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Meet Christi Schimpke of CRASH Jewelry in West LA

Today we’d like to introduce you to Christi Schimpke.

Thanks for sharing your story with us Christi. So, let’s start at the beginning and we can move on from there.
I started CRASH Jewelry after I moved my studio into my husband’s body shop garage. At that time, I was fabricating more ‘traditional’ types of jewelry such as sterling silver and gold rings, earrings, and necklaces. This was a few years ago when metal prices were soaring and I was finding it difficult to compete in the jewelry market. One day during a break from work, I looked around the garage and saw all these gorgeous late-model (new) cars that had come in for repair — Mercedes-Benz, Aston Martin, Rolls-Royce, Bentley, Porsche, and more — and began to think about what happened to the car part that was being replaced. I discovered that discarded car parts (fenders, doors, hoods, quarter panels) often ended up in a landfill and could take up to 80 years to decompose. I then thought, “I wonder if I can make jewelry out of those parts?” Since no one was really doing anything like this, I had to come up with my own production techniques especially as the original factory paint on sheet metal didn’t like to stay put when I tried to bend the metal into a cuff shape. It took about three years to really get the metalworking processes down, but now I have systems in place and I am constantly improving upon them.

Overall, has it been relatively smooth? If not, what were some of the struggles along the way?
haha! Not much at all. Some of the biggest struggles involved production techniques, trying to figure out ways to make repurposed jewelry from discarded steel and aluminum car pieces that are not flat, but curved and dented. One of the great things about CRASH Jewelry is that it retains the original factory paint/finish from the car it was sourced from. It took a while to figure out how to prevent the car paint from cracking or flaking off a cuff, for example. Also, I couldn’t use my torch to solder anything to the car metal because it would ruin the factory paint. I had to use rivets or ‘cold connections’ to attach metal to metal, and that was a big learning curve.

Other struggles — how to market it? People often don’t really understand what they are seeing — that a cuff, earring, or necklace is actually a piece of a real car. I needed to explain what they were seeing (sometimes.)

Please tell us about CRASH Jewelry.
CRASH Jewelry makes sustainable uni-sex jewelry from the metal of luxury automobiles like Ferrari, Porsche, Maserati, Mercedes-Benz, Lamborghini, Audi, Bentley, and more. (These are all new cars, not vintage.) CRASH is a completely new and almost unheard of product and that sets us apart from most jewelry companies. I also make every piece of jewelry by hand — nothing is mass-produced. I engrave the name of the car that a piece of CRASH Jewelry came from, and I also send along a Certificate of Authenticity that states the name of the car it was sourced from, the date it was made, and any other relevant information.

I am proud of the fact that I am repurposing sheet metal that would otherwise be thrown into a landfill. I’m also proud that I came up the concept and figured out ways to make it work. I am also proud of my customers who are very loyal and feel like friends, although I’ve never met most of them. I take a personal approach when making jewelry for a customer and believe that they should be 100% satisfied with my products. I also pay a living wage to those who work for me, and I contribute 20% back to a variety of charitable organizations throughout the year.

If you had to go back in time and start over, would you have done anything differently?
I would have had more confidence in my ability to run my own business. Over the years, I’ve listened to some people who thought they knew better than me when in fact, they had no idea. I wish I had been more assertive when dealing with certain business situations. I am more of an artist, not so much a business person. I’m also nice, lol, and sometimes that works against you and you can be taken advantage of.

Pricing:

  • Prices range from $60 to $800 so there is something for everybody’s budget.

Contact Info:


Image Credit:
Arlene Turinchak, Bryan Bischoff

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