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ConVal grad makes jewelry, owns stores

  • Earrings by Rebekah Brooks

    Earrings by Rebekah Brooks

  • A pendant by Rebekah Brooks

    A pendant by Rebekah Brooks

  • A necklace by Rebekah Brooks

    A necklace by Rebekah Brooks

  • A pendant by Rebekah Brooks

    A pendant by Rebekah Brooks

  • Rebekah Brooks, a former Peterborough resident who now owns and manages two jewelry stores in Massachusetts.

    Rebekah Brooks, a former Peterborough resident who now owns and manages two jewelry stores in Massachusetts.

  • Earrings by Rebekah Brooks
  • A pendant by Rebekah Brooks
  • A necklace by Rebekah Brooks
  • A pendant by Rebekah Brooks
  • Rebekah Brooks, a former Peterborough resident who now owns and manages two jewelry stores in Massachusetts.

Rebekah Brooks says she’s been making jewelry “since I was a little kid.” She recalls sending away in the mail for an emerald that cost about $4 and eagerly awaiting its arrival so she could create a special piece. Her parents, Mona Adisa Brooks of Peterborough and John Brooks, who now lives in New Boston, were both studio artists and she grew up surrounded by their work. And after graduating from ConVal High School in 1991 and a stint studying glassblowing at the Massachusetts College of Art in Boston, she had to find a career path.

“My question was, how can I live as an artist?” Brooks said in a phone interview from her jewelry studio in Northampton, Mass., last week. “I knew I couldn’t do glassblowing. It’s a million-dollar operation to open a studio.”

So she moved to New York City, where she landed a job as an artist’s assistant. It was the start of a journey that combined her love of art and enthusiasm for business, culminating in the recent opening of a Rebekah Brooks jewelry store in Cambridge, Mass., to complement her Northampton store.

“I learned so much,” Brooks said about that first job. “I was working with a woman who was incredibly talented and I became really good at managing her business. I had to work my tail off.”

After a couple of years, Brooks was ready to start her own business. She quit her job to open her own jewelry studio in New York City. She was living in the city and had only about $3,000 saved.

“I did mostly beaded gemstones,” she recalled. “I bought only what I could afford and I really had to beat the pavement.”

She worked out of a loft in the Greenpoint section of Brooklyn, selling mostly wholesale and attending lots of trade shows. When her lease expired in 2007, Brooks and her husband, Christian Hawkins, moved to Northampton.

“We decided to open a retail store to diversify our business,” Brooks said. “In Northampton, we saw a little floral business for sale, in a really good location. We approached the landlord, and we didn’t end up there, but he had another great space.”

The store, which is called simply Rebekah Brooks, specializes in wedding and engagement rings, which account for about half of her business. Brooks also does restoration of antique jewelry and rings.

Hawkins, who is a musician, also helps Brooks run the business. Brooks, who is 40, and Hawkins, 43, have been together for 21 years.

“Christian went to ConVal as well. He’d like to forget that,” Brooks said.

The couple has two children, Hazel, 6, and Hans, 16 months.

The business now employs 10 people, including three working at a second Rebekah Brooks store that opened on Brattle Street in Cambridge, Mass., in September 2012.

“It’s going well,” Brooks said about the Harvard Square store. “Operating a store remotely is quite a challenge. My main thing is that I’m a mom first and a business owner second. I have fantastic people working for me.

“We make everything by hand,” she said. “I work with a diamond setter and a caster who rough things out. We make all our findings — ear wires, clasps — by hand locally.”

The company recycles all its gold and Brooks says many customers appreciate that the jewelry is all American-made.

“I think this is a great time where people are really waking up,” she said of the interest in buying locally. “I am my own supplier. People really respond to that. That’s really what our business model is all about.”

Samples of Brooks’s work can be seen on her websites, www.rebekahbrooks.com and www.rebekahbrooks.blogspot.com. She said the sites actually went down last year during the height of the investigation into the phone hacking by British tabloid newspapers, much of which focused on a journalist and editor also named Rebekah Brooks.

“When that whole scandal hit, it was really not fun for us,” Brooks said. “We actually got hate mail. But it’s settled down now.”

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