July 25, 2014 at 1:00 am

Handmade

Jewelry designer shining example of entrepreneurship

Susie at Home co-owners Susan Stefani, right, and her mother, Angie Polizzi. (Todd McInturf / The Detroit News)

When Angie Polizzi of Grosse Pointe bought sparkling shoes for her little girl, she had no idea they would someday lead daughter Susan Stefani to a shining career as a jewelry designer to the stars of television and music. Her dazzling crystal accessories, with modern retro appeal, are fit for a queen. She sells them under the name Crystalare.

“I was always fascinated with jewelry from the time I was a little girl with rhinestones on my shoes,” recalls Stefani, who also lives in Grosse Pointe, where she and her mother own and operate Susie at Home, a spacious boutique and home decor store that they opened nearly a year ago above the Wool and the Floss yarn shop on Fisher.

Stefani, who “grew up with color and design,” attended Center for Creative Studies and says she started teaching herself to make jewelry about 30 years ago. “I’ve always been an accessories person,” she admits. Her mother, a former portrait artist, was inspired to start making jewelry right along side her daughter in the basement of their home.

“We went to New York just to see what would happen,” Polizzi says. “You get inspired there anyway, but she saw the crystals. This was in the ’80s when a lot of people were doing semiprecious stones, but she liked the crystals. We bought a lot of them, and she just started doing them.”

Once Stefani started doing New York accessories shows, she was well on her way to making a name for herself in the industry. “The press would come by and take pictures,” and that gave her a lot of exposure, she says.

Her designs would later be sold at Saks Fifth Avenue and Jacobson’s stores all across the country. Then TV producers came knocking and purchased an entire case of the jewelry to be worn by the lead actors on “The Golden Girls” TV sitcom. It’s also been worn by actors on the daytime soap opera “One Life to Live.”

Calls continued coming in from people saying, “We need your jewelry.” It started showing up on models featured in major publications, including Harper’s Bazaar, Women’s Wear Daily, Glamour, Southern Bride and, just last year, Teen Vogue. (Crystalare is always given a “footnote credit” for the jewelry.)

The glitz and glamour of the pieces even caught the attention of “Queen of Soul” Aretha Franklin. “I used to make jewelry for Aretha Franklin. She’s purchased a lot of our stuff through the years,” recalls Stefani, adding that Franklin also wore their jewelry when she performed at one of the presidential inaugurations. “We also did (singer) Karen Newman’s jewelry when she performed recently at the Fox (Theatre),” she adds.

Susie at Home is a dream come true for Stefani that doubles as a showcase for their Crystalare collection. It’s a wonderfully eclectic shop filled with decorative accessories and unique gift items. (It was a delightful discovery on one of my yarn shopping trips!) Made with Swarovski crystal components, Crystalare is also available in boutiques across the country. Prices range from $24-$295.

Contact Crystalare (397A Fisher, Grosse Pointe) at (313) 884-7069.

Detroit News Staff Writer Jocelynn Brown is a longtime Metro Detroit crafter. You can reach her at (313) 222-2150 or jbrown@detroitnews.com. Visit her blog at detroitnews.com/crafts.