It’s the kind of career change many of us dream about: After spending 13 years on Wall Street as a junk bond trader, Hilary Park traded in a secure paycheck to sell her own jewelry out of her newly opened store, Hilary Park Jewelry.
It was while working the trading desk at Marathon Asset Management, and later at Credit Suisse, that Park developed her jewelry habit. “It got a bit worse as the years went on,” she explains. When it became out of control, she decided she needed to make her own.
Park started taking classes after work at Fitzgerald Jewelry in Williamsburg in 2002, and eventually had taken every class the school offered; her apartment meanwhile was slowly morphing into a jewelry factory.
Park began creating jewelry out of beads, primarily making necklaces. As her knowledge grew, she quickly moved on to metal work and began crafting pendants and rings, and while she sold the odd piece here or there, she would often use her craft to make gifts for friends.
In 2008, Park lost her job but didn’t like the idea of getting another one in finance. On her way to an interview for a job she didn’t really want, she decided to take a leap of faith and make jewelry her full-time occupation.
Having moved to Williamsburg in 2002, a time when the neighborhood’s retail market was limited, Park says that one of the things that held her back from opening her store was the thought of having to open it in Manhattan.
But with the evolution of Williamsburg and indeed Brooklyn, Park felt the time was right to open her store. “I’ve lived in Williamsburg for so long that I don’t think I’ve been quite aware of just how much it has changed. What was eye opening to me this Spring, is that walking around on a Sunday afternoon in March, Bedford was awash with people – some new to the neighbourhood, some from Manhattan, some probably from Rajasthan, anywhere and everywhere, and I thought hmm…..now is the time.“
In late May of this year, she opened her store at 94 South 1st St. All of her jewelry is handmade, limited edition or one of a kind, and clients may also choose to have something custom made, including wedding bands. She works primarily with sterling silver, as well as 14, 18 and 22 carat gold, mostly for custom pieces.
Park’s designs are inspired by nature, however she also offers more conceptual pieces, inspired by travel and narratives. A particularly beautiful pendant is called ‘The Thirteen Gates’, which references a temezcal ceremony in a Mayan sweat lodge, in which the shaman leads the individual through thirteen doors, each representative of higher ancestral planes. Park explains that the doors carved into the pendant invite the wearer to invoke the wisdom of an ancient culture.
Together with her handcrafted jewelry, Park also offers Indian astrology readings, and invites her clients to use gemstones as a way to help alleviate certain afflictions. She explains that Indian astrology uses an entirely different zodiac system to Western astrology, and it is the belief in the energetic qualities of gemstones that she is drawn to.
“One of the first talismans I made was an enormous, 600 carat piece of topaz,” says Park. “I wear it with care because the events that it tends to precipitate are monumental, but I can see that it has led me away from something which was not serving my heart and into a more open place where perhaps transformation is possible.”
Salma Osman is an Australian freelance writer, currently NY based, and blogs at stylescoutexplore.com.