Rhody Maker: Haverhill Leach of Haverhill
Haverhill Leach strengthens her family's illustrious jewelry legacy with simple, elegant designs and an in-house academy which aims to foster the next generation of local jewelers.
It’s safe to say that the life of Haverhill Leach — the owner and founder of the eponymous jewelry collection, Haverhill — has been entirely shaped by jewelry in one way or another.
An Attleboro native, she was always just a stone’s throw away from Providence, the city which was once hailed the Jewelry Capital of the World.
“I went to grade school in Providence, and we always did or grocery shopping and went out to dinner there, so I’ve always felt like a Rhode Islander,” she says.
Leach’s lineage, however, is probably the most prominent factor.
Her great-great grandfather (Edwin Leach) was active in the 1880’s starting up companies in Brooklyn, New York. He started the Leach and Miller company in Attleboro, Massachusetts, sometime prior to 1899. They made innovative sterling silver and faux stones from Swarovski and made the famous Coco Chanel Necklace with bezel set stones similar to one of Haverhill’s pieces, but bigger. They were the first to enter the industry with Art Deco style bracelets. After Edwin Leach’s death in 1915, a factory was built in 1909 to house Leach and Garner, a company founded by Leach’s great grandfather, Edwin Francis Leach, when he was just twenty-three years old. His son, Philip F Leach, joined the company in 1938 and succeeded his father as president in the mid 1960s. They were known for making jewelry parts like bindings, earring wires, clasps, beads and so on, and the company became a household name in the jewelry manufacturing world. Leach and Garner Co. eventually passed down through the generations to Leach’s father, Edwin F. “Ted” Leach II, whom joined Leach and Garner in 1972, and he even went on to host his own show on QVC for more than twenty-five years. Today, Leach’s family no longer owns the company, having sold the business in 2007, but it certainly left a lasting impression.
“I sort of grew up on the factory floor, watching how things were made and learning about the processes,” she recalls. “And when I was in school, I would study jewelry design and go and make all the jewelry at my dad’s factory, looking at the materials and learning from them. I then went on to do my own jewelry design.”
Tucked safely away in a safe somewhere, Leach still has the first piece she ever created.
“It was this really cool, dramatic gold necklace,” she says. “It’s large and kind of tribal. When I look at it now, the pieces look like a bunch of mini oars—they start out long on the chest and get smaller and smaller as the necklace goes up to your neck. I hammered out each piece and put our Leach and Garner beads in between all of them.”
So, naturally, creating her own jewelry line was always in the cards from day one, right?
Well, not quite.
“My dad was always hoping that was the route I would go, but my mom, who was also a jewelry designer, was very good about saying, ‘no pressure, you can do whatever you want!’” she says.
Leach’s first passion—since the tender age of eight, in fact—was fashion. She attended Syracuse University with a degree in Fashion Design all the while working for a variety of designers like Kate Spade and David Yurman, to name a few. Over the next ten to fifteen years after graduation, she tried her hand at many different design mediums, including creating handbags and shoes, before eventually settling down in Los Angeles, California, and establishing her own swimwear company. The allure of jewelry, however, remained an ever-present glimmer in the back of her mind.
“I’m super passionate about it and I always have been. To me, after working in the fashion industry where cloth gets torn or stained, [jewelry] is more special. It can last forever. Good quality jewelry lasts through the ages and that is very special to me.”
She created first piece of jewelry—the Bayberry necklace—for Haverhill, the company, while she was still in LA in year. To this day, the simple, elegant design is still made up of 4mm briolette stones dotted along a delicate station chain and reigns as a top seller. But the necklace is nostalgic to Leach in more ways than one.
“My great-great grandparents built the house that I grew up in on Bayberry Hill Road in Massachusetts. My grandfather was born in that house, and it holds a lot of significance for my family and me,” she explains.
Leach essentially built up her business with the Bayberry necklace, selling variations at trunk shows across the country. Up to 160 days out of the year, she could be found anywhere from California to Michigan to Florida making sales and connections. But still, the east coast was always calling to her.
“I was still based in LA, and I had had both of my children within just seventeen months, and I was really missing my family in Attleboro. I wanted my kids to really know their grandparents and have a strong relationship rather than just seeing them at Thanksgiving and Christmas,” she says.
Yet though all her jewelry manufacturers were in Rhode Island, her sights were originally set on New York City where she had lived for seven years prior to moving out west. But then her LA home sold much faster than anticipated, so she decided to stay with her parents until she could plan her next move.
“My kids and I came over in 2013 and lived there for about a year,” she says. “And being here for that year, I just fell in love with New England again. I was so not planning on staying, but i loved it so much that I decided to plant my roots here.”
She chose nearby Barrington for its picturesque setting and great school district. And when her company eventually found its new home in Warren, it felt kismet
“The office is just a four-minute drive from my house. We’ve got the whole ‘work, play, live’ situation down right now which is great,” she says with a laugh. “I also love the people here. After living in so many places, I just found everyone to be incredibly friendly and supportive. And I love being in a smaller city after living in these big cities. It really gives you a lot of opportunity.”
She’s found that Rhode Island also serves as an amazing source of inspiration. In fact, a few of her collections are named and take after different cities in the Ocean State. The Providence line, for instance, mimics the city’s skyscrapers with their different heights, levels and fixtures. Other Rhode-inspired collections include Warren, Newport and Rosecliff (named for the Newport mansion of the same name).
The smallest state’s charm likewise fits in perfectly with her timeless design aesthetic.
“If you’re going to invest in fine jewelry, personally I believe you should be able to wear it for years and years and pass it down through generations,” Leach says. “I have some of my mom’s designs from the eighties that were very trendy in the eighties, but I wouldn’t wear now, and then some of her designs were really simple, clean and not defined by a certain era. Those are the kind of pieces that I can still wear today.”
When it comes to fashion, Leach says she doesn’t mind going crazy and switching things up, but when it comes to designing jewelry, she loves simplicity. Her designs are made so you never have to take it off if you don’t want to; they can complement your whole wardrobe.
“Whenever I design something, I look at it and I think, ‘Okay, could you wear this with anything? And sometimes things are fancier than others, but I still want you to be able to wear it with a T-shirt and jeans and not have it look out of place. It’s just part of you,” she says.
Many of her pieces are also entrenched in sentimentality. Throughout the years, Leach would often get requests from shoppers to have their birthstones incorporated into their Bayberry necklaces instead of the provided gems, so she would create versions with diamonds for April birthdays, rubies for July, Sapphires for September, and so on.
“Then realized that I could have various birthstones on one necklace. So, in 2018 I started going into the personalized birthstone business and that’s when I really took my business online and realized that was the way to go because then you can really personalize it, see what it looks like and then order it,” she says. “We were one of the first companies to do that where you could see it online and then we would make it right here in Rhode Island.”
Leach believes the jewelry’s customizability paired with its versatility is what really helped Haverhill take off during COVID. While some products like dangly earrings took a hit due to the fact that hitting the town was no longer an option, a majority of the designs resonated with homebound shoppers.
“I think it’s because our jewelry is usually representative of your loved ones and it’s also designed so that you can lounge in it, sleep in it, shower in it, whatever,” she muses. “It’s both meaningful and cozy.”
But what is the queen of jewelry’s go-to adornment? A self-proclaimed necklace girl (though rings are a close second), she admits it has to be the classic birthstone necklace.
“It’s a six-stone birthstone necklace and mine has my whole blended family on it,” she explains. “My husband—he’s also my business partner—had a family before we met, and I had a family before we met, so it has my birthstone, his birthstone, and then it has our four blended children on it. That’s the most sentimental to me, for sure.”
But she also always finds new favorites whenever working on new pieces. Of the new Warren collection, Leach favors the blue topaz ring, while she’s excited by the entirety of the newly released Grand line, which features familiar designs and reimagines them with larger gemstones.
And speaking of new, Leach is also proud to be helping launch a whole new generation of jewelry makers with the recent creation of Haverhill’s Jewelry Academy. The company moved into its current two-story waterfront location in October, and while the top floor is dedicated to customer service, graphic design, shipping and office space, the downstairs area is where the magic happens.
“It’s where we assemble all of our jewelry,” Leach says. “We have manufacturers create the components and keep all the pieces here so we can assemble everything in one to three business days.”
From the beginning, Haverhill hired many twenty to thirty somethings who had little to no backgrounds in jewelry making. The employees often started with looking at orders and taking on tasks that did not require prior experience, such as determining and cutting chain lengths, arranging birth stones, learning to use linking machines to assemble the chain pieces and so on.
“They became incredibly fast, totally efficient, and soon enough, they were like, ‘Okay, we did all of our work, what should we do now?’,” Leach says. ‘We had a ton of raw cast pieces—think a ring mold—that were rough and needed to be cast-cleaned, so we said, ‘Why don’t we teach you how to cast clean?’”
Though the employees are more than welcome to stick to chain assembly if they wish, they are also welcomed and encouraged to learn new skills under Haverhill’s master jeweler who has been in the industry for more than thirty years. The opportunity was met with a lot of interest, and so the company invested in several jewelers’ benches complete with microscopic lenses and other necessary tools for the staff to work with and learn. A TV is also setup on the back wall for the master jeweler to broadcast lessons and demonstrations. Once an employee gets to a certain level with the cleanings, they can move on and learn how to set gemstones, and after that, they can move up to the next level. With each advancement in skill comes a promotion within the company.
“We’re really excited because we’re providing education for the next generation of jewelers,” Leach says. “Our master jeweler has a great attitude about it. He says, ‘I don’t want to keep all my skills to myself, there aren’t enough jewelers in America because so much jewelry went overseas, and I want to put my skills on the future jewelers of America. We have people who had never been on a jewelry bench or touched a laser before who are now doing full-on stone setting and/or logo engravings within just a few months. We’re also teaching them how to do computer designs and how to print them onto plastic resin so we can see what it looks like in person and make adjustments. There are people at all different levels learning all different new skills. We often invest in people based on their motivation and enthusiasm more so than their previous skills.”
Currently, everyone is gearing up for Mother’s Day.
“Mother’s Day is our big holiday. We feel as though we make the quintessential Mother’s Day pieces,” Leach says. “We have a gift guide where you can look by price or by recipient, including grandmothers, new mothers, and so on. There’s something for everyone!
If you’re still looking for that perfect Mother’s Day gift, you can check out the gift guide here: https://haverhill.com/pages/mothers-day-gift-guide. And for even more every day or night out jewelry needs, visit haverhill.com and keep up with them on Instagram at @haverhillcollection.