How Eve Gay Built A Fine Jewelry Empire At Just 24 Years Old
The Jacksonville native and certified gemologist reveals exactly what it took to build Stoned Fine Jewelry from scratch.
In Bustle’s Quick Question, we ask women leaders all about advice — from the best guidance they’ve ever gotten to what they’re still figuring out. Here, Stoned Fine Jewelry founder and Square partner Eve Gay shares how she navigates the industry as a recent college graduate, her advice to aspiring young entrepreneurs, and more.
Eve Gay never expected the jewelry business she launched while attending Pepperdine University to become her full-time hustle, but 2020 had other plans for her. After a sustainable fashion internship fell through due to the lockdowns, she shifted her sights to becoming a certified gemologist and building what would become Stoned Fine Jewelry.
In three short years, her crystal candy-like jewels — think ethically-sourced diamonds, precious stones, and high-end jewelry ranging from diamond-studded tennis bracelets and serpent necklaces to heart-shaped rings — have found their way to the covers of magazines like Playboy South Africa and have been worn by the likes of celebs like Kendall Jenner and Ireland Baldwin. But success for Gay, now 24, didn’t come without its share of trial and tribulations, including reassessing her career path amid the lockdowns. And the industry, itself, is a tough field to crack. “I had no idea what I was doing at first,” says the Jacksonville, Florida native. “After finishing my course at the Gemological Institute of America, I was super proud of myself for doing that because I seriously had no knowledge without it.”
Being a Gen Z female business owner is also a challenge, but Gay hopes to pave the way for other young designers. “I was really going into this industry completely blind so I feel like [my experiences and challenges] shaped me and that’s what makes me feel successful,” she says. “I definitely feel like even if I just were to start the business and it didn’t take off, I feel that’s still an accomplishment because it’s hard to be young and start a business.”
Below, Gay reveals more about kickstarting her brand while in college, her advice for young entrepreneurs, and more.
What was your initial reaction to celebs like Kendall Jenner and Ireland Baldwin wearing your pieces?
We actually found Ireland Baldwin from Newmark Models. We were set to shoot a campaign with another model and it fell through, so I was freaking out because we were flying out to California and we had all this stuff ready. I had no model for my first campaign, and my mom went online and found Ireland, so we reached out to her agency. I was at Pepperdine at the time, so I remember we went to Malibu where my apartment was, and she was very down to earth. After the shoot, I ended up gifting her a necklace that she wore a lot and was featured in a bunch of publications.
As for Kendall, I worked with a publicist who’s based in New York and in the fashion industry, and she connected me to Kendall. We made a little custom necklace for her to wear.
What does success mean to you as a Gen Z woman?
Obviously, there are metrics that you can hit to feel successful, whether that’s sales or followers, and those are great goals to have. I had numbers in my head when I first started that I ended up reaching and eventually surpassing, and I was super excited about that.
But now, going into my third year of business, success to me is a mindset more than anything. The numbers are great, of course, but being successful is a lot about putting yourself out there. Being able to make the leap of starting your own business and having those guts. That alone is something to be proud of — it’s really scary to be a business owner, especially at such a young age.
Have you found you’re treated differently as an entrepreneur due to your age? If so, how do you combat that?
As someone who has no ties to the jewelry industry, it’s very tough to break through because it’s very closed off and has high barriers to enter. There’s also not a lot of accessible information online, so that was also tough to navigate. I have to constantly prove myself since the industry is based a lot on trust, as in being a trustworthy person. I have to show people every day that I work extra hard and that I’m very dedicated and can handle this.
In the early stages of building your brand, what did you feel were your strengths and weaknesses? How did you lean into your strengths, and how did you work on your weaknesses?
My weaknesses were obviously not being a generational jeweler or coming from a background in jewelry, so to compensate for that, I took to Google and social media like LinkedIn and Instagram to find people who were in the industry who could help me. Even though it was challenging, I found a mentor who really guided me and helped me break in, which I cannot thank him enough for. Whatever your weakness is, you have to be honest with yourself and recognize that everyone has them. Nobody’s perfect.
As for my strengths, it’s definitely in social media. I’m good with Instagram and putting myself out there — I wasn’t afraid to be annoying, and that’s something I live by. I recall messaging every person who followed me and telling them to follow my business. I’d ask if they needed anything for holidays like Christmas or Valentine's Day, and most people would never reply to me and I was fine with that. But then, I’d get a select few who did. If you don’t put yourself out there, you’re missing out on an opportunity.
What would you say were the biggest mistakes or challenges of your career so far? And, on the contrary, the best things you’ve done or that have happened?
It’s been a wild ride but so fun at the same time. I officially launched my business in the middle of my senior year at Pepperdine. I was finishing up my classes online while working on my business during the day, then in the summer, I went through the gemologist program which was probably one of the most challenging things I’ve ever done. Trade school is such an important yet overlooked place, and it was the most rewarding experience to learn about a niche subject. Even though it was hard, investing in my education was the best decision I made and now, I feel knowledgeable and confident. But every business and industry is different, so there’s not a school for everything you want to learn. Most of the time, you have to gain experience through action.
Do you have tips on brainstorming and starting a business for those in college or fresh out of school?
If you’re in college and you have an idea, go for it — you’re paying all this money to be at school, and there are so many resources available to you. While starting a business in college, I remember taking advantage of that by getting advice from professors and alumni connections, and my friends would even incorporate my company as part of their class projects. The worst that could happen is it fails and you learn something. Just stay in your lane, keep your head down, and work hard if you’re super passionate about your idea.
This interview has been edited and condensed for clarity.
A previous version of this article misidentified Ireland Baldwin’s modeling agency. It has been updated with the correct agency.