Pop Culture

Magical bracelets that change the way we look at jewelry

Gem Joy: Statement pieces that delight and engage everyone around you

Every piece of jewelry shares a story, but only Gem Joys come to life. With Gem Joy, each piece is designed to take your breath away. Classic, tasteful aesthetics mixed with a touch of whimsy make Gem Joy the perfect accessory for dreamers. Why? Because Gem Joy incorporates augmented reality technology within each of their pieces so that each wearer can experience the magic of a hummingbird or butterfly landing on their wrist. Here’s how that works:


No wires, no batteries, no charging. Gem Joy pieces are made with 14k gold, steel or rose gold bands. The gems themselves are made from high clarity domed glass and come in a variety of colors so you can choose the pendant that really speaks to you. Magenta Sky is perfect for those that are truly diving into their fantastical side, where Ocean Sand is a great option for others who want a more natural, down-to-earth look. The Nicole Necklace is the most dramatic length and can be dressed up or down – and the best part about it is that it can still be held out so that you can enjoy the magic of your pendant in the palm of your hand or on your torso.

Now, after you’ve found your perfect Gem Joy, it’s time for your imagination to run wild! Download the free companion app and point it at your gem to open a gateway to mystical lands with fantastical creatures. See a Unicorn dance across your wrist or watch a monarch butterfly prepare to land against your chest!

As the butterfly flies on to your Gem Joy, you can interact with it and learn facts about the species via the app. The app is consistently updated so that your Gem Joy continues to be a portal into new realms. But it doesn’t take you completely out of the real one. Gem Joy’s augmented reality technology is some of the most advanced on the market. It allows the real world and virtual world to collide with their tangible pieces that share mystical abilities through the eyes of the app. The pendant is pressable and scannable. You can use it to play games, or adventure into augmented reality stories by award-winning authors.

Once in the app, your Gem Joy acts as a remote control, a landing pad and a mystical beacon. Watch a hummingbird feed from a flower or channel your inner Targaryen and have a dragon breathe fire from your wrist!

But don’t just take our word for it, this is the kind of “you have to see it to believe it” sorta thing and you shouldn’t wait! It’s the perfect gift to start out the holiday season (Halloween’s part of that “season” right?). Find your statement piece and watch your imagination come to life.

Upworthy has earned revenue through a partnership and/or may earn a portion of sales revenue from purchases made through links on our site.


How one woman is helping sex trafficking survivors become breadwinners.

She saw an opportunity. And she gave others the same.

Facebook #SheMeansBusiness

What do these bracelets have to do with sex trafficking?

Image via Olivia and Diego, used with permission

They’re a symbol for some women's second chance at life.

Olivia and Diego — a sustainable, upcycled jewelry company based in the Philippines — gives women transitioning out of the sex trafficking industry a place to begin again and to find work.

Olivia and Diego's founder, Yana Santiago, has a unique perspective.

When she moved back to her hometown in the Philippines, she started working with Taikala, an organization that supported women who were victims of sex trafficking. There is not much in the way of economic opportunity for these women, many of whom are mothers who must tend to their children.

Estimates indicate that 300,000-400,000 women are human trafficking victims in the Philippines, and 80% of them are under the age of 18.

Santiago got to know these women — many of them mothers who work all day to raise their children, who fight daily to transition out of hardship, to overcome their past --- and she saw an opportunity.

These women were hard-working, kind, and eager to find an avenue for empowerment. So Santiago gave them jobs.

"Our goal was to transform these women to artisans and entrepreneurs."

Image via Olivia and Diego, used with permission

Santiago started Olivia and Diego. It's a sustainable, upcycled jewelry company. In Santiago's words: "My wish for the world is for its people to work together to achieve inclusive growth, where people of all kinds are empowered and celebrated."

And one of the simplest ways to empower someone is to give them a livelihood. As human trafficking survivor (and member of the U.S. Advisory Council on Human Trafficking) Evelyn Chumbow wrote in an op-ed for CNN, "There are times when I feel like screaming, on behalf of all human trafficking survivors, 'We need jobs, not pity!'"

And that is exactly what Santiago and Olivia and Diego are about: jobs.

Each piece is crafted by women who had no source of stable income until Santiago saw a whole sea of opportunity and a way to seize it. She was going to turn these women who'd faced so much hardship into artisans, into breadwinners for their families. As Santiago said when we reached out to hear her story, "Our goal in [Olivia and Diego] was to transform these women to artisans and entrepreneurs."

Not only are the beautiful, colorful pieces handcrafted by artisan women with a new lease on life, they're made out of old T-shirts and textiles that would otherwise be tossed into landfills.

Upcycling, unlike recycling, takes a product and turns it into something even more valuable. And if you look, you can see upcycling trends all over: from backpacks made out of old juice pouches...

Image via TerraCycle/Wikimedia Commons

...to fancy interior decorators creating chic coffee tables from wire spools.

Image via Alex Rio Brazil/Wikimedia Commons

And through posting gorgeous images on her Facebook page, Santiago is able to connect her jewelry lines with other businesses as well — she's been featured by Bride and Breakfast, The Good Trade magazine, and elsewhere. By having a home for her business on Facebook, her products are searchable, easy to find, and with just a glance you can see what a player Olivia and Diego is in the ecosystem of businesses whose bottom line includes helping others.

"I believe my purpose in life is to help women in Filipino communities to rise above poverty and exploitation through fashion." — Yana Santiago, founder, Olivia and Diego

Santiago is just another shining example of a woman starting a successful business that not only makes beautiful products, but that also gives back.

That alone would be wonderful, but her success in business and online on Facebook might also create an amazing ripple effect. So if Santiago has created a business whose purpose is to support other women, imagine the waves of support, hope, and potential she's unlocking as more women feel empowered.

And it all began with a bracelet.

More than 20 years after the Rwandan genocide, people like Jacqueline Musabyimana are still reeling in the aftermath.

"After genocide in 1994, we lost many members in the family, and life was difficult," she told Upworthy with the help of a translator.

Her father was a victim of the conflict, and young Jacqueline was sent to live with her mother's family in Kayonza. Though she managed to finish her primary education, she couldn't afford the fees for secondary school and was left to handle the majority of the chores in the family's home.

Jacqueline Musabyimana. All photos from Songa Design International, used with permission.

Things improved slightly when she started a family. But it was still hard to make ends meet on just her husband's single income.

"I was depending on income from my husband, but he didn't have enough. I couldn't even send my children to school or pay rent," she said. "When my children and husband got sick, it was difficult to go to the hospital." With no education, and no practical skills beyond the home, Jacqueline herself could only help her family in the same ways that she always had: housework and child care. And while those roles were certainly important, they didn't pay the bills.

With help from their local pastor, Jacqueline and other women from her church learned how to make products from banana leaf weaving. They honed their craft and began to build a community with each other through their art, creating beautiful jewelry, clothing, and fashion accessories from readily available banana leaves.

"We share artistry, we share life," Jacqueline said.

Then in 2011, a U.S.-based startup called Songa Designs International came to their village and saw the beautiful work that the women were doing.

Songa Designs is a for-profit, socially-conscious fashion brand that aims to empower women with its sustainable, stylish accessories made by artisans in economically disadvantaged countries. Each handcrafted piece — from bracelets and earrings to handbags and belts and beyond — is as unique as the women who make them, using readily available local materials and customized designs that draw from their own cultural traditions.

"Our mission is straight forward," it says on their website. "Songa exists to create jobs for skilled women in under-resourced countries so they can earn their way to economic independence."

A model displays a pair of earrings available through Songa Designs.

And so far, Songa's mission has been a tremendous success. For Jacqueline, it changed her life.

Her woven handbags and baskets come from her own design, and each one takes a full week to make. Jacqueline can't help but glow with pride when she speaks about their quality and the impact it's had on the quality of her life.

One of Jacqueline's handbags.

"With the income I earned from Songa, I was able to buy a plot, and then I was able to build a house," Jacqueline said.

"So now I don't have to pay rent. I am able to support my husband and was able to buy a cow and a goat." She's also finally able to afford school fees and health insurance for her four children — and her marriage couldn't be happier.

After decades of hardship, Jacqueline is now the president of Twiyubake Banana Leaf Cooperative — a name that means "to rebuild ourselves" in the Kinyarwanda language.

Twiyubake is just one of Songa's many partner cooperatives. Although they are an independent businesses regulated by the Rwanda Cooperative Association, Twiyubake mainly relies on Songa's distribution for their income.

But Jacqueline's dream is to one day open up her own store, complete with a showroom and her own paid employees.

Get this: She actually wants to pay taxes to her country so she can help other people have a life like the one she's finally achieved. She's also hired a tutor to help her learn English, so that she can lead her future company into the international marketplace all by herself.

Jacqueline's banana-weave baskets will be available in July 2016, with her handbag line launching in the fall.

In the meantime, there are plenty of other beautiful accessories available on the Songa website, all made by incredible women like Jacqueline Musabyimana.

But if you do end up buying one of Jacqueline's products, be sure to let her know; she loves getting feedback on her work and likes to see it bring a smile to the people who have helped change her life for the better.