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Why I Founded Common Era

Why I Founded Common Era

In mid 2019 I was absolutely miserable, even though I'd just gotten married and was about to move to New York. I'd spent 13 years working my way up to be the VP of Marketing in the tech industry and I hated the boys club and the 80 hour weeks. But most of all, I hated that I wasn’t doing something creative that I actually cared about (seriously, it's really, really hard to care about making rich men even richer). Plus, it was becoming increasingly difficult to conceal my reflexive eye-rolls in meetings. 

Growing up in Sydney, Australia, I had always loved jewelry. I even designed and made my own - in hindsight, truly hideous - necklaces when I was still in high school. Of course, life got in the way and left no room for my ugly necklaces. I focused on my career, moved to Seattle, then Chicago, and finally to New York, until I found myself in the aforementioned mid-career-crisis. 

Luckily, fate made my choice for me: I was laid off just after I returned to the US from my wedding in Australia. Finding myself with nothing to do for the first time in long time, I jumped on a plane to London where my mum, dad, grandpa and sister were on vacation. I'm an ancient history geek with a major thing for Cicero and Homer, and it finally clicked while I was taking in the vast and glittering jewelry chamber of the V&A Museum in London while bemoaning my situation

I should set fire to all my life savings, and possibly destroy my career by starting my own jewelry company.

It seemed like the perfect antidote to my meaningless tech career: a company where everything was ethical, environmentally conscious and compassionate. I could leave the boys' club, stop waiting for old white men to make a damn decision, and finally call the shots for once. The first decision I made was to donate 3% of profits to the Animal Welfare Institute.


My and my little sister on our trip to London 

As soon as I returned to New York I got started on the jewelry. I took jewelry illustration courses. I took sketching classes. I read ten different books on the history of jewelry. I drew a ton of terrible sketches until I remembered that I’m actually kind of great with Adobe and I could design my pieces digitally instead.


An earring sketch before I worked out I'm better with a mouse and a screen.

I thought of 100 bad, clichéd, names for my company until I found one that made sense and wasn't murdered by my Aussie accent: Common Era.  It’s a fitting name for a company born in 2019 with one foot in 219 BCE.

Friends try to tell me I'm 'brave' for leaving a secure career, which really just means they think I'm nuts. They're not wrong. But it's the most rewarding, terrifying, humbling, joyful, wonderful learning experience I've ever had. 

I've made a lot of mistakes in these first few months, and I plan to make many more (though I won't register my business in the wrong state again!). I hope that you will stick with me through this journey and tell me when Common Era can do better, as well as when we do something great.

Please feel free to reach out to me through our Contact Us page (I get every enquiry) with any feedback, whether it's good or bad. 

Thank you, thank you, thank you, for your support. It means everything to me. 

Torie Tilley