Compass Rose Design Jewelry

Renegade Austin - Top 5 List

We're back from our trip to Austin for Renegade Craft Fair. It's the farthest we've travelled for a show and the first time either Johnny or I had been farther east than Santa Fe. In short - we had an amazing time.  

The people were fantastic and the neighborhoods outside downtown were delightful. We stayed off Southern Congress, which is basically not so different from Portland or Santa Cruz or Eugene.

Some of our favorites things about Austin:

1. Cow Skulls  

They really were everywhere.

Fantastic Yards & Yard Art

I loved that a lot of the houses in neighborhoods outside downtown had art and interesting fixtures with an industrial flair. Some were more artsy and some were refined - all pretty fantastic.  

I loved this tumbled beach glass used as gravel.

3. Tex Mex - a different flavor than New Mexico or California! 

Here's a great blog about Austin Street Style during SXSW

4. Cowboy boots and vintage clothing to die for!

Of course we stopped at Allen Boots. Here is where I discovered that my taste far outweighs my budget. 

The SoCo district was full of fantastic vintage shops. 

5. Food Trucks! Torchy's Tacos was totally a favorite and was just a couple blocks from where we stayed so we became fast friends. The food truck scene was way ahead of San Francisco and much closer to Portland in the variety and quality.

Fried Chicken and BBQ, also just as good as we'd hoped! And the craft beer selection was extensive, even at tiny restaurants and holes in the wall. 

In short - if you have the chance to go - do it!!! 

Stay tuned for details about our trip to Santa Fe and the Painted Desert.



Written by L.C. Van Houten — April 08, 2014

Inspired by the Maker Faire

The East Bay Mini Maker Fair was amazing. The Maker Faire (project of MAKE Magazine) is continuing to grow and capture some of our favorite cultural trends.  You'll find hardcore Silicon Valley scientists and engineers, burning man folks, lego aficionados, renaissance fair and cos play fans in full attire, educators and and their kids. Everyone is making things. Taking things apart. Problem-solving. Cooperating. Innovating. 

Sabrina Merlo / East Bay Mini Maker Faire

(photo by Sabrina Merlo / East Bay Mini Maker Faire)

Johnny and I brought our history-laden jewelry and a BUNCH of maker kits to encourage the next generation of makers. Both Johnny and I started making and disassembling as young people and encouraging kids to MAKE things has become increasingly significant to us. We did not expect to become full time-makers. Both Johnny and I have had an inquiry of "is it ok to be a maker?" Our parents hoped we would have jobs where we wore suits, and we have ended up running a small business recycling tiny antique objects into jewelry. We use our hands and our brains to do soldering and marketing and have found ways to work hard and have a balanced life. As we've realized that the answer is an emphatic YES, we want to encourage young people to cultivate their own skills. You never know where your skills will lead you!


Our work is inspired by the history of technology. Yes - the result is wearable sparkly interesting jewelry, but each piece originates at a specific moment in the history of technology and culture. We made a couple of displays for kids and parents to read.

Several weeks after the East Bay Maker Faire, we sent a collection of watches and buttons and historical tidbits to Johnny's sister and her first grade class. They were studying "The Past" so we sent some basic daily objects from the Victorian era that would help them understand how technology and daily life change.

Apparently, it was a big hit. We realized that encouraging young people to have the confidence to make, to see things in a different way, and to engage with history - is important. Understanding the past is important as well. 

With joy in our hearts, starting in 2014, we will be donating a percentage of our profits to the Maker Fair organization in hopes that it continues to grow and inspire young and old makers to discover the joy and necessity of experimenting and innovating and making, which often includes taking things apart. We'll announce the donation when we finish our taxes in April!

Thank you Maker Faire community!



Written by L.C. Van Houten — January 23, 2014

Victorian Pocket Watch Fob Jewelry

The excavation of ancient sites in Pompeii, Herculaneum, and Egypt in the mid 1700s influenced art, jewelry and fashion from Italy to England. Carved jasper, onyx, carnelian and shell became popular with the revival of Classical themes. 


When Napoleon placed ancient Roman cameos on his 1804 coronation crown, he began a trend that has continued to the present day.

Greek, Roman, and Etruscan symbols including serpents, crescents, carved stone signets and mythological gods appeared in jewelry from 1830 - 1900. 
At the 1851 Great Exhibition in London, Queen Victoria and Prince Albert received the first mechanical keyless wind watches, making pocket watches and watch fobs popular for both men and women until the mid 20th century. Since watch keys were no longer necessary for pocket watches, decorative fobs became popular for women and men in the Victorian and Edwardian era.
see more pocket watch fob jewelry in our ANTIQUITY COLLECTION


Written by L.C. Van Houten — October 23, 2013

Bespoke Heirloom Jewelry - 1950s edition

We all have special heirlooms that we keep hidden away in the corners of drawers and small boxes. These tiny objects tell our family story, remind us of a Grandmother's laugh, a mother's scent. We find great joy in rescuing these items from the confines of a drawer and making these memories wearable!

Recently we met a wonderful woman at the Kinetic Carnival who had a box of her husband's high school sports awards from the 1950s. Her sweetheart is gone now and she wanted to take the keepsakes out of the drawer and wear these keepsakes that remind her of her husband.


Our goal was to take a heap of awards in a box and make them into a selection of wearable memories.

The main piece was a statement charm necklace with an adjustable chain so the necklace can be worn high or over a turtleneck. 

With so many charms, I made an opera length necklace in silver and brass..

and an elegant pendant worn at the neckline. 

I'm thrilled with the results, but more importantly - so is she!!!!'


We love what we do...


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Written by L.C. Van Houten — October 03, 2013

Oakland - San Francisco Key System - a bit of Bay Area History

I've been collecting antique coins and vintage travel tokens since a was young. I finally spotted a couple from the Oakland Key System and the East Bay Railways, both early trolley companies in the San Francisco Bay Area.

Trolley service began in the East Bay in 1890. Several early companies consolidated in to the Oakland Transit Co. in 1898. Over time the smaller lines were added until the system came under the San Francisco-Oakland Railway in 1912. In 1924, it became the Key System in 1924.

In 1930, the local lines were turned to a wholly owned subsidiary, East Bay Street Railroad then the East Bay Transit in 1936. In 1942 everything was again consolidated under the Key System name. Though the last street cars ran in 1948, the cross bay trains continued to operate across the Bay Bridge until 1958.

Don't miss our San Francisco MUNI token earrings. Check our vintage token jewelry to see if we have anything from your state or town!

See our upcoming show schedule.

Summer Sale is Happening!!! 15% off with secret code SUMMERSTYLE


Written by L.C. Van Houten — June 20, 2013

Summer Lemonade with mint

I made fresh lemonade with my nephew last week and was reminded how delicious fresh lemonade is. While waiting for more of the lemons to ripen in the backyard, I used limes and it was delightful! Also goes well with sparkling water and can easily be made into a cocktail!

Summer Lemonade or Limeade with Mint
(makes about six servings)

5 lemons or limes, juiced
4 - 5 tablespoons sugar  
2 cups mint leaves, densely packed
1 quart (4 cups) water
A few extra lime slices and mint leaves, for garnish
1.     Put all ingredients, except for the water, in a pitcher or large Mason jar.
2.     Muddle the sugar, mint and lime juice together until the mint leaves have been reduced by half and the sugar has blended well with the lime juice.
3.     Add the water.
4.     Taste, and adjust ingredients as needed, adding more lime or more sugar or more water to taste.
5.     Let the mixture cool in the fridge for at least an hour.
6.     Strain the mint leaves out.
7.     Pour into glasses of ice and enjoy!

Written by L.C. Van Houten — May 01, 2013

PoolTradeshow - Magic Market Week - Viva Las Vegas!

I can easily say that our experience with Compass Rose Design at Pool Tradeshow was life-changing. It was like graduating from the local art & wine festival circuit. It was a great honor and absolutely positive experience to participate in this marketplace of emerging designers. I'll admit - I'm new to the fashion world and I was a bit apprehensive about what it meant to join this global marketplace of emerging and established brands and buyers of the wholesale marketplace.

IT WAS AMAZING - here's a bit about our journey.

LUCKILY - Pooltradeshow has the most amazing staff who approached us last year and especially Krystle who helped me understand that we were ready. She also convinced me to condense my beautifulbutexpensive catalog down to linesheets. At first I was hesitant, but this ended up being MOST helpful advice. I was able to represent the linesheet collection accented with some statement pieces with a bit of room to breathe. Unlike almost all of our friends and colleagues in the handmade community in the bay area, my husband and I are full time at Compass Rose Design - this is our livelihood and not a hobby. Pool answered our need to connect with buyers in other states and countries, though we had no idea what to expect. Based on our research, we went hoping to cover our costs and to aim for an average retail day.

We did not expect everything to go so smoothly. We arrived around 2pm and waited about 4 minutes for a loading spot. It took three small trips with our wheeled whatnot to load in everything and about an hour to set up. (I'd planned everything fairly precisely in our living room the week before). 

 We were a bit nervous about a few aspects of moving from direct to the wholesale market.

  • We work with real antiques, so our work is limited edition. 
  • This also means that we have design families, but that each watch, button and antique object is slightly unique. 
  • Our work is also handmade, so we're operating at a scale where we can keep in touch with the history and sourcing of our materials. 

These aspects of our brand have been a great asset to us in our four years of work. We find that people PREFER to have something that has a story and that they won't see on two other people at a cocktail party.

We did a cash & carry booth - meaning we brought inventory to sell on the floor. People are shopping for themselves, but there is also a lot of testing out brands - buying small starter-collections to see how the brand resonates with a store's clientele. We set out one of each design and people selected their items from the selection "in front," and it worked well.

We could then refill any items from our backstock drawers. The tables are slightly tall and lined with cork, so we could store quite a lot of organized stock for people to go through. This ended up being a success - similar to one of our favorite booths at the National Button Society Conference, where you could go through neatly organized design families and choose what resonated with you. This worked particularly well with our watch rings and railroad button cuff links.

 At one point, someone from a mega-brand asked us "how will the wholesalers find you if you're down here?" It made me realize that being at Pool was the perfect place for us to find the small independent boutiques we want to connect and work with.

And we found them! We connected with at least 10 independent boutique owners with 1-20 shops in their ownership. With our choice to work with authentic antiques and handmake our work in California - these were just the people we were looking for.

And people REALLY appreciated that our work was made in the USA by us. There is a market for lower price-points and quality that can (but do not necessarily) accompany overseas production. We were thrilled to see that there was an upwelling of appreciation about just that.

It was exciting to see some beautiful work and to get a look at designs before they hit the marketplace.

We also met lots of wonderful and stylish people. Again, as someone who has identified as a maker and jeweler more than a fashion industry person, I was incredibly moved by what I saw. People doing their thing, whatever that was.

Above, Stefan and Peder, 2 of the 3 founders of Moods of Norway - Peder on the right even gave me his tractor pin! The 3rd founder, Simen bought one of our vintage Railroad Button Rings!

Above and below - Lexx Perry - custom everything.

 And the ladies of Lip Service, our neighbors.

A few of my favorite bay area colleagues, Tangleweeds Jewelry and Isobell were also at the show in the Cash & Carry section with us. It was invaluable to have them to touch base with and chat throughout the day.

And, honestly, as someone who expected to dislike Vegas, I found people to be hard working and friendly. The food was super expensive but very good. The drinks were strong. I didn't need to gamble even a quarter as a novelty. With very few exceptions, people seem to be reasonable and kind.

At the end of it all, even one of the set-up crew purchased a couple necklaces for he and his wife. The crew was awesome - I can't even begin to imagine the logistics of these shows - but they were awesome to the last. I think the most challenging part of the tradeshow was the schlepping, but even that was not so bad, thanks to my awesome husband and 2 small wheely-things. The walking was invigorating and the line at the coffee spot was shorter at the Luxor.

We'll be back in August. We hope to be beginning a journey that continues to connect people with storied antiques and support art and local commerce at small boutiques where people value handmade. What did I learn about being in the fashion world? To be myself. To trust my art. That people are kind.

Thank you Pool!

Thank you Las Vegas!

SHOP NOW and save 15% with secret code: VICTORIA15
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Written by L.C. Van Houten — February 28, 2013

Photoshoot with Kingmond Young Photography

Exciting developments at Compass Rose Design! Several months ago at the SF RAW artist showcase, I met the founder of Kingmond Young Photography. He and Johnny also hit it off and it was a great honor when Kingmond offered to do a test shoot with our jewelry. Until meeting Kingmond, the world of high fashion photography felt very far away.  Kingmond and his wife, Mary, own a gallery space at 416 Cortland in San Francisco. Their block is a charming mix of local cafes and small shops including 331 Cortland, home to El Porteño Empanadas, ICHI Lucky Cat Sushi, Paulie's Pickling, Wholesome Bakery, Bernal Cutlery, and Della Terra Organics a knife-sharpening-piroshki-natural spice-pickled herring combination of businesses.
Needless to say, this foray into high-fashion photography was my first, and it was nothing short of delightful. Kingmond selected the perfect model, Lauren Robinson, sort of a modern Audrey Hepburn with both elegance and edge, as well as a talented hair and makeup stylist, Lili Surplus.  

We each came prepared with the tools of our trade. Here's where I can confess that the episodes of the Rachel Zoe Project I've watched were the only training I had on how to prepare for a photoshoot. Kingmond had mentioned the idea of "jewelry as clothing" - so I allowed myself several weeks to develop some designs that accentuated the essence of Compass Rose Design.
Lili was an expert - totally prepared with what seemed to be a full salon in her expandable cases. 
Because we didn't have an official wardrobe stylist, we all collaborated on the clothing choices and styling. The fluidity of the collaborative creative process was exhilarating.  Kingmond had strong visions set forth like a baseline, to which ideas and spontaneous adaptations were added like so many notes and rhythms combining into something larger than the four of us.
Lili has worked extensively in fashion and television, and it showed. She was amazing and versatile and truly skilled at translating the creative concepts of the photographer into physical reality.
It was an honor to watch Kingmond work - constantly adjusting lights and angles and bodies to bring life to the ideas. And he was also happy to listen to input and develop concepts out of the jewelry pieces we had to work with.  He is an artist with true vision. And his wife, Mary, is amazingly kind, bringing us sandwiches and snacks at the perfect time - which was before we all got tired.
The model, Lauren, was a great example of the skill, focus and flexibility - both physical and emotional - required to model. She was tolerant of the continual poking and prodding required.
This shot emerged through an evolution of ideas, and somehow we ended up at Black Madonna, Spanish Lace, Locks, Keys, Secrets and Gold - I love it.

It was a lot of hours to do all 5 looks, but we had fun, particularly when Lauren put on the boxing gloves.

We captured the elegant power of a Greek Goddess of the 21st century with this design made with antique escutcheon keyholes and Victorian mourning drop buttons. I'm excited to see the shots Kingmond got of this look. The gold silk wrap was perfect.

I was amazed by the versatility that was achievable through wardrobe and makeup - Lili worked magic with constant hair and makeup modification and clever use of bobby-pins when needed.

 It was constant, live-action styling - making sure each strand of hair and chain was in place.

Kingmonds work was incredibly physical and interactive - the process was truly amazing to behold.

Photographer: Kingmond Young; Model: Lauren Robinson; Makeup & Hair: Lily Surplus
Here is one of the first images from Kingmond to come out the shot. I LOVE IT.

I want to thank Kingmond, Lauren, Lili and Mary from the bottom of my heart for contributing their talents.  It was profoundly moving for me to see the essence and energy of my designs carried into another dimension by the gifts of these talented people. To see the work of my own ideas and hands surrendered to the artistic talents of these three individuals has resulted in nothing short of magic.

Summer Events Calendar

This Train, A Woodie Guthrie 100th Birthday Jubilee
July 29 , 2012 Santa Rosa, Ca. 

Art. Craft. Beer. Open Studio & Trunk Show
August 18 & 19, 2012
email for details

Find us on Facebook
You are awesome! Show at a 15% discount (use discount code VICTORIA15)

Written by Creek Van Houten ( — August 01, 2012

The Junk Drawer & Pocket Watch Retirement Program

We are in a brief break between summer Compass Rose Jewelry shows and I wanted to take a moment to talk about an interesting trend we observed early this year when people started donating their antiques to us. It's easier to get rid of stuff when we know it's going to a good home. We all have drawers of once-sentimental keepsakes waiting to be discovered! Earlier this year at the Edwardian Ball, a customer purchased a necklace one day and returned the next day with a box of unfinished medals – “junk in a drawer to her pure treasure to me! These civic medals have found there way into many charm bracelets and necklaces, at least one of which now lives in Paris.

Last year I connected with an older gentleman at a flea market. He was selling his lifetime collection of vintage subway and trolley tokens because his grown children were not interested. And – granted, this is a pretty niche interest, so he became terribly twinkly when I bought them and explained that I was making jewelry that people enjoyed BECAUSE it was historical and was made with things like antique trolley tokens.

Speaking of trolleys and cable cars - we found some San Francisco Market Street Railway AND SF Municipal Railway Co. brass uniform buttons and made some smashing tie pins and cufflinks. We're sending the tie pin pictured below to Jesse Thorn, the host of our favorite radio shows Jordan, Jesse Go!, Bullseye, and the menswear blog, Put This On.  You can read more about early San Francisco transportation from horse-drawn omnibus to cable car it in our recent blog post.

We all have junk in boxes and drawers – some of it sentimental and some of it just there through the forces of inertia.   So we’re making it official – we want your tins and boxes and drawers of unwanted doodads and curiosities!
  • Old mechanical watches
  • antique keys
  • antique medals
  • old coins
  • vintage belts & belt buckles 
  • vintage jewelry, charms, brooches and beads
  •  pretty much anything old and historical that fits in a breadbox.  
There are a couple of ways to participate in the Junk Drawer & Pocket Watch Retirement Program : 
  1. Just get rid of your junk/treasure and let us give it new life.
  2. We can exchange your box of junk/treasure for a custom-made bracelet or necklace with a special piece you want to keep, but would rather wear and enjoy than have stuck in a drawer.

What to do:
Visit us at an upcoming event (Rivertown Revival, This Train, Tiburon Art Festival, Urban Air Market) or our join us for our summer open studio trunk show August 18 & 19 (space is limited – email us to reserve your spot). You can bring your junk/treasure and your special keepsake for us to take a look at and we can talk about designs for your special sentimental item. You can always email us a photo of your treasure/junk and we can talk about whether it makes sense to ship.

*Keep in mind - we have pretty high standard for antiques but are happy to use curiosities you have no use for when you are ready to clean out the drawers - and we're happy to help transform broken watches and other treasures into wearable keepsakes. I made this watch with broken watches from my mom, grandmother and aunties - rather than having broken watches in a drawer, I have a bracelet I wear often and enjoy. You can have one too! Check out the one currently available in our online shop.

Summer Events Calendar

Rivertown Revival
July 21 , 2012 Petaluma, Ca.

This Train, A Woodie Guthrie 100th Birthday Jubilee
July 29 , 2012 Santa Rosa, Ca. 

Live in the Bay Area? Ask about our Private Trunk Show - coming in August!

Find us on Facebook
You are awesome! Show at a 15% discount (use discount code VICTORIA15)

Written by Creek Van Houten ( — August 01, 2012