On a fourth month-long trip through Peru, local jeweler and business owner Anna McDonald kept encountering the word coya; it seemed to be everywhere, on signs, in shops and restaurants. She and her fiancé Francois Schneyder were on a mission to find stones, and McDonald was seeking inspiration in the gold work and distinct designs of South American artisans. As a child, she spent hours sorting through beads in her uncle’s bead shop in Royal Oak, Michigan. Her passion for jewelry led her to pursue a college degree in metalsmithing, but she graduated in the middle of a recession. She spent three years working at Nashelle Jewelry before finally turning to her own designs. The trip to South America spurred not only a business but a new aesthetic and intention: to adorn women in stones and recycled metals so that they felt like “coyas,” or Incan queens.
Today, Coya is her one-woman business. McDonald mines stones and then cuts, drills, sands and polishes using hand tools passed down to her by her grandmother Birdie. “Jewelry is in my blood,” Anna says. In Oregon, she mines mossy agate, obsidian, sunstone, opal, quartz, Oregon Holly Blue Chalcedony and Ellensburg agates. She travels to California for other favorites. Stones that she can’t personally mine are carefully researched and procured only after ensuring they are “highly sourced” in North American mines employing responsible processes that do not damage the environment with harsh chemicals or dynamite. Finding a stone and shaping a design around it is always a unique endeavor. Anna is attuned to the stone’s special property, which she then looks to harness. For instance, chrysoprase is a heart opener, and a favorite stone because Anna says looking into its green face is like peering into the ocean. She chooses to wear watermelon tourmaline every day because the pink and green stone is, “Eccentric and juicy, and balances the male and female energies, letting you relax and soften and lead in love,” she says.
Recently, Anna returned to the metal roots of her craft. An experience in a women’s circle involving animal medicine cards inspired her to consider the roles of spirit animals, particularly birds of prey in Central Oregon. She hurried back to her studio and started sketching designs. Then, she cut out silhouettes of bald eagles from recycled metal, shaping the sprawling wings into necklaces. The results are statement pieces, which evoke the dramatic collar-like necklaces of an Egyptian queen. “I’m more of a dainty jewelry kind of girl,” Anna says, but when she feels the urge to create, she just “lets it flow.” Even these larger, bold necklaces are designed to be light-weight and comfortable to wear, like the rest of her jewelry. Anna also has a casting studio, which allows her to cast “trinkets” of nature. In one line, she cast tiny hemlock pine cones and then mass produced them for dangly earrings and necklace strands that look plucked from the forest floor of the High Desert. As her business grows with increasing online orders, she is looking to expand with behind-the-scenes help, but the ethos of her company will remain the same: each Coya piece is “hand-crafted with intention and to perfection.” She’s not making fashion jewelry, she says, but beautiful and durable “modern day heirlooms” fit for a queen. Available at Root Adorned, Bend. @CoyaJewelry
GEMSTONE CARE TIPS
TIP 1 The best way to clean gemstone jewelry is in a bowl of water with a few drops of mild dish detergent. Using a brush with soft bristles, gently scrub behind the stone where dust and grime can collect. Rinse and pat dry with a cloth.
TIP 2 Remove jewelry before performing manual labor.
TIP 3 Anna says Coya Jewelry is very easy to maintain. “You simply have to wear it,” she says. “The caressing of your skin against the precious metal will keep the luster, desired sheen and sparkle.”
TIP 4 For an extra bit of polish, Anna recommends using a Sunshine® polishing cloth. These cloths remove tarnish from sterling silver, gold, brass, copper, glass other surfaces, leaving a deep, long-lasting luster.