01/21/2011 at 03:00 PM EST
For someone who loves both animals and jewelry as much as I do, finding Southern California-based jeweler Jes MaHarry was like discovering double treasure. MaHarry, whose whimsically designed creations
have earned her a devoted global following, doesn't just love animals – she also surrounds herself with them: her Ojai, Calif., ranch is home to 20 rescued creatures, including horses, donkeys, sheep, goats, cats, an Angus cow named Sweet Jane and her band of beloved canine companions.
One of Maharry's signature items – and best-sellers – is her Circle of Friends ring ($240 for the sterling-silver version, $2,400 for the 14-kt. yellow or rose gold; it can also be custom-ordered in platinum). Twenty percent of the proceeds from the sale of each ring go to Canine Adoption Rescue League
(CARL), an animal-rescue group near MaHarry's home in Ventura, Calif. CARL's mission is to advocate for animal welfare, seeking to end the needless deaths of companion animals through their adoption, education and outreach programs.
The ring is a thick, silver band etched with an image of MaHarry's menagerie of dogs playing happily under the sun. I love wearing it, looking at it and being reminded throughout the day why I care so much for voiceless animals. It's also a conversation piece; I can't tell you how many people ask about it, which then opens up a humane-treatment-of-animals conversation or three.
"My inspiration (for the ring) wholeheartedly came from my love of dogs," says MaHarry, who has fostered more than 100 animals on her Sun Horse Ranch property. Her most beloved canine comrade, Bodhi, and his sister, Citta, are featured on the rings and in many of her other designs. She says that both dogs, who were once feral, had ferocious dispositions but are now big-hearted, affectionate pups.
"I wanted to wear something that would honor our wonderful friendship and always remind me of my 'friends,'" MaHarry says, noting that Bodhi now rarely leaves her side. "I wrote 'friendship' inside the band as well as signed it."
About half of her original, mixed-media pieces feature members of the animal kingdom. MaHarry, the youngest child in a family of artists, says she developed her love of creatures both big and small when she was a girl playing with her horse models in her backyard. When her family later moved to upstate New York she discovered her lifelong mission of animal rescue and advocacy.
Proceeds from MaHarry's collection support 10 different animal groups, including Heal The Ocean, Save Japan Dolphins, PETA, Best Friends Animal Society and The Gentle Barn. When Gentle Barn's co-founder Ellie Laks visited The Ellen Degeneres Show
, MaHarry gave Ellen and her wife, Portia, her Bodhicitta necklace in white gold; it was a hit with the couple. She also gifted actress Anne Hathaway with her Intuition necklace when they met recently; it's sketched with a wise owl whose open eye is a solo conflict-free diamond.
"I've made it my mission to be the voice for the voiceless," says MaHarry, whose work has been featured since 2000 in Robert Redford's Sundance catalog; in fact, she's the catalog's best-selling jeweler. "My love for animals is the backbone to all of my designs and the inspirational undertone that lies in all of my jewelry. I live and breathe animals."See more jewelry on PEOPLEPets.com:Give Back to Shelter Pets with One-of-a-Kind Jewelry for YouEtsy Fave! Charm Your Favorite Pet Lovers With Animal-Themed Jewelry