Gem Lounge Jewelry Keeps It Stylish and Sustainable

Raymond maker Melissa Evans loves working with an eco-conscious and unexpected material (also, lasers!). A Down East Shop maker spotlight.

When her younger sister asked her whether she could make a vegan “leather” bracelet, jewelry designer Melissa Evans was up for the challenge. It had been three years since she’d quit her corporate job to focus on her eco-conscious jewelry startup, Gem Lounge Jewelry, and she was putting in 60 to 80 hours a week growing her brand. It wasn’t long before Evans found the material that would become a mainstay of Gem Lounge and help land her company on the short list for TV’s Shark Tank: cork. Not only is cork vegan-friendly but also hypoallergenic and waterproof, and when the bark of a cork oak tree is properly harvested, it doesn’t kill the tree. Evans, who prides herself on running a green company, was instantly hooked.

These days, she uses cork to make bracelets, totes, and wallets. But while she loves its versatility, Evans doesn’t work exclusively with cork. She also uses precious metals, including recycled sterling silver for charms on bracelets and necklaces. Recently, she added two lasers to her studio, which she uses to engrave items like flasks, game pieces, and magnets. With lasers, she says, “there’s really no limit on my creative ability. It’s so hard to rein in my brain, as I always have so many new ideas that I want to bring to life.”

In 2018, three years after she started experimenting with cork, Evans quit a part-time waitressing job to focus solely on Gem Lounge. “It was one of the scariest and most exciting moments of my life, but it was also one of the most fulfilling,” she remembers. A year later, she opened a retail location, Gem Lounge Jewelry and Artisan Boutique, in Raymond. It’s not far from where she grew up, in Casco. After spending a few years away from Maine, attending Loyola University in New Orleans, Evans appreciates having family nearby: her cousin works in her shop, and both her sister and her partner, Vito, help her at trade shows. To recharge, she heads to Little Sebago Lake with Vito, their two-year-old son, Nico, and the family’s two rescue dogs. When she was younger, Evans says, “I thought I wanted to venture out as far away from home as possible.” But now that she’s back, she realizes “there really is no place like Maine.”

Featured Items from Gem Lounge Jewelry

Blue Cork Silver Side Hook Bracelet

This blue cork bracelet has a silver side hook closure that makes it easy to put on and take off. $40

Maine Circle Necklace

This Maine state necklace features a state outline and heart within a circle, beauty and simplicity at its finest. $58

Sebago Lake Magnet

These Sebago Lake Magnets are perfect for any camp or home! Each magnet is made of Baltic Birch or Maple with a shellac coating. $18