LOS ANGELES — Christi Schimpke was on track to have her best year ever, selling the Ferrari cufflinks, Lamborghini necklaces, BMW bracelets, and other one-of-a-kind jewelry she makes from scrapped car parts under the moniker Crash Jewelry. But that all came to a screeching halt with the pandemic.
“I had all these car shows lined up, and now they’re all canceled,” Schimpke said of the various concours d’elegance she had planned to attend this summer to sell her jewelry in La Jolla, San Marino, and the Sierra Foothills. “Pretty much close to 20 events just got scratched.”
Adapt or die being the prevailing axiom these days for businesses big and small, Schimpke has pivoted her sales strategy to mostly online these days.
“If I can’t go to the shows to bring my product to you, then I will bring you to the product,” she said.
Almost everything Schimpke makes is sourced from Beverly Coachcraft, the West L.A. collision repair shop owned by Schimpke’s husband.
“We get a lot of Mercedes because we’re a certified shop, but I was excited to get an Aston Martin Rapide S and a Rolls-Royce Ghost. I’ve been getting quite a few Porsche Macans lately for some reason,” said Schimpke, who takes bits of smashed car metals and then cuts, bends, buffs, and otherwise shapes them into bracelets, earrings, necklaces, cuffs, and cufflinks.
Each piece is engraved with the name of the source vehicle and the date it was made, and is sold with a certificate verifying the authenticity of the make and model. Jewelry crafted from Porsche, Ferrari and BMW are her bestsellers.
The Aston Martin Rapide S she recently acquired wasn’t the whole car — just the hood. Other parts she’s recently received: a pair of doors from a Monterey blue Lamborghini Superlegerra, and some orange metal from a Lamborghini Aventador. Intact, cars like this cost upward of $200,000, but in pieces bent to Schimpke’s will with a hammer, they cost a tiny fraction.
Shimpke charges between $45 and $1,100 per piece, depending on the make, model, and color of the car, as well as the style of jewelry it’s crafted into.
Her customers are primarily women, whom Schimpke divides into three general groups: car enthusiasts, individuals who are interested in sustainable fashion, and people who enjoy a unique piece that tells a good story.
Each piece on the Crash Jewelry website tells a part of that story. The blurb for a pair of Porsche teal stud earrings said it came from the discarded hood of a Porsche Carrera convertible in Wimbleton Green. A Harley-Davidson cuff was crafted from the fender of a black Street Glide motorcycle.
“I remain optimistic," she said. "I’m just trying to use this time to think outside the box."