In an increasingly mass-produced world, Original Hardware is doing things differently. Founded by Carrie Schafer nearly two decades ago, the jewelry company continues to provide customers with handcrafted jewelry made from high-quality and ethically sourced materials.
Schafer, who has a background in journalism, was working as a corporate executive in Denver when she began making jewelry on the side to exercise her creativity. Addicted to designing and creating pieces whenever she could, it didn’t take long for Schafer’s hobby to grow into a full-blown jewelry business.
Original Hardware began as an online business, ultimately growing to be sold in catalogs and hundreds of wholesale accounts across the country. Schafer opened her own brick-and-mortar location in Downtown Littleton in 2016, complete with a production studio for making jewelry in-house.
“Having the studio space here has been a huge help to have everything all in one place, but more importantly customers love it. I think it’s a differentiator,” Schafer said.
The boutique’s studio also provides a space for permanent jewelry services. During a permanent jewelry appointment, a 14k bracelet is permanently welded to a customer’s wrist — a perfect way to celebrate a special occasion or a connection to a loved one.
Regardless of the reason for their visit, it was important for Schafer to create a beautiful, inviting space for customers to spend their time.
“Customers will regularly say, ‘this is my favorite place because it feels good.’ Even if they can’t find something, they know that they can come in here and feel welcome and supported,” Schafer said.
Schafer designs every piece of jewelry sold at Original Hardware, which frequently includes one-of-a-kind and limited edition pieces on top of the company’s typical major seasonal collections, which are released twice a year.
Following the design process, every piece is then made by either Schafer herself or her team of female artisans. Schafer explained that her design process is often both hands-on and impromptu, centered around her ever-growing collection of gemstones.
“I’ll pick a stone that seems that I want to work with, and usually a theme emerges, so I’ll build a collection around that. There’s a lot of experimentation, and from that usually comes some sort of cohesion,” Schafer said.
Original Hardware jewelry comes in a multitude of styles and materials, with pieces available in everything from sterling silver to 14k gold. Schafer casts the pieces herself, which range from free-form shaped earrings to delicate diamond necklaces.
Upon starting the company, Schafer coined the name Original Hardware as a nod to the original pieces she was making that were built to last. Driven by the core values of craftsmanship, authenticity, respect and kindness, Schafer wanted to ensure her customer base understood what Original Hardware was founded on.
“I’m a firm believer that if you don’t tell the market what you believe in, it’s left up to guesswork. From day one we’ve always paid attention to the details,” Schafer said.
Schafer’s small business is about people, with compassion and care prioritized just as much as the meticulous creation of the jewelry itself.
“We wanted to make sure we were kind, not only to each other but to ourselves. I believe whatever energy you have comes out in the work that you do, and when we’re creating beautiful pieces for people to wear, we want those values to be reflected in the work. Life’s too short to not do right by other people,” Schafer said.
These intentions have been reflected in the lasting relationships the company has built with its customers. Cultivating an atmosphere of serenity and acceptance at Original Hardware for both new and existing customers has been easy for Schafer, who credits the love she has for her career and coworkers as the force behind the company’s success.
“My team is incredible and I love them to death. We all have our gifts, and we really complement each other. It’s a very trusting, nurturing environment. I am very grateful for that,” Schafer said.
Looking to the next decade of Original Hardware, Schafer plans to continue to embrace the values that have solidified the business since its creation. While the company has seen significant growth and change since its inception 20 years ago, her initial passion for creating jewelry hasn’t dwindled.
“Really, the business is driven by joy. What I make is driven by joy, what my team does is driven by joy, and that is what I want more than anything — for it to be a joyful pursuit,” Schafer said.
Original Hardware is located at 2550 W. Main Street in Littleton. To shop their collections online, visit their website.
All photography by John S. Miller.