Tech industry veteran-turned jewelry designer Julia Winter showcases her creativity with Jewel Ya boutique’s handmade wares

She had a successful career working for high-profile companies like IBM and Xerox, but when Julia Winter wanted to expand her family, she sought a profession that would allow her flexibility, income and relief from the constant traveling that, for years, her job required.

So Winter traded in her tech sales and management job and turned a hobby into the solution she sought. The result is Jewel Ya, Winter’s jewelry boutique in downtown Phoenix.

“I was messing around with it, doing it for friends and encouraging their feedback,” Julia says of the early pieces she crafted for fun.

Fifteen years after launching Jewel Ya—a cleverly written play on her first name—Julia’s side project that allowed her to flex her creative muscles is the core of her successful second career as an entrepreneur.

Three years ago, she moved the business from her at-home studio to her current location, where every necklace, bracelet and earring is designed and made. Visits are by appointment only.

Every piece in her collection is created by hand, and features superior-quality natural metals like gold fill, sterling silver, vermeil, copper, 14K gold and leather. Many pieces boast fine-quality semi-precious and precious gemstones including freshwater pearls, turquoise and quartz variations.

Julia draws upon her personal preferences and experiences in a big corporate world and as a busy mom. The pieces are clean, sophisticated, and designed to create a simple look that can transition from day to night, from the board room on a workday to the supermarket on the weekend.

What separates her jewelry from most is that each item is crafted to wear different ways and layer with other pieces, even those that were purchased 10 years ago. On her website (JewelYa.com), Julia demonstrates how to play with a necklace’s lengths to turn it into a shorter piece or wrap it around the wearer’s wrist as a bracelet. She does tutorials on layering and how a new piece can add texture to a current look, how a bracelet can make a necklace longer, and how a single pendant can change everything. She’s got a hoop line where all the drops are changeable to create several looks.

“I give people more ways to wear a piece and how to get the most out of your jewelry,” she says.

Her pieces appeal to a wide clientele ranging from high school girls to women in their ’70s.

“The look is timeless and classic. It’s for someone who’s working and wants pieces that are fresh and on-trend but simple and look great to dress up for a client meeting or running to Target on a Saturday,” she says.

The signs of Julia’s future as a jewelry artist appeared when she was in the first grade and was fashioning plastic beads into accessories.

“I cut them to make earrings and other pieces to give to the neighbors. They cut off the circulation to your ears but they were cute,” she says, laughing.

While pondering her career transition, Julia took jewelry courses, which supplemented her business bachelor’s and master’s degrees that she earned at Arizona State University.

In addition to her boutique, Jewel Ya pieces can be found at trunk shows and about a dozen shops throughout the Valley including The Willows Fine Goods and Design in Phoenix and at Omni Scottsdale Resort & Spa at Montelucia in Scottsdale.

Her wares help people look great on the outside. But broadening her social network, making new friends, and the opportunity to contribute to worthy causes like Fresh Start Women’s Foundation are personal benefits that Julia treasures thanks to her business.

“So many customers end up becoming friends. Meeting people and doing something for charity is super rewarding,” she says.