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Charmed Life

With props from celebs both near and far, Houston designer Jennifer Welker’s pretty monogrammed jewelry proves letter-perfect.

Former nurse Jennifer Welker started making jewelry as a form of “therapy.”

What began as a jewelry-making hobby three years ago—a “lighthearted escape” for Jennifer Welker, then a neonatal nurse at Memorial Hermann—ended up nearly sending her to the hospital as a patient.

Welker, 29, who in 2011 quit nursing to pursue designing her Golden Thread line of jewelry (goldenthreadshop.com), says she “almost had a heart attack” after seeing Pippa Middleton, younger sister of Duchess Kate Middleton, wearing one of her necklaces in the fall. “I’d sent pieces to a few celebrities I love,” says the former UT cheerleader, recalling having sent packages to both Middleton sisters. Her husband Ellis mentioned the possibility that the necklaces—each worth about $700—could end up as unopened mail tossed as trash. “On the other end of that sentence was the 1 percent chance they would wear it.”

So Welker was stunned when she zoomed in on the paparazzi shot to confirm it was the same piece. “I’ll never forget the moment I saw her in it.” It seems to have made an impact on the royals, too. Welker received a thank-you note on the Duchess’ stationery. The return address was Buckingham Palace.

But that was only the beginning. Soon the magazines came calling, and Golden Thread’s delicate 14K gold and vermeil monogrammed pendants—with layered charms like leaves, keys and birthstones—turned up in People StyleWatch, InStyle and Redbook, not to mention in inventory requests from boutiques such as Houston’s À Bientôt (2501 River Oaks Blvd.) and others all over the country. And a bit of Houston royalty took an interest, too, when presidential daughter and Today Show correspondent Jenna Bush Hager touted Welker’s jewelry on the air. Some 5,000 orders flooded into Golden Thread after that.

Everyone seemed dazzled by her daintily retro style. “Love the late ’60s and early ’70s,” says the effervescent, green-eyed blonde of just 5-foot-3. “I’m obsessed with that era—the poised, always-a-lady look. Classic with a modern twist. I stock old fashion magazines, and it’s inspiring to see women like Jackie O wearing her kids’ initials around her neck.”

Humbled and working more hours than she did as a nurse, Welker couldn’t be happier. This summer, she’s coming out with new items that “run the full gamut of personalized jewelry,” including earrings, rings, and bracelets in yellow, rose and white gold, and even cufflinks and tie tacks for men. The fashionable mother of two is also settling into an office near Tanglewood, moving the biz out of her home while looking to double her staff—but not before counting her blessings.

“I’m just a nurse who started making jewelry on the floor in my house because it was fun,” she says. “I’m still trying to take it all in.”