Motherhood is filled with exciting firsts – the first flutters from the womb, the first labor contraction, the first breastfeeding experience – the list goes on and on. But have you ever thought of making such tangible memories into handmade, keepsake jewelry that you can hold close to your heart forever?
If not, meet Chennai-based jewelry designer Preethi Vijay who makes jewelry, souvenirs and keepsakes out of breast-milk, baby hair, milk tooth and the like.
Using a simple, but clever technology, Preethi embalms breast milk and molds it into miniature shapes. The milky beads are then set in a bespoke piece of jewelry. The final product is a unique keepsake of your bodily ambrosia that you can wear as a badge of honor or maybe even gift your children, provided it doesn’t skeeve them out.
Certainly, it reminds us of the romantic Victorians and their tradition of making memorial jewelry using human hair. And Preethi, a young mother herself, would say it’s no coincidence. The 30-year-old takes no credit for her unique business idea and admits that she came across the prospects of breast-milk jewelry through a British woman who put up a query regarding it on a global social media forum.
“I have always wanted to craft designs that would connect to people rather than make casual, use-and-throw jewelry. I wanted to design stuff that my customers would save for a lifetime. Traces of motherhood is something that people would cherish all their lives and pass on to the next generation too,” she says.
Today, Preethi’s ‘Momma’s Milky Love’ is a flourishing online jewelry brand and the designer vouches that she can barely keep up with the orders. Breast milk in sealed bags, precious locks of downy bub hair and milk-tooth in tiny boxes – all the roads from Madurai courier offices now lead to Preethi’s address.
Apparently, Preethi started experimenting with the preservation of breast milk just a year ago. As she wasn’t sure of the technique she should adopt, she followed the trial and error method. It was in May this year that she finally decided on the exact technology she would use.
The next step was making a social media presence. So, she soon started a Facebook page for her brand. And much to her surprise, orders started pouring in. “I never imagined that my humble venture would grow into an online jewelry brand this soon,” says a happy Preethi.
Once a customer makes an order, Preethi emails them a list of instructions on how to collect and send the breast-milk. According to Preethi, preserving the breast milk and making it last forever is a difficult task.
“Certain web portals have put up a few techniques, which do not actually work. Breast milk is something that’s quickly perishable. It loses its color within hours. I add preservatives to the sample and refrigerate it for hours before putting it to the jewelry,” she says.
The industrious designer handcrafts each piece of jewelry in sterling silver and artificial metal. Although she's been getting queries regarding gold and gold-plated jewelry, Preethi says she doesn’t want to jump the gun before establishing herself in the field.
“The price varies from piece to piece, depending upon the customization and size. On an average, a piece of jewelry will cost you somewhere around Rs 10,00 and Rs 4,000. Initially, I used to take four to five days to finish a single product. But now, I am able to make four to five pieces in a week. I have also hired an assistant to help me out in this,” she says.
Sadly, the designer-cum-entrepreneur, wasn’t able to treasure her own breast milk or her kid’s babyhood as her son is already six years old.
While a product like breast-milk jewelry is sure to get mixed responses, Preethi has no qualms about marketing her product as an “emotional asset.” However, she admits that none of her customers wear her jewelry on a daily basis. Most of them prefer to keep it as a souvenir, she says.
Preethi has a word of wisdom for budding entrepreneurs: “You don't have to come up with a hundred ideas to be successful. You just have to have a distinctive idea, which can be put to use in the most remarkable manner.”
A graduate in commerce and HR management, Preethi is now planning to open a website for her jewelry brand. “The best thing that happened to my brand was its introduction on Facebook. The conventional pyramidal manner of launching a website first and then attracting visitors to it takes time for a product to get noticed. Here, the product and its features are already familiar to the social media audience. I think it would be easier to draw them to a website now,” says Preethi.
So young moms, what are you waiting for? Check out 'Momma’s Milky Love' on Facebook and order yourself a unique keepsake for posterity today itself.