By Joanna Ireland
Anyone who’s had the pleasure of snuggling a baby under her chin has also probably experienced the terror of a tiny fist becoming entangled in a delicate chain or curious fingers exploring an earring dangling within easy reach.
Fortunately, one mother, and fashion industry veteran, had a brainstorm in 2009 after her son’s birth: to create colorful, nontoxic jewelry that didn’t compromise safety or fashion sense. Thus, Chewbeads were born—and they’ve become a popular mainstay and best-seller in many baby stores.
Lacy Coble, store manager of Posh Baby in Portland, Ore., said her store doesn’t sell much jewelry; however, the Chewbeads and another teething necklace brand, Getting Sew Crafty, are good sellers. “These necklaces are really in demand, especially for moms with babies who are teething,” Coble said.
Another popular jewelry item and, Coble says, her 2,000-square-foot store’s best-seller, are the amber teething necklaces. “People really love those amber beads,” she said. “We get a lot of feedback on their effectiveness and how well they work for babies. We do tend to promote them, too. It’s good if we’ve used them ourselves because we can answer questions. I have a teenager who was getting her wisdom teeth and I gave her a necklace just to see if it would work, and she told me it was really effective in relieving the pain. It blew my mind.”
The Puddle Duck’s owner, Kristy Bohun, said that her store offers a variety of jewelry for babies and moms. “We have necklaces that say ‘mother’ on them, and sterling silver bracelets and even some good quality costume jewelry for toddlers,” she said. “Some of the brands we carry include Chewbeads, Roman, Cherished Moments, Bottle Buns Jewels, and Doll Baby.”
Her 1,400-square-foot store in De Pere, Wis., sells a high volume of amber beads because, said Bohun, “they’re solving a problem—they help with teething, and babies can play with them. Our customers swear by them, and so do I.”
“Our Baltic amber necklaces from Amber Monkey are definitely one of our best-selling items in the entire [3,000-square-foot] store,” said Adria Ramos, owner of Mom & Pop Place LLC in Nennah, Wis. “People swear by them for teething pain relief and parents come in every day to buy them for their crabby, drooling, teething babies.
“The majority of jewelry we carry is for teething—things babies can chew on and, like the amber necklaces, that have analgesic properties that help relieve teething pain,” she said. “We also have chewing necklaces for moms to wear from Chewbeads and Itzy Ritzy. Another item we carry for older kids to wear are silicon pendants, which are great for redirecting kids with sensory issues who like to chew on their hands or pencils. They can chew on these pendants instead.”
Sarah Smith, owner of Happy Bambino, a 1,000-square-foot store in Madison, Wis., doesn’t stock a lot of jewelry. “We really only offer amber teething necklaces and Chewbeads because they’re both teething-related. The amber helps to reduce inflammation caused by teething, and moms and older kids can wear the Chewbeads and not worry about them getting ruined.”
Wild Child’s president, Renee West, also said her Madison, Wis., store “really only sells Chewbeads and amber necklaces. We have a very limited selection of little necklaces or bracelets. The amber necklaces sell the best because they’re practical,” she said.
“There’s something really impressive about amber necklaces,” said Pink and Brown Boutique associate Jessi Whitney. “The little [amber] bead necklaces come in different sizes determined by a child’s age. The way they work is that the amber emits an oil that’s absorbed by the skin which helps to relieve teething pain. All you have to do is wear it and yes,” said Whitney, “parents absolutely swear by them.
The Alexandria, Va., store also carries Chewbeads which are the store’s best-selling jewelry items. “They’re made of silicone,” said Whitney, “and we offer a wide variety of colors and styles so that moms can coordinate the necklaces with their outfits and not feel that they’re missing out on wearing jewelry because they’re carrying or wearing their babies.”
Ragamuffin Children’s Boutique, a 3,500-square-foot store in Mt. Pleasant, S.C., also sells a wide variety of Chewbeads—the most popular jewelry item—in addition to novelty jewelry that’s trend-driven and marketed to older girls, said president/owner Windi McKeithan. “We do sell all kinds of jewelry besides the Chewbeads,” she said. “One popular brand is Bourbon & Bowties, that makes cute dangle bracelets for moms. And because our store caters to newborn through size seven children on one side and the other side, ‘Radical Rags’ carries clothing up through size 16, we can sell fun jewelry pieces that have pom-poms and tassels and appeal to older girls.”
While silicon certainly makes a different fashion statement than a more classic gold or silver piece, at least moms don’t have to completely sacrifice style while wearing their babies. Who doesn’t love a multi-tasking accessory that’s stylish and useful and entertains a curious kiddo—at least for a little while.