taste, they trust my eye. There are so many amazing vendors out there, it comes down to finding someone who has a similar taste that you have and that you trust that the things that they love are things that you’ll love.
JOTT: Where are you located and how do people shop from you?
Sara: My business is entirely online. My website is https://songbirdsaraantiquejewelry.com/ and it’s linked to my Instagram which is @songbirdsarajewelry. My husband and I, both professional opera singers, have been full time RV dwellers for going on 4 years now. Before COVID, we would just drag our home from contract to contract. An opera contract is 1-2 months. If we had to go overseas we would just put the camper in storage. We have crossed the country almost 3 complete times since we got the camper. Before COVID, we were everywhere which really helped me build up my connections within the jewelry community and find the wholesalers who I love working with and meet people who wanted to consign their collections with me. Now, we’re in Georgia just waiting it out. We don’t have a home base, we’re just wherever we need to be.
JOTT: How long have you and your husband been doing this together? How did you two meet?
Sara: We met doing opera in southern Illinois at a summer festival that we both did. We decided to buy the camper 4 years ago because we were tired of living in suitcases and being in a different hotel room all the time. We bought the camper and haven’t looked back. The travel aspect has helped and informed my jewelry business. The fact that we’ve been in so many major cities and small towns, I’ve gotten to get the feel of what kinds of vintage and antique pieces are in different parts of the country and different parts of the world.
JOTT: How has social media helped influence your business?
Sara: When I first decided to start the business, I had 1,000 followers and it was my personal Instagram. I was a little bit resistant to learning about Instagram. I transitioned my personal Instagram to be my jewelry Instagram and then slowly started building it and now I am almost at 10,000 followers. When the pandemic hit, that’s when I got really serious. My following grew from 3 or 4,000 to where I am now just in the past year. Really, it’s about making those personal connections. I think there’s a difference between growing Instagram as a brand and growing it as an influencer. To be a brand is different because you want to connect with the people who are going to be engaged followers, they actually are interested in what you’re doing and more involved. To do that, I got involved in the jewelry community. I like to interact as a jewelry lover not as a brand.
JOTT: Do you do wholesale?
Sara: I don’t, and I don’t see my business going that way because I think what I love most is that matchmaking element of it. Dealing with the consumer, helping them find that perfect thing. I love seeing it live with them and their lives. I think I would miss that if I was the middle man. Jewelry is so personal. Most of my clients are women who are buying for themselves.
JOTT: What is it that you look for when curating your pieces?
Sara: First and foremost, I look for old cut diamonds. I always keep a loupe in my purse, it has an LED light on it. So if you’re in an antique store, which they’re always so dimly lit, you can check that out. Having a loupe is really key. There’s a lot of misrepresentation of vintage/antique pieces and I think for the most part it’s just that people don’t know any better. Sometimes, with antique pieces, diamonds can be chipped and people might not think about it.
JOTT: When you’re sourcing, do you have certain standards for condition? Do you buy and then have them repaired by a jeweler?
Sara: It depends on the piece. If we’re dealing with vintage/antique, a little bit of wear is to be expected. I’m not married to the idea of a perfect piece if it’s 100 years old. If it’s a missing stone, yes, I will definitely have my jeweler replace it. I have a great gemologist who knows how specific I am so I really trust him.
Opera + Jewelry
Sara: Three months ago, I did an online shoppable concert on Instagram live. My husband and I performed and between numbers, I talked about the jewelry that I was wearing. We’re talking about doing another one of those.
Link: https://www.instagram.com/tv/CH3gS8rFcaL/ (Side note: Hey GoDaddy, why can’t I embed Instagram videos?)
JOTT: Do you think you’ll go back to opera full time when all this [covid] is over?
Sara: I hope so. I wouldn’t call either thing “full time” or “side hustle.” I’ve kind of been thinking about it the way that mainstream entertainers do. If you look at Rihanna, she is a huge performing artist and also one of the most successful fashion entrepreneurs in the world, and they’re all under that same — Rihanna joke — they’re all under that same umbrella.
JOTT: Since you’re wanting to go back to opera when things open up, how do you see the future of Songbird Sara Jewelry?
Sara: I think that my ability to perform more will influence the jewelry business in an amazing way. I’m really hoping soon to spend a lot of time in Europe. That will allow me to source things from Europe which will open up so many opportunities. Right now, most of my social media presence is jewelry but I miss being able to show backstage, the rehearsal process, and costumes. I think there will be opportunities for cross-promotion and education.
Sara: I think the sky is the limit.
Check out Sara’s exquisite collection of vintage jewels, and don’t be afraid to reach out to her directly and connect! If you are looking for something in particular, Sara may have it or can source it for you from someone in her developed network of trustworthy jewelry professionals.
The chat feature on her website goes straight to her cell phone so you can speak with her directly, or contact her on Instagram.
Have you bought from Songbird Sara before? Do you have your eye on a particular piece? Let me know! Send me a DM, and don’t be afraid to post your jewelry to instagram and tag the seller! It helps small businesses so much to receive online support from satisfied patrons.