When it comes to arm candy, Crash Couture comes with the ultimate bragging rights. Made from crashed European luxury cars, they create custom, one-of-a-kind jewelry made with semi-precious stones and hand engraved designs.
Crash by Minabea is owned by Christi Schimpke who works her magic from her husband’s Los Angeles automobile collision body shop catering to high-end clientele and their luxury cars. Her unique pieces range in price from $450 to $10,000 and include such luxury cuffs as the Lamborghini made from a Lambo Gallardo with 14k gold metal bands ($1,000), White Maserati hematite stone, Black Maserati with rose cut black onyx, Gold Ferrari snakeskin with Kingman Mine turquoise and her upcoming luxury line with diamonds, colored gemstones and precious metals on exotic cars.
Her pieces are already being worn by celebrities and CEO’s, and she also features custom cuff links for men including a Sterling Silver Maserati from a Gran Turismo and a gray Porsche 911 Carrera and many other unique designs.
I spoke with Christi about her Crash Couture and her future plans in the luxury market.
HOW DID YOU GET STARTED IN THIS UNIQUE BUSINESS?
I’ve been dabbling in various types of art and crafts most of my life. I made jewelry when I was in high school and sold it at local hometown events like parades, etc. But it wasn’t until I took a metal smithing class that I fell in love with jewelry fabrication. The company Minabea was named after my grandmother who encouraged my artistic side all my life.
My husband has an automobile collision shop (body shop) that caters to a high-end clientele who drive expensive luxury cars. Mostly all late-model, no vintage or restoration cars and all European. After months of begging him to let me work in the shop he finally relented and allowed me a small area off one of the garages where they store cars. At the time I continued my jewelry business designing and fabricating silver jewelry with semi-precious gemstones inside the garage. Precious metals were hitting all-time highs and I was struggling to stay in business and compete with other small jewelry businesses who (that) could afford to lower their prices. One day I was looking at a gorgeous Designo Magno matte Mercedes-Benz SLS Roadster and saw that its hood was going to have to be replaced. I asked Dan (husband) if I could have the scrap metal from the hood to see if I could make jewelry from it. So, he cut up the hood into medium sized pieces that I then cut into smaller sizes. From there it was all trial and error but eventually I was able to make a cuff bracelet. What amazed me was how beautiful the paint was – it looked exactly like enamel.
IS IT DIFFICULT FINDING THE PERFECT BALANCE BETWEEN ART AND DAMAGED CAR PIECES?
In the beginning it was extremely difficult to work with the car metal. Some of the metal is steel and some is aluminum, a very tough springy metal. My process continues to improve every day. I now have a good-sized workshop with high horsepower table saws, polishers and drill presses. But it still takes a lot of time and effort to create a beautiful cuff from a section of bent car metal. Most of the metal I have is from Ferraris, Maseratis, Teslas, Mercedes-Benz, Porsches, Bentleys and Audis.
WHAT ARE YOUR FUTURE PLANS FOR CRASH COUTURE?
I just acquired a Lamborghini Gallardo in a very special color – Arancio Argos – a gorgeous orangey red. The Lamborghini paint is just incredible and wonderful to work with. I am in the process of designing a cuff with diamonds and colored gemstones set into the car metal for a much more luxurious experience. These cuffs will be my most expensive to date and each will have a custom VIN number that denotes its special status as a limited edition item.
Each handcrafted cuff is inscribed on the interior with the car make; additionally we provide a Certificate of Authenticity that states the make and model of the car and the date it was created. Some cuffs are lined with leather or lambskin. Recently we’ve begun to etch into the car paint to create leopard, tiger and snakeskin designs and patterns inspired by nature or decorative motifs that reference different art historical genres.
I also set cabochon stones onto the cuffs. Since I am preserving the car’s original paint I am unable to apply an open flame to its surface. Therefore every additional addition to a cuff has to be attached using rivets. This can be a painstakingly slow process but it is solid engineering.
Another great thing about Crash jewelry is the fact that we are upcycling and creating something luxurious from material that would otherwise be put into a landfill. We do not use cars that have been totaled, but just car pieces from casual accidents. You would be amazed at how much metal will need to be replaced simply by bumping into a lamppost! To order online visit her site at here.
Article by: Jim Dobson