Meet the Maker

Meet Local Jewelry Designer Barb McSweeney

Ringling College of Art and Design alum Barb McSweeney ditched the 9-5 to follow her creative heart...and it paid off.

By Heather Dunhill August 24, 2016

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Sarasotan and Ringling College of  Art and Design alum Barb McSweeney has made a name for herself by following her creativity in her favorite medium--jewelry. With an eye for timelessly romantic designs, McSweeney reaches for luxe freshwater pearls and elements that will transition from blue jeans to ball gowns. And it says something that her designs have been showcased in Saks Fifth Avenue, Bloomingdale's and the Ritz-Carlton. 

And always one to grow and branch out, McSweeney has evolved her collection to include a line called SpaFresh Essentials, which includes stackable bracelets, some which have an aromatherapy component--how clever!  I'm thinking my yoga class is about to get a little more Zen.

Join me in getting to know another talented local artisan.

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Barb McSweeney.


For the woman getting to know your style, how would you describe your design aesthetic?
Classic and traditional, with a contemporary twist. Unique, carefully designed jewelry that can help define your personal style. 

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Even though you work with more than one medium, the pearl seems to be your favorite. What is it that draws you to the treasured gem?

Pearls are definitely my favorite design elements. I love the color white--it’s the purest color of jewelry to me. Pearls are also organic in nature, and are the only gems that come from the sea--they’re said to be the tears of mermaids. Still to this day, my mother, now 89 years old, has always called me her “pearl of great price,” so when I decided to make the switch from an advertising career to jewelry design, I chose to base my line around the pearl.

Speaking of pearls, what is the best way to care for them?

Did you know that pearls can dehydrate? So love them and wear them often--frequent contact with skin helps them thrive. Avoid any contact with perfume, hairspray or cosmetics. Pearls should be the last thing on in the morning (after all perfumes, lotions, etc.), and the first thing off at the end of the day. Wipe pearls with a soft cloth before storing. Never use an ultrasonic cleaner, and never store them in a plastic bag--save that for your sterling silver.

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I love the earthiness and ease of your SpaFresh Essentials Jewelry collection. Then, I learned they have an aromatherapy element–how does that work?

This is a new and growing collection, one that is earthy and appealing to those interested in incorporating health and wellness into their jewelry. I integrate lava and pumice into simple designs. Lava is said to have healing properties, as do most of the other components I use in this collection. To infuse the jewelry with oils (which should only be 100 percent pure essential oils), simply apply a drop or two to the lava only, and enjoy the scent for hours or even days.

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And, the Memorial Bracelet, a piece to remember the loss of a fur-kid. So sweet…how did that come about?

Well, we just lost our 14-year old “fur-kid” a couple of weeks ago. I posted about this loss on my Facebook page and invited friends to post a photo of a lost beloved pet, if they wanted to. I received so many comments and condolences that I decided to create this bracelet at an affordable price as a way for people to have their pets with them always. There is an area on the bracelet where you can attach the tag of the lost pet. Customers are encouraged to name an animal charity they would like to benefit with a portion of the proceeds from their purchase. If they do not name a specific charity, I will donate to the Humane Society.

For more information about Barb McSweeney Jewelry, visit

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