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Acanthus Jewelry

Acanthus Jewelry

Handmade Jewelry Inspired by History and Art

Acanthus JewelryNichole McIver, is the designer and owner of Acanthus Jewelry, which launched July 2010.  She describes her style of jewelry as “enduring” for its simple and classic feel inspired by historical designs, but yet contemporary enough for the modern woman to wear.  Nichole began considering jewelry designing two years ago while living in Washington D.C., working as a full-time project manager for an artist and part-time at an art gallery that sold jewelry.  Nichole was very inspired by how the artists turned their creativity into successful businesses, and started wondering why she was using her own creativity and design skills to propel their careers rather than her own.  Knowing she was not meant to be a painter, she was however extremely interested in the idea of designing jewelry and became more excited the more she considered it.  “It is a way that I can be creative, use my hands to create beautiful things and use my experience with small businesses to run my own business,” Nichole says.  She also liked that there was still great opportunity for learning new things and branching into other creative areas, while having fun at the same time.
Nichole graduated from California State University Fresno with a Bachelor of Arts in drawing/painting and art history and later from the University of Missouri-Columbia with a Master of Arts in art history-emphasis in Medieval and Renaissance manuscripts.  She has been artistic and creative since she was young and always excelled in drawing, painting, and crafts.  She used to make all sorts of different items in grade school, from hand sewn hair scrunchies to pressed flower cards and bookmarks, which her Mom sold to her clients.  It seems the business bug bit Nichole early as her creativity has continued to fuel her career to this day.  

Acanthus JewelryThe Large Gemma Necklace in Rose Quartz is an Editor’s Pick because we love the soft paleness of the light pink rose quartz embraced by gold fill beads.  Hanging from a gold fill chain with delicate detail, the rose quartz shimmers softly as it is tightly framed by its golden border, adding to its richness and femininity.  Nichole feels that “gold not only enhances the colors of the gemstones best, but also reflects that inspiration of the opulent manuscripts and ancient jewelry styles.”  This is also Nichole’s favorite necklace as it is a signature piece for Acanthus Jewelry and is also available in a variety of semi-precious stones including blue chalcedony, onyx, iolite, garnet, pearl, and more. The drop necklace is dainty and simple enough that it can be worn everyday with anything, but also special enough to pair with a dressier outfit.  This is also a perfect layering piece with other Gemma Pendants or other necklaces.   

Two aspects which make Acanthus unique is that everything is personally handmade by Nichole herself and her jewelry has a customizable quality to it.  Nichole does not use mass manufactured charms or pieces as main components but rather works hard to create every piece with as much care and attention as if making gifts for family or friends.  Her pieces are custom made for clients because nothing is prepared until it is ordered.  Unlike buying a mass produced necklace at the mall, Nichole works with her clients who desire to slightly adapt pieces or custom design something for gifts or weddings. 

Acanthus JewelryAnother Editor’s Pick is the Gemma Pearl Earrings as this is a sophisticated updated version of the classic pearl earring.  Featured here is a round freshwater pearl in sparkling white that is surrounded by a gold fill beading border.  Its elegance speaks for itself as it is something that Coco Chanel probably would have worn in her time.  The pearl is available in ivory, chocolate and champagne.  Nichole is proud that her jewelry has a customizable quality, which allows anyone, no matter their size, age, or style to wear. The Gemma necklace and earrings are great for those with simpler tastes of smaller, delicate pieces, whereas her other necklaces offer something trendier and bolder.  Many of her necklaces, like the Livia and Antonia, can be adjusted and worn in different ways to suit one’s size or neckline.  Nichole states, “I wanted my line to be something that you can collect piece by piece over time and that would all coordinate and allow lots of options for women to wear in their own way to really maximize their accessory wardrobe and feel unique.”   

To top it all off, her gift packaging distinctly adds to the custom feel of her jewelry with its elegant midnight blue gift box stamped with a golden logo and tied with a gold ribbon.  “The hand-stamped packaging really makes the recipient, whether as a gift for themselves or someone else, feel like they are receiving something special,” she says.  Nichole designs and handcrafts each piece herself.  Her inspiration behind her ideas stems from her background in art history, where she looks at pieces she studied and fell in love with and reinterprets the shapes, colors, and motifs into a more contemporary version.  She also goes to museums, views online exhibitions, and peruses textbooks to see what strikes her since there is always something new to discover.

Acanthus JewelryThe Regina Necklace is another Editor’s Pick for its historical and romantic aura with three colors of freshwater pearls and smoky quartz along a hammered gold-fill chain.  The freshwater pearls in hues of white, rose, and aubergine, mixed in with the smokey quartz looks dazzling along the small oval gold chain links.  This long necklace measures 37” but is customizable depending on your mood as its clasp can be secured anywhere along the chain.  This classic piece can be worn long or doubled up for a layered effect.  Nichole has personal favorites from her collection and wears her Alexandria Earrings daily because they bring a little extra special something with the linked oval detail on the face of the hoop and the texture of the tiny gold fill beads.  She adores her Anne Bracelet for its rich feel of gemstone rondelles accompanied by gold fill spacers and a pretty handmade clasp that is made for showing off.  These bracelets look great in multiple clusters on the wrist!

Nichole named her line Acanthus after the acanthus plant, as its spiny, flowing leaves have been incorporated in design motifs throughout history.  Similarly, Nichole’s background in art history is evident in her classic designs as a way to channel her creativity and artistic training.    She shares, “While I did not want to create historical reproductions, I wanted to capture that feeling you get when you look at Roman or Byzantine jewelry in a museum collection- a sense of something with a history and spirit that was created especially for the wearer.” She loves using 14k gold fill beads and chains, along with semi-precious stones because they evoke that feeling she is seeking to create while also enhancing the Acanthus Jewelrygemstone colors.  The Catherine Necklace is a regal piece that makes one think of Queen Catherine with its trio of semi-precious stones framed by gold fill beads. Selected here is the Smoky Quartz and white aquamarine necklace is comprised of a dark smoky quartz center surrounded on both sides by white aquamarines.  The gold fill beads carefully border each of the semi-precious stones while tiny rondelle gemstones placed along the chain enhances its allure.  This necklace is also available in Garnet and Amethyst and Iolite and Swiss Blue Topaz.

Her favorite jewelry designer is Cathy Waterman for her workmanship and rings, which amazingly feel as if they are from another time period.  One of her other inspirations is Bonnie Riconda of Calico Juno Designs, for her handmade, bohemian pieces as well as her dedicated support of other artists.  Bonnie was and still is very helpful to Nichole in starting Acanthus Jewelry whereas other designers did not have the same friendly and encouraging attitude.  “I think it is really admirable and hope I can be supportive and helpful to other artisans someday also,” Nichole says.  In the coming years, Nichole hopes to spread Acanthus Jewelry nationwide in boutiques and online stores.  She would also love to open her own boutique or online store to feature the works of other designers in addition to her own.  Nichole plans to learn new jewelry making techniques and different aspects of running and promoting a business. 

Aside from creating jewelry and running her new business, Nichole enjoys spending time with her husband and newborn son, Liam.  And of course, she still loves drawing and painting as well as hiking and enjoying the beautiful outdoors. Nichole plans to launch new Spring and Fall collections, while keeping most of her pieces available continually.  Living in Portland, Oregon, there is a strong handmade artist and craftsperson community, and Nichole loves visiting local boutiques and shows to support other designers.  Nichole ends her interview with a sweet note in encouraging people to support small businesses and handmade goods in saying, “I think it is important to encourage creativity and quality in the things we purchase.”  Acanthus Jewelry is currently available online at her website

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