As part of Prontopia’s ongoing commitment to improve city life for both residents and travelers, we’re featuring artisans and shops in the cities we serve to showcase voices of the city across our favorite neighborhoods. We believe that supporting small, locally owned businesses creates a more vibrant life for residents and more authentic experiences for travelers, and we’re always available to help you find them!
Fueled by a passion for making something beautiful blossom out of nothing, Sara Amrhein Handmade Jewelry features wearable art intricately molded in polymer clay and rendered in radiant color. From bold necklaces bursting with cobalt blue hydrangeas to statement earrings featuring delicately sculpted red roses, her designs appear to have been freshly plucked out of an enchanted garden.
Her artistic nature and eye for detail seem to be something she inherited. Apart from her love for flowers, Amrhein credits both her mother and her aunt as her biggest inspirations. Her aunt grew up in New York City in the 1950s during the era of silk gloves and smart hats, teaching Amrhein that accessories were not to be overlooked.
On the opposite coast, her mother ran a bakery and gift wrapping business from Sara’s Southern California home. With such creative, stylish and entrepreneurial women behind her, Sara was destined to be a creative entrepreneur.
Above: Amrhein's aunt and her mother's gift wrapping creations.
While studying at the Art Center College of Design in Los Angeles, Sara spent a semester abroad in Florence and fell in love with the Italian lifestyle. She soon began splitting her time between continents, and discovered polymer clay in an art shop in Florence’s Sant’Ambrogio neighborhood, spurring a jump from studio art to fashion design.
“Jewelry was never on my radar… but then I realized that sculpture wasn’t that different from jewelry,” she said. “It’s just art worn on the body.”
Amrhein made Florence her permanent home nearly twenty years ago, and soon after her experiment with jewelry became a full time business. She sources all materials locally and handcrafts each piece using polymer clay as the principal medium. She also uses semi-precious stones, glass, crystal and sterling silver or 14k gold hardware in her designs.
Like many artisans and small business owners in Italy, Amrhein’s livelihood was greatly affected by Covid-19. As study abroad students were sent home, tourists disappeared, and the world hit pause for a few months, Amrhein made the difficult decision to close her brick and mortar shop in Florence’s San Frediano neighborhood and focus solely on her online business. She sees this new chapter as an opportunity for her business and a potential turning point for Florence as a whole.
Above: Some of Amrhein's jewelry designs
“The best things in life sometimes come out of the worst moments,” says Amhrein. “My hope for Florence is that there will be a new appreciation for everything, and that the community will start to support each other a bit more.”
As the co-founder of the online group Creative People In Florence, Amhrein was already working to foster a sense of community and collaboration among expats and Florentines alike. Now that the situation has affected everyone in some form or another, she sees a more compelling reason for artisans to root for one another.
The About Me page of her website perfectly sums up Amrhein’s attitude about her current business situation, outlining her knack for infectious optimism and colorful creativity:
“I believe in bold colors, love at first sight, following your dreams, and that rainy Sundays are meant for P.J’s. My pens and closet are organized by color and my bed is always made. I trust that everything happens for a reason, that there is always a bright side and that we can do anything we set our minds to.”
Above: Sara Amrhein with her aunt
As she adapts to this new chapter of online business, Amrhein’s positive outlook about change is something we’d all do well to adopt. Perhaps the message lies in the medium; just like a piece of polymer clay, we have the ability to mold and shape our perspective of every situation. And if we do it right and come at it with love, in the same way Sara Amrhein approaches her craft, the outcome will surely bloom into something beautiful.
Want to support Sara, up your fashion accessory game, or give the unique gift of handcrafted jewelry Made In Italy? Shop her gorgeous designs through her online store.
Whether you’re traveling or living in one of our amazing cities, you can book a Prontopia local assistant to help you find authentic, family-owned businesses everywhere we are!
Photos courtesy of Sara Amrhein
American content writer in Italy. Her hobbies include getting dressed up to go to art museums, hopping on trains to cities she's never been, and talking to herself in a mixture of English and Italian.