We had the good fortune of connecting with Melanie Kartalija and we’ve shared our conversation below.
Hi Melanie, maybe we can start at the very start – the idea – how did you come up with the idea for your business?
A trip to Spain in 2019 was the inspiration for Santos Oñate Fine Jewelry. I had been designing custom engagement rings and delicate jewelry for more than 10 years. While I had been to Spain many times before, on this trip, I felt like I was seeing jewelry designs in the balconies and ironwork of the towns my husband and I visited. The architecture, colors and textures spoke to me. I remember immediately thinking that I wanted to create jewelry that would make people feel like they have been transported to Spain. Because my heritage is Mexican and Spanish, I have always been drawn to those cultures. I felt like it was a perfect fit. When I think of Spain, I think of the Old World charm of the plazas and calles. It is a rustic beauty. One that is aged, but also elegant. There is so much texture all around, from the walls that flow from brick to stucco to stone and back. I particularly love the walls where old brick has been covered by newer stucco, but after many years the stucco has worn thin and the brick is revealing its historied beauty again. I also think of the many beautiful cathedrals with spires rising up to the blue sky. I think of the beautiful Spaniards sitting in the plazas with their friends and families, living and enjoying life. Really enjoying life! The Spanish way of life is one to be admired. They put family first, and life first. Work comes after that. My line is different from any other jewelry line I have seen. Like the Spanish, we are focused on quality, not quantity. Each piece is hand finished into an heirloom quality treasure. Our bench jewelers take their time with hand texturing the medallions, crosses, rings and earrings, so no two pieces are exactly the same. As for the name for this jewelry line, that was the easy part. I named it after my great-grandmother, Santos Oñate. She fled Guadalajara, Mexico with my great-grandfather and her three sons (my grandfather was two years old at the time) in 1918 during the Mexican Revolution. Naming this line after my great-grandmother would be a perfect tribute to this strong woman and her resilience. My goal was to create beautiful jewelry that is a tribute to the culture, architecture and colors of Spain. I want people to feel the magic of Spain when they wear Santos Oñate designs.
Let’s talk shop? Tell us more about your career, what can you share with our community?
My first career was in marketing research in the media industry. But, I was always into jewelry. In fact, when I’d go to research conferences in New York City, I would skip lunch and head to Saks to look at the latest jewelry trends. The next day I would go to the garment district where they sold jewelry supplies — beads, silver, pearls. I would go home with all my treasures and make beautiful jewelry. I’m really happy that I had a career in market research, but I’m even happier that I am in the business of my dreams, designing jewelry that other people love wearing.
Any places to eat or things to do that you can share with our readers? If they have a friend visiting town, what are some spots they could take them to?
I would make sure we covered the following: hiking at Torrey Pines, walking around Balboa Park, beach walk in Del Mar, a play at the La Jolla Playhouse, a concert at the Belly Up and Cedros for a little shopping. As for food, I would take them to Civico 1845 in Little Italy, The Prado in Balboa Park, Market in Del Mar, The Farmer and the Seahorse for lunch. I’d also make sure we got to the Plaza in Del Mar for a sunset.
Who else deserves some credit and recognition?
My husband Mickey Belch Kartalija. He is always in my corner, cheering me on.
Photos of model and Melanie by @megnphoto.