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Meet The Magna Karta — a Sustainable Jewelry Business

Talia Starczewski spends countless hours poring over the pairing of glinting crystals to the face of an intricately patterned sliver of a pine cone to ensure each piece is made lovingly and with the utmost intention.

Starczewski is a 21-year-old senior majoring in psychology at UF who runs her own jewelry business called The Magna Karta. In August of 2018, a family friend gave her and her brother, Marco Starczewski, a box of pine cones. They decided to do something they’d never done before and make pendants out of them. He found out how to cut the pine cones well and she said she recognizes that she wouldn’t be at the point she is today with her business if it wasn’t for his help.

Now, Talia Starczewski and her boyfriend, Michael Rousseau, create the jewelry together. She said she uses cross-sections of pine cones and black walnuts to make jewelry. The pine cones are from the northern California and Washington area and only open up in forest fires, which means they are strong and can be cut without falling apart, she said.

 

 

The patterns on the jewelry are completely natural and are made by the seeds of the pine cone. She gets her gem-grade crystals from various artists who cut and polish the gems themselves. She tries her best to buy from people who are conscious consumers, which means their materials are fair trade. Her jewelry is completely sustainable, and she uses a bio-based resin, she said.

The Magna Karta also promotes metaphysical earth-healing through the energy from things such as the specific part of the pine cone used for the pendants and the colors of the gems.

 “I know when I wear mine, I feel very grounded,” she said. “I change them, the ones that I do wear, depending on how I’m feeling and what I feel I need that day.” 

When she first began, she bought a huge chunk of labradorite, which is her favorite stone, and smashed it up into a bunch of smaller pieces. She used all those pieces and made them for all the members of her family and even made small ones for their dogs, she said. 

She said when you use resin, you have to create pieces in batches, and the process leading up to it can take anywhere from a couple of days to weeks. When she cuts the pine cone or walnut pieces, she spends a lot of time with them and looks at the designs. She does the same with her crystals. She looks at them in different lights and tries pairing them in many different ways with her pieces before she finds the combination she loves, she said. It can take a total of two weeks to make a batch of pieces when she needs them made soon.

“I will take a couple of the crystals and spend the day with them,” she said. “I put them in my little bag, and I bring them with me.”

She sells her pieces at vintage markets, local events and music shows. She said she and Rousseau do a lot of electronic music shows. She’s made a lot of connections with other local makers in Alachua County and has also met people who own her pieces at UF, such as another woman who was wearing her jewelry while at Krishna lunch.

She was inspired to make the name for her business The Magna Karta after her grandmother and her brother Michael Starczewski, who passed away. Her grandmother would always write his name as M.K., which matches the initials of the business. The Magna Karta’s slogan “Be good, be kind, be careful,” is also something her grandmother says. She wanted to be able to recognize both her grandmother and brother in what she does, she said.

Michael Rousseau, 21, is a fourth-year student at UCF majoring in human communications. He said he started helping Talia Starczewski a couple of months after she began making the jewelry. They figured out how to make them better together and found which type of pine cones have the most interesting designs. His favorite part of making the pendants is slicing them open. He said it can be hard to cut them because they’re often working with a power tool in an apartment.

“But it’s worth it,” he said. “When you cut them open, you get to look at them and no single one is ever the same.”

He enjoys the events in Gainesville because of all of the people they’ve met. He also enjoys working at music events, and they’ve started getting invited to work shows for free because of the connections they’ve made. They do events in Orlando, Boca Raton and Gainesville and they plan to do more next semester. The business has taught him to be accountable and how to have a lot of responsibility, he said.

“I’ve heard this so many times, like ‘Yeah, you can do anything,’” he said. “It wasn’t until I did this that I realized not enough people take their ideas and bring them to fruition. This was just an idea.”

Jillian Howery, 21, is a senior advertising major at UF. She is friends with Talia Starczewski and got involved with The Magna Karta because she wanted to support her friend’s business. She bought her first piece from The Magna Karta last fall, she said. 

She owns three pieces of her jewelry and she loves how unusual the pieces are. She likes to match the crystals on her pendants to the colors of her clothing. She also combines them with other pendants and necklaces she has.

Howery owns her own business called Terra Fina Jewelry, and she sells tiny terrariums as necklaces and earrings. She believes in shopping local and supporting other people who make handmade things. 

She said she thinks Talia Starczewski and Rousseau stand out because of how friendly and authentic they are in their interactions with customers.

“You don’t really see something like that very often,” she said. “Pine cones are just such a beautiful thing and to see what she did with them is kind of magical.”         

Julia Mitchem is a University of Florida junior majoring in journalism and minoring in Spanish. She is currently Co-CC for Her Campus UFL. She believes in empathy and inclusivity. She works to empower women in everything she does.
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