Growing up in the Dominican Republic, Grace Alvarez remembers hearing her aunts pray in a very intentional way; to a specific Virgin Mary or to the Santo that would favor their specific need. When she moved to NYC, and as she entered her late 20s, her personal view of a higher power evolved to a guiding energy that never left her side. In her journey of connecting more with that special energy, she started learning and practicing meditation. It's in that process that she was introduced to the healing power of crystals.
"During the first few months of the pandemic, the practice of meditation with crystals gave me the peace and clarity I needed to focus on developing and launching Vibemade," Alvarez told POPSUGAR in a recent interview.
She cofounded Vibemade with her husband, Eduardo Ramirez Holgi. As spouses, collaborating on a brand came naturally and easily. Both born and raised in the Dominican Republic, they studied fashion design and communications design at Altos de Chavon, which led them to the opportunity of continuing their education at Parsons in New York City. The couple's career trajectory is impressive, collectively having interned and worked for top names, including Oscar de la Renta, Rebecca Minkoff, Alexander Wang, and Kith.
The inspiration for creating this new way of wearing crystals first came to Alvarez in 2019. After noticing a friend Velcroing crystals to her chest to rest them in her chakras, she seized an opportunity. Alvarez immediately bought jewelry-making supplies and started teaching herself how to use the tools with YouTube tutorials, creating the first Vibemade jewelry piece, the Asha Crystal Mask ($250) . In the middle of the pandemic, after a few months of lockdown, they officially launched Vibemade in June of 2020.
A designer with over 10 years of experience, Alvarez incorporates crystal healing into her own self-care and spiritual practice. In regard to wearing crystals during her meditation practice, Alvarez says, "I feel like it enhances the experience of feeling more grounded." She also noted that crystals can be an excellent aid when a boost of confidence or a sense of calmness is needed. Her jewelry is a reminder of the intention she's set for herself for the day — she'll catch a glimpse of the bracelet on her wrist and remind herself that "good things are happening."
Due to its popularity among celebrities and the influence of social media, the power of crystals has been at the forefront of wellness conversations in recent years. While there's no scientific research to support any claims, many holistic practitioners believe that certain stones do come with many wellness benefits. A Stanford professor of French and Italian composed a comprehensive history of the relationship between people and crystals through the centuries, and she found that crystals inspired the writing and poetry of medieval authors in unexpected ways.
When it comes to Latinx spirituality, the use of crystals in holistic practices is not new. Alvarez says that "our ancestors believed in an intimate reciprocal relationship with a higher power . . . they believed that through nature, they could heal their soul" and that evidence suggests that crystals were seen by our ancestors as "powerful vessels of healing energy." Alvarez notes that our Afro-Latinx ancestors in particular embraced the use of crystal amulets for energy protection.
"I believe that there is a mutual attraction between the energy of the crystal and your energy."
As a growing number of Latinx reclaim ancestral healing practices, many don't know where to begin when it comes to crystal pairing or getting the right crystals for setting intentions, manifesting, and protecting. "I believe that there is a mutual attraction between the energy of the crystal and your energy," Alvarez says. However, if you find that it's not working for you, she suggests looking for crystals that can address your specific soul needs. "Crystal vendors usually provide all the property descriptions of each crystal . . . it makes the experience of shopping for crystals fun and personal," she says.
The idea behind Vibemade was to create a practical way to carry your crystals with you. "At Vibemade, we are very intentional about the design of the jewelry — all our pieces are designed to be close or activating a specific point for concentrated energy in the body," she says. Alvarez points out they carefully source materials like metals or gold, which are conductors of energy, from small, fair-trade vendors, and ensure they are sustainably and ethically obtained. Handmade with intention, they craft the pieces as they're ordered, number them, and charge the crystals under full moons. Even their packaging is 100 percent recyclable and made from up to 60 percent post-consumer material — doing their best to not add waste to the environment.
"My advice is to start with small actions that have a big impact in helping you to create the business of your dreams. We created a 'program' among our friends called the "sisterhood of the traveling crystal mask." With that small action, we got photos that we used for social media and for our product shots on our website," Alvarez says. She hopes to give visibility to aspects of her Dominican heritage in the brand, voice, and products. This year, they incorporated Larimar pieces, a stone unique to the Dominican Republic and known for its beautiful rare blue variety.
"We are a brand for anyone who could use an aid in their spiritual journey and or someone looking for a boost of confidence," Alvarez stated. "Hopefully our design and brand story can inspire you to add healing crystal jewelry pieces to your personal jewelry collection."