Posted on: April 22, 2024 Posted by: Sese Wilder Comments: 0

In a field dominated by men, there aren’t many female jewelers that are providing custom pieces to the entertainment industry’s biggest stars. Laid off due to Covid-19, with a bank account running on fumes, Z. Martinez stepped out on faith to walk into her new path by starting Z Jewelers Fine Jewelry. With no resources, zero past experience in the field, and only $50 to start, Z scaled her business to $30,000 in sales in her first month alone. Aware of the lack of diversity in her new field, she embraced the journey and worked her way to the top by staying consistent, gracious, and providing quality jewelry to her clients. She has been able to provide custom pieces for huge names such as Lil Kim, Kash Doll, CJ Brewer and many more.

UPSCALE recently spoke to the trendsetter about how she got her start in the business, her new first of its kind “jewelry cleaner”, and her non profit- Z Jewelers Foundation.

UPSCALE: How did you get started with Z Jewelers? Tell me about who you are and what is Z Jewelers? 

I am originally from Baltimore and then when my parents divorced we moved to Sacramento, California. I grew up looking at my mothers life as you know she was a single mom with three kids, and struggling to make ends meet. So I said when I grow up, I am going to be something. I didn’t want her life to be my story and I didn’t want to be a statistic. I always had this desire to be great, to make an imprint on this world, and to just have a life of meaning. As I got older, I went through the struggle of having a child at the age of eighteen and I just knew something had to break for me. I basically climbed the ladder from working jobs like at Dollar Tree and then eventually ended up at my last job which was a corporate job. During that time, my mindset began to change and I read things such as self-help books and watching motivational videos on Youtube. I knew then that working a 9-5 was not for me. I told God I know I’m struggling to make ends meet, but something tells me I’m supposed to be the boss and not the employee. So I began to pray and ask God for a business I would be good at, because all the talent in my family skipped me. I felt like I was never necessarily good at anything so I asked God to bless me with something I would be good at. That’s when I had a dream one night and I was a celebrity jeweler living in Atlanta, GA. This dream felt so real, almost like I was in another lifetime. So when I awoke I felt like I was stuck in my old life and disappointed that I was still working a 9-5 job. I told God if that dream actually mean’t something then please don’t let it pass me by, please let me find way to make that my reality. I had no knowledge of jewelry, I never wore real jewelry, and all the jewelry I did wear came from Claire’s. Soon after, I started to research the industry and I just fell in love with it. I spent hours on end just researching and finding out there were not many Black jewelers out there, let alone any Black female jewelers. I was like oh my God I could be one of the first female jewelers out there and I could change the game. The problem was that I had no capital at the time and I was barely able to afford rent. I told myself I would give myself a year to save up from every check for a year straight in order to make this thing work. God had other plans obviously because I was let go from my 9-5 as soon as Covid hit on April 7th, 2020. They called me in and told me they could no longer afford to pay me. So now with no job and no savings account, I broke down in tears and asked God what can I do. I asked God to give me a sign and he reminded me I’ve already been researching the jewelry industry so now is my chance to do it. That’s when I took the last pay check I received and spent what I could on rent, and then with my last $51 dollars I decided to purchase my first piece of jewelry from Etsy. It was a jade piece and I said if I can just resell this piece then maybe I can have a brand. So on May 1st, 2020, I launched my brand. I received so much support and love that it made me aware that I had met my destiny and that divine intervention had happened. I knew that I was at the right place at the right time. From that day forward my brand just exploded and that’s how Z Jewelers came about.

UPSCALE: Being new in a completely different industry, how did you get a chance to make those connections that led to you creating pieces for celebs such as Lil Kim, Kash Doll and more? 

When I get into something, I give it my all. I said if God gave me this business then I really have to show out for him. I have to work hard and I have to apply myself. I didn’t want to just do business, but I wanted to do it with integrity. Due to my dream, I said if I’m going to work with celebrities then I need to make sure my quality is up to par. So I worked really hard to get quality pieces and to meet really good business partners to invest in my education and learn how to make jewelry. I put it on my vision board and one day I took the leap of faith and moved to Atlanta. As soon as I got here, I met one of my best friends who is a celebrity make-up artist and I told her who I was and what I did. She was just doing my make-up and we had a casual conversation where she told me she wanted to support me as a Black woman in this industry. She said she had never heard of anything like my brand before and she wanted to get her first pair of two carat diamond earrings from me. So she did just that and then she posted about it on her Instagram, and all of a sudden it blew up and all these celebrities just started following me. So I was just overwhelmed and I was like wait God this is all happening too fast. I had just gotten to Atlanta and all of this happened within the same month I had just moved here. After my first reality show client, it was a just a domino effect from there and everyone just loved my personality, business, and quality. When it came to Little Kim, my friend Olivia, the celebrity make-up artist I mentioned, she was Lil Kim’s make-up artist and they did a lot of business together. So I guess the story is that Little Kim always loses her earrings and can’t keep track of them. That’s when my friend said I know this amazing jeweler whose a Black woman and she’s super professional. She told her she would love for us to connect because Lil Kim was looking for a jeweler. So Little Kim saw my page and loved my products and said you know what I want to meet her, I want her to make me a pair of earrings, and actually bring her with us to the BET awards. I ended up meeting Little Kim here in Atlanta and she took me with her to the BET awards and I was able to present her with her diamond earrings that she loved so much. Down the road with that post going viral, I met other celebrities. My good friend MariahLynn from Zeus Baddies, she ended up telling me about a Kash Doll event happening in Atlanta. She invited me and she said to Kash Doll that she would like for me to be able to present her with some of my jewelry and that’s how that connection happened. Just basically word of mouth and people wanting to support me is how it all happened for me.

UPSCALE: You now have a nonprofit where you give back to other women. Tell me us about Z Jewelers Foundation? 

So when I launched my brand, I wish I had capital and a mentor. I couldn’t afford any of that, so me being in a position now where I am able to bless others and be a blessing to those who need help is what I want to do. I want to be a helping hand to other entrepreneurs and to inspire them. I said I wanted to devote my career to being able to help others who were once in my position when I first started. I didn’t have start-up capital, so I wanted to be the one to give that to other people. I didn’t have a mentor, so I wanted to be a mentor to others and that’s exactly what led me to opening up the Z Jewelers Foundation. My philosophy is that if all of us as women could come together, then we could really make an impact on the world.

UPSCALE: Will this be something that you teach in your upcoming E-book? 

Absolutely. In my E-book and in my Z Jewelers Academy. My academy actually launches this weekend and it’s like an online school for inspiring jewelers who want to learn the industry and gain financial freedom. People can find it by visiting the Z Jewelers Academy instagram account and it will take you directly to sign up with a link in my bio.

UPSCALE: You are clearly making history as a game changer. Tell us about your exclusive jewelry cleaner and how impactful it is for you to be the first female jeweler with her own jewelry cleaner? 

Honestly, with me making thousands of pieces of jewelry for clients all across the world, I do get clients that say hey “can you give me tips on maintaining the quality of my jewelry.” I thought to myself I’m recommending all of these other brands and companies, and sometimes it may not be in stock for them. That’s when I was like why don’t I just launch my own jewelry cleaner product line, and that way it can be accessible for all of my clients to have like a one stop shop for them to buy everything they need from jewelry to cleaners to maintain the quality of their pieces. That’s what ultimately led me to creating my own jewelry cleaner. Now it took me a while to get the best formula right because I wanted to make sure it worked on gold, silver, diamonds and platinum jewelry. So I was able to develop that with a great team and we came up with the best formula and I’m super excited for it launch soon.

UPSCALE: What has been your proudest moment as a business owner? 

I would say I have two I can give you. The first one would definitely be getting the opportunity to work with Lil Kim and go to the awards show and meet so many celebrities I grew up watching and admired. So that was just my I made it moment for me. The other amazing moment is when my ten year-old said, “You know mom, I see how hard you work and how you get up everyday to work. I see how happy your clients are to receive your jewelry and I think that when I grow up I want to take over your business and be a jeweler too.” So for me to grow up with a mom who wasn’t necessarily a role model, to now become a mother who is a role model and breaking generational curses, that was one of the most proud moments in my career.

To check out some of Z’s pieces and her work, be sure to follow Z Jewelers on Instagram @ZJewelers and at shopzjewelers.com.

In Wordly Love,

Sese Wilder