Photo by Chris Mortenson
South Pasadena art boutique offers rare jewelry and musical performances
By Jordan Houston
Since its inception in November 2020, Jeweled Universe has built a reputation as a one-stop shop for live entertainment lovers and fine art aficionados through its unique “shop and a show” concept.
The South Pasadena art boutique, located at 1017 Mission Street, Unit B, offers an eclectic collection of jewelry, gemstones, crystals, fossils, space rocks, ocean elements, birthstones, meteorites, earth drops and fashion. It also features weekly live musical performances to ensure that its guests are entertained throughout their shopping pursuits.
As a seasoned professional in both industries, Jeweled Universe owner Diana March describes her store as a harmonious blend between performance art and the rare stone industry all while giving back to the community.
“Because I’m a jeweler and work with rare gems, minerals, fossils and meteorites, I wanted to combine that with my experience as an entertainer,” says March, who has been performing as an actress, singer and dancer since she was 5.
“I want it to be a really magical place for people to come in and perform and also shop for things that are unique, one of a kind and supports local artists,” the jewelry maker adds. “I like to say, ‘Come for the shopping, and stay for the entertainment.’”
On top of selling merchandise from various artists, March offers her Elegant Geology line of fine art pendants, which incorporate wire designs that are handset in precious metals. Her work evokes essences of drama and whimsy, and has been sold in boutiques in Carmel, Newport Beach and Santa Barbara, as well as her previous successful boutique and artist salon, The Sisters of Bubik.
Jeweled Universe boasts an in-store stage for its weekly live entertainment, which features classical musicians, cabaret acts, opera singers and poets.
It hosts a free open mic from 8 to 10 p.m. on Thursdays and a Broadway-themed night on Fridays, incorporating a piano for show tunes and sheet music. Saturdays, on the other hand, are reserved for booked acts, March says.
“It’s important right now with the opening of the store during COVID-19 that people are able to allow themselves to be out there in the world again,” March expresses. “It’s an extremely supportive group of people we are attracting in terms of performers and audience members.”
Raised in a creative household in Los Angeles, March attributes her drive toward the performing arts to her father, a former photographer, and her mother, an artist and costume designer. The entertainer says she tapped into her love for artistic expression early on, working as an actress, singer and dancer in theater, film and television.
Her resume includes years spent at the London Academy of Music and Dramatic Arts and the Beverly Hills Playhouse, as well as one of the longest-running gigs at the Cinegrill at the Hollywood Roosevelt Hotel as a one-woman show.
Five years ago, she stumbled upon a gem and mineral show near a theater rehearsal that unlocked her passion for precious stones.
“My musical theater teacher said we (the students) needed to find a hobby,” March recalls. “I happened to find a gem and mineral show happening next door to a rehearsal, and I met a lady that was doing wire designs and setting these beautiful, rare stones in precious metal settings.
“I started talking to her, and I asked her to teach me. She took me under her wing, and what started out as a hobby I was supposed to have then became another part of my life.”
March quickly developed her own style, designing bold, elegant pendants and earrings with materials from gem shows, hard-to-find shops and private collections. She now showcases her distinctive wire wrap style and pieces at a plethora of art events and gem shows.
Although March is fully dedicated to operating Jeweled Universe, she hasn’t completely retired from performing. Store visitors can expect to find the jeweler occasionally gracing its stage on Friday nights, singing to the tune of the piano.
“I’ll usually bring my sheet music. I’m very rusty, but it’s a really safe space,” March says. “A lot of us are just getting back to singing and playing instruments.”
However, March’s success journey with the store hasn’t always been smooth sailing, she says. Between beating cancer, the death of her husband, and the economic turmoil brought on by the COVID-19 pandemic, the Jeweled Universe owner says she is proud of how far she has come.
“As far as my jewelry goes, the best part is almost the same as what makes me happy as a performer,” March says. “I’m able to take something I can create, whether it’s a performance or a pendant with a beautiful stone, and I can present that to people, and it can bring happiness or joy.
“A lot of things pointed me into the direction where I could’ve easily said bye to performing or making jewelry. There was a point where I didn’t want to do anything. But then there was something inside of me — this strength that I was given by both of my parents, who were both artists, and they always gave me so much support and encouragement — to just believe in myself and not give up.”
1017 Mission Street, Unit B, South Pasadena