Friends of the Hive: Rogueries Jewelry

What do honey and Rogueries Jewelry have in common? Both are golden, sweet and made by skilled workers.

Yumi Vong is one such artisan. Her jewelry company Rogueries is only a year old and already a success.
rogueries jewelry bee jewelry hexagon jewelry yumi vongAnyone who visits a Savannah Bee retail store will likely notice the gorgeous display case brimming with honeybee-themed jewelry. The company’s respect for bees is evident in almost every aspect of their culture, from apiarian puns to a palpable sense of community and industry.

When Vong first set foot in the flagship store on Broughton Street, she was immediately captivated.

“I was blown away by the amount of cool hive-related products,” Vong remarked. “I liked how it was low-key but structured at the same time.” The impression was lasting.

In early June 2015, she began working at the company’s River Street location and by mid-August Savannah Bee had begun carrying her line of handmade jewelry. She was thrilled.

“I had never done wholesale before and I didn’t expect their first order to be so big. It was pretty exciting, but also a little daunting,” she said. “I had a tiny factory line going at my studio.”

Her line of hexagonal pieces and hammered metal queen and worker bees are a hit with locals and tourists alike.

A newcomer to the world of jewelry making, Vong has an interesting backstory. Just after she was born, her family moved to America from France. Her father, then a creative director at an ad agency, agreed to be part of year-long international work exchange program in the States.

“His boss picked the place we would live by throwing a dart at a map,” Vong said. “We moved to Annapolis, Maryland—and my parents never left!”

She was influenced by a fascination of European art as a result of many trips back to France over the years. Her passion for art continued into her college years when she began studying at the Maryland Institute College of Art in Baltimore.

She enrolled in the graphic design program, switched to printmaking and later graduated with a general fine arts degree with an emphasis on illustration and bookmaking.

“Who knew I’d be focusing on a different kind of art in the end,” she said with a chuckle.

Ironically enough, Vong never had a formal education as a jeweler. True to her company’s name, she took the nontraditional route—a true rogue. In 2014, she met a jeweler on Craigslist who needed help preparing a large wholesale order. Vong voiced interest in learning to make rings, and before long she had fallen in love with the process.

“I had only ever done wire wrapping and beading before, so when she taught me to solder metal, I thought, ‘Hey, I can do this!’” Vong reminisced.

Vong, whose pieces are handmade from sterling silver, brass, copper and occasionally gold, said she prefers to make rings.

hexagon ring bee jewelry“There’s something more personal about a ring,” Vong said. “It has to be the right size, the right look, the right color for someone to want to buy it. I’m always so happy when they go off to a good home.”

Vong has had a lifelong interest in honeybees, but only recently did she decide to channel them as inspiration for her own business.

“Their natural ability to be perfectionists really inspired me,” Vong mused as she polished a pearlescent stone set in a silver ring. “I love their mentality.”

The honeybee mentality is one that Vong has clearly taken to heart. Her selection of handmade jewelry for Savannah Bee alone is rather extensive. From simple hexagonal rings to custom made, 14 karat queen bee pendants, the line is as aesthetically pleasing as it is altruistic. Vong donates 10% of all profits to Savannah Bee’s nonprofit, The Bee Cause Project.

Her hive-inspired jewelry ranges in price from $35 to $125 and is available for purchase at Savannah Bee retail stores.

“There are a lot of people out there making jewelry,” Vong said, smiling. “I’m just trying to make something that doesn’t exist yet.”

 

Submitted by Jess Brannen