Cargo Emporium Close-up: The Salt Empire

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At Cargo, we’re fortunate to see some unusually stylish shoppers. More often than not, the chicest among them stop for a long perusal at the display of The Salt Empire’s line of contemporary yet global-inspired jewelry.

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Emily Kathryn Carol and Sarah Anne Rose—the women behind The Salt Empire—embody the line’s vibe. They exude warmth and a relaxed bohemian style that hints at mornings around Moroccan campfires, afternoons at thrift shops with friends, and nights in the California desert. They’re both mamas, too, and, when we’re lucky, their little girls are with them, charming both staff and customers.

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Sarah and Emily met in high school in suburban Wisconsin, and their friendship has grown ever since. When they both ended up in Portland about ten years ago, they founded Salt Vintage, modifying vintage clothing and selling it at markets. Sarah had studied fine art & Emily studied apparel design and jewelry making. This was the stage for adding more original designs into their line up and naturally jewelry became a focus.

Then, about six years ago, Emily ran into Project Runway designer Michelle Lesniak at a bar. Michelle invited Emily and Sarah to do a pop-up jewelry shop in her store. This opportunity, plus the realization that they’d benefit from focusing their offerings, led to the launch of The Salt Empire.

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In creating their line, Emily and Sarah avoid looking at the work of other jewelers and focus on their own vision. Their goal is to create jewelry that is “a talisman to make the wearer feel empowered—something beautiful, but warrior-like.” The Salt Empire’s jewelry is influenced by tribal jewelry’s timeless, bold settings and nature-inspired elements, but, at the same time, feels clean and luminous.

The Salt Empire’s blend of style with the quality produced by handcrafting and using materials such as gold, silver, brass, cotton and rare beads has led to the line being carried by selective boutiques as well as Free People and even Anthropologie.

These days, Emily and Sarah are experimenting with polymer clay, a material they used when they first began making jewelry. They’re also feeling out the possibility of adding bath products and homewares that embrace their philosophy of marrying nature, style, and simplicity.

The next time you’re in Cargo, wander downstairs to see if the carved Indonesian doors of The Salt Empire’s studio are open, and say hi. You just might find the necklace or hair ornament you’ve dreamed of.

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Cargo Inc.