Who are you and what do you do?

I realised the “about me” section had nothing about me. I am in fact a real person so here goes:

Who am I?

I’ve been anonymous for a while because I want to keep the focus on the jewellery, not myself. My name is Mason Mignanelli, I live in Newcastle, and I’ve just finished my last year of highschool. I founded Urban Sterling in June 2020. When I’ve got time, my hobbies include classical guitar, MMA, weightlifting, and street photography.

The inspiration for Urban Sterling

This city is the inspiration for my business, not because of any incredible beauty or attraction, but because of how shockingly boring it is. It’s not big enough that you can explore new places, but not small enough for a sense of community to develop. The entire purpose of the area is mining and exporting coal, so other than digging black rocks out of the ground, there’s not much in the way of interesting career opportunities. It’s not pretty enough that you enjoy walking around, but not ugly enough that you get cool dystopian vibes. A land of precise mediocrity.

A few years ago I got into street photography and began to document moments in the lives of complete strangers in Newcastle. As my style developed to compliment the environment of the subject, I realised something: life is a string of monochrome moments. Making tea in the morning, walking to the servo, working the night shift. For some, this is exhausting and soul crushing, but it’s possible to find joy in the art of normality, the cool grey of routine. The old man on the bench staring into the distance, the girl working at the Coles Express sitting on her phone at 1:49AM, the businessman waiting in line for a medium full cream cap with 1 sugar in a slightly creased suit. 

Urban existence is about these moments. A mixing pot of all kinds of people perfectly executing their own entirely uninteresting instants. Hence the name “Urban Sterling”. Urban Sterling is about embracing these moments with a small and humble piece of art that goes everywhere with you. A reminder that even in the most beige microcosms of existence there is virtue. When you become lost in the haze of humdrum reality, you can glance down at your hand, or wrist, or chest, and find a piece that reminds you of your inner muse, your spark.

How did I start Urban Sterling? 

It all began a couple years ago when I decided I’d try my hand at wax carving. I bought a jewellery wax tube from eBay as well as a $10 pack of clay carving tools and off I went. I was immediately fascinated by the process of carving jewellery and made about 20 (admittedly awful) rings moulds in a couple weeks. 

From there I was pretty lost. I had neglected to figure out how you actually turn wax designs into metal. A lot of googling later I found out you’re supposed to send them to a company that casts them for you, but this required either a jewellery apprenticeship certificate or a jewellery business ABN. I wasn’t about to go find a jeweller to become an apprentice just so I could cast my shitty rings, so I set up an ABN.

After asking the manufacturer a lot of stupid questions (“what is sterling silver?”, “how do you guys make these anyway?”), I finally managed to get my first batch of rings cast. The excitement I had to see the finished product for the first time was significantly diminished when I realise they look like this: 

These weren’t my first attempts at casting, but this is what a “raw cast” straight out of production looks like.

So at this point I didn’t realise sanding, oxidising, buffing, emerying, and polishing was something I had to do. I also didn’t know what most of those words meant. So once again I began Googling. I was way out of my depth here, but a few days of research later I was back on eBay looking for some more supplies. This article covers the finishing process I managed to figure out. I’ve optimised and tweaked it over the years so it’s no longer exactly the same, but all the steps are still similar.

To my utter dismay I realised eBay isn’t the place to go for specialist jewellery equipment, so I ended up ordering some stuff from a jewellery equipment supplier. Using this new bottom of the barrel equipment I began to gain practical experience in friction burns and cutting my fingers, but also the finishing process (aka. making things shiny). 

As I honed my craft, others began to ask me about the ever changing styles of ring I wore each day. Amazingly, some people even wanted to buy some, or pay me to create a custom piece. Over time, more and more people began to take interest in what I was doing. At the age of 16 I quit my hellish part time job at Maccas to try to grow this business into something bigger. I was unsure if people would still want to buy my products as time went on, but I thought since I was so young I may as well take the risk and see what happens.

I kept making rings, you guys kept liking them, the rest is history. I like to view my jewellery as a storytelling medium, and each collection as a chapter.. Every chapter is inspired by some sort of universal theme. The Symbol Collection is inspired by the timeless iconography that seems to be wired into the human psyche. The Celestial Collection takes cues from the awe inspiring and endless abyss of the cosmos, as well as Greek mythology. The Abyssal Collection reflects the inescapable cycle of life and death that all beings are trapped in, and the Augur Collection represents the divinatory arts. 

I hope that each of my pieces inspires the wearer to reflect on the respective topic and enjoy the simpler moments. Perhaps even to strive to rise above the monotony of our homogenous modern era and carve out a niche for themselves somewhere. If you want to join our culture of acknowledging the reality you find yourself in, I’ve got a coupon for all new initiates (click the chat bubble down the bottom right) and free shipping on all orders above $100.

Thanks : )

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