Jewelry Without Labels: Local Jewelers Transcend Gender With Wearable Art

androgynous, or gender neutral, jewelry gaining popularity

Kalyn Cronk

Casual Ore Formal's most popular gender-neutral – and anti-traditional – line of jewelry is their Birch Bark line. (Submitted photo)
Casual Ore Formal's most popular gender-neutral – and anti-traditional – line of jewelry is their Birch Bark line. (Submitted photo)

With androgynous jewelry, the possibilities are endless for everyone. “In this day and age, kind of anything goes,” said Camille Hempel, a jeweler in the Chippewa Valley area. Androgynous jewelry is simply about self expression and wearing what feels comfortable, regardless of gender, sexual orientation, or what’s trending. “The adornment is external to a person, but the effect is internal, too,” said Liz Stingl, founder of Casual Ore Formal.

Hempel started with her jewelry journey when she realized her love of hands-on materials and making things that were personal to her. “When I started out in the beginning, I made things that I wanted to wear,” said Hempel, “and now I’m just so passionate about design that I like to explore what other people like to wear as well.”

She had a storefront in New York for seven years, which helped make her work more specific and personal after having a lot of people ask her about their personal taste.

Stingl started making jewelry when she was 19 years old, and her inspiration comes from many things such as her environment, her material, and stones. “I work to create a cohesive look between the facets and the metal that flow when viewing the jewelry from all angles,” Stingl said. It’s not about creating trendy jewelry, it’s about creating something to adorn an individual body.

In terms of today’s fashion, androgynous jewelry – and even clothing – is all about self-expression and moving toward non-gendered looks. Hempel gave the example of the famous boyfriend jean style of denim. “Women would choose them based on the fact that they are a men’s cut but still have that femininity to them,” she said. At the end of the day, it really is just a piece of material.

Camille Hempel Jewelry
Jewelry is beginning to blend in with the lifestyles of different people while jewelers like Stingl and Hempel work to redesign the rules. Individuals are less concerned with a label and more comfortable with what works for that individual. “At the heart of the conversation we are starting to just ask: Why not?” Stingl said.
Cultural icons like Harry Styles (and David Bowie before him) shock people with their fashion choices, while also normalizing those choices. The current pandemic has also helped to change things: Zoom meetings and working from home have also been normalized. “The emphasis is more on personal expression than appropriately for a situation,” said Hempel.

Although there are a lot of questions being posed right now, individuals are discovering themselves through items such as jewelry that are not meant for a particular gender. Things may not be viewed as purely black and white – or pink and blue – anymore. “Let’s strip down these preconceived notions that a past society once defined and move forward,” Stingl said.