National Gratitude month: Spangles Design’s for Diversity



The grassroots nature of face-to-face conversations relies on hundreds of individuals each year, from all over our region, to be Citizen Diplomats. Authentically representing our region to the world means engaging a majority of minority voices. So far in 2021, over 500 Philadelphians have given their time, expertise, and donations to ensure Philadelphia is engaging in foreign affairs while the covid-19 pandemic has kept us apart.

In my November Gratitude series, I’ll be sharing an interview each week with the diverse voices that represent Philadelphia as Citizen Diplomats.

We start with an interview with Citizen Diplomat MaryLou Spang, Owner and Creative Director for Spangles Custom Jewelry Designs. A native Philadelphian and entrepreneur, MaryLou and her husband Bill, a Citizen Diplomacy board member, have volunteered for over 30 years, meeting international students and professionals from all over the world. I hope you enjoy these highlights of our most recent conversation:

Siobhán: MaryLou, what is your favorite part of your experiences as a Citizen Diplomat?

MaryLou: Over the years, each Citizen Diplomacy event has provided me the opportunity to engage with visitors from other countries and absorb different cultures and points of view. These experiences stoked our desire for international travel. We have traveled throughout the Caribbean, Europe, New Zealand, Australia, and the South Pacific.

Siobhán: Our programs give you time and space to listen and learn about the lives of women all over the world, especially other women entrepreneurs like yourself. Peer networks are important, especially while so many people have experienced isolation this year. How has being part of a community of women entrepreneurs supported your business growth over the years?

MaryLou: About 16 years ago I turned my hobby of creating jewelry into Spangles Custom Jewelry Designs. At the time I sought out support groups that could assist me in growing my company. Much like Citizen Diplomacy’s exchanges for entrepreneurs, I connected with the Mercer County Woman Newspaper’s Women Interested in Networking group, the New Jersey Association of Women Business Owners, and the Princeton Mercer Regional Chamber’s Women in Business Alliance. Over the years I have met hundreds of businesswomen like myself who have become my clients and friends.

Siobhán: Connecting and building relationships are important to you. How do you partner with other women?

MaryLou: I partner with other women so that together we can support each other’s professional development and growth, collaborate with business and community leaders, and advocate for women’s issues. For example, I often co-host events with clients. Recently, my friend, Kapu Patel of kapuPatel Photography, co-hosted an event with me entitled ‘Thanksgiving in September’ at my Spangles studio that brought together area businesswomen for an evening of networking.

To show my gratitude, I have donated designs to charitable organizations for their fund-raising efforts. Some of the groups I have supported include the YWCA Princeton’s In the Pink Fashion Show in support of breast cancer research, Dress for Success Central New Jersey’s Cocktails for a Cause, and the Passage Theatre Company in Trenton, NJ.

And, of course, Spangles’ corporate sponsorship of Citizen Diplomacy International over the years has afforded me many networking opportunities with women of diverse backgrounds. After months of lockdowns, we are now reconnecting in person attending business and social events. There is a light at the end of the tunnel.

Siobhán: Your website features diverse women from all walks of life in a variety of professional roles. Are there any particular women that stand out for you?

MaryLou: That’s correct. I made a point of featuring a diverse group of women on my website. I create designs that are as unique as the women who wear them, and diverse enough to meld into every part of the fashion spectrum. Clients often ask me to create a piece specifically for them or to take a piece that they already own and rework it into a totally new design. Getting to know my client’s personal stories and matching them with quality materials is important.

Aparna (pictured) is this beautiful lady who was given an antique pendant from India by one of her dear friends. It held special meaning for her because of the deep bond and love between them. The decorative motifs on the piece remind Aparna of India.

When Aparna brought me the pendant we sat down and discussed her style, the colors she likes, and how she intended to wear her new necklace.

I surrounded her pendant with engraved silver beads, freshwater Biwa stick pearls, faceted onyx beads, and red crystals, reflecting her wisdom and strength.

Siobhán: It sounds like supporting a positive mindset in women is at the core of your business. Can you tell me more about that?

MaryLou: I believe that as individuals we should all strive when we can to do something to make a positive difference. Therefore, my mission is to design jewelry that makes the wearer feel better about herself. I am very fortunate to know women whose goals are to make a positive impact on the world. My objective is to provide them with jewelry items that fit into their unique personal style.

Siobhán: What is next for Spangles Custom Jewelry Designs?

MaryLou: I am in the midst of the holiday season – my busiest time of the year. Some of my designs are on Spangles Custom Jewelry Designs. Recently I launched a new line of necklaces that feature an assortment of freshwater pearls. This collection has been very popular. I call the line the ‘Pretty Pearl’ necklaces.

Presently, I am ready to welcome everyone to my Holiday Open House November 12-14, 2021 at my Princeton-area, NJ studio. I have priced lots of items under $100 for holiday gift-giving. Also, for groups of five or more, I can bring a Spangles showing at private homes or offices. I can be reached at for available inventory and pricing.

For jewelry designer, MaryLou Spang our international visitors give us the gifts of knowledge and a global perspective, these gifts grow inside us forever. Thanks to outstanding Citizen Diplomats, like MaryLou and Bill Spang, we are able to keep you connecting one-on-one with new friends all over the world.

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