Saturday, April 13

Rorey Elam expresses artistry, ‘Opulence’ through jewelry business

Several jewelry pieces designed by Rorey Elam, including necklaces and bracelets, sit on a white surface. The alumnus runs the small business Opulence Design Co. (Courtesy of Rorey Elam)

This post was updated April 2 at 9:01 p.m.

Rorey Elam is threading her self-expression through her small business.

The UCLA alumnus said she conceptualized the idea for Opulence Design Co. on a trip to New York. She said she was inspired by the artistry in the different museums she visited. With a lifelong love for fashion, Elam added that she decided to delve into the industry through jewelry-making. The shop started on Etsy in November and has since moved to her own website, Elam said.

(Courtesy of Rorey Elam)
Donning a white tube top and a colorful sweater, Rorey Elam smiles for the camera as she stands outside. The alumnus founded Opulence Design Co. in late 2023. (Courtesy of Rorey Elam)

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“I love having a creative outlet,” Elam said. “Exploring it in a business area has been new but honestly really fulfilling and super cool for me.”

Opulence is home to pieces that are designed based on her personal style, Elam said. Reflecting on her process, she said she knows a piece is complete when she feels that she can wear it with one of her outfits. At this moment in her business, she said she has not focused on a particular style but instead uses a mix of pearls, beads, crystals, chains and charms to make her jewelry.

Each piece is created in her bedroom, with either a song or TV show playing in the background, Elam said. Newer to the jewelry business, she said her process continues to evolve. She said she continues to improve upon her jewelry-making skills by testing out different shapes and finds herself coming back to the chain, as she is continuing to learn the ins and outs of wires and beads. Learning about the materials is one of the challenges that comes with starting a small business, Elam said. However, she added that she is adjusting to the intricacies of the jewelry supplies and gaining new techniques through other jewelry-makers.

“It’s a big reflection of me,” Elam said. “It’s something that I did on my own from scratch. I make all these things from scratch. … It’s really rewarding, and it really does just feel like my special little baby that’s kind of grown with me, and it’s a clear reflection of me.”

The name of her business comes back to her New York trip and being at the Metropolitan Museum of Art, she said. While talking to her friend, she was reflecting on not seeing obvious things of opulence in society and remembered that conversation when deciding on a business name, Elam said. For Elam, Opulence is the reflection of her trade and pushing away from society’s sleek, modern look. She wants her pieces to be more decorative and has chosen to focus on staying true to who she is throughout all aspects of the business, she said. With the collections and pieces that she creates, she has built a foundation to grow a line of work that she is proud of, Elam said.

In addition, Elam has three other jobs, and her jewelry business is a way for her to have a space to express her creativity, she said. As someone who has always appreciated different art forms, she said taking it in a business route has been an enriching experience. Jacqueline Royce, a business marketing student at Santa Monica College and a friend of Elam’s, said the business means a lot to Elam because she is able to both be creative and make a profit off her art. Even so, running Opulence can be overwhelming at times because of the responsibility of marketing the products and growing the business, Elam said.

Elam said another challenging aspect of the business has been having to independently advertise the jewelry since moving to her own website. She said she continues to explore her business and starts by using what she understands – social media. The pearl stone pieces are the most popular because they are trendy right now, she said, but that can change depending on what people are into at a specific time. As a business owner, Elam said she juggles her identity as an artist while also trying to serve her audience.

Though there can be hard aspects of running a business, Elam said she is excited that she can explore herself in a creative way through Opulence. She added that she is thrilled by every customer she makes jewelry for and looks forward to the opportunities that are ahead. Third-year linguistics and anthropology student Grace Shoemaker, who is also a friend of Elam’s, said she is not surprised by the growth of the business. Remembering when Elam’s first order came in, Shoemaker said Elam posted her first customer out of excitement and started sending thank you cards with each order.

(Courtesy of Rorey Elam)
Designed by Elam, a golden necklace adorned with flower-shaped charms lies against a white surface. The alumnus said she wanted to start her business after visiting several museums in New York. (Courtesy of Rorey Elam)

[Related: Lea Chinn’s Magnolia Street Crafts brings characters alive through jewelry]

As someone from Ohio, Elam said Los Angeles has played a role in shaping her identity. The people at UCLA opened her up to more perspectives in the world, and their creativity has inspired her to believe in herself, Elam said. She looks forward to branching outside of her comfort zone with Opulence and expanding into upcycling fashion in the future, she said.

“I hope that what I can do for others is inspire them to do maybe something similar,” Elam said. “Go out, make that thing, start your own business. Just make something.”

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