Sisterfriend Jewelry Co-Founders on Being the “Owners of Cute”

Lisa Maita and Kelli Mercado create fine jewelry with a sense of humor.

From left: Sisterfriend Jewelry co-founders Kelli Mercado and Lisa Maita in their Center City studio / Photography by Jauhien Sasnou

What we make
Maita: “Kawaii jewelry made of a precious metal like gold or silver. ‘Kawaii’ means ‘cute’ in Japanese. We’re the owners of cute.”

How we met
Mercado: “Mutual friends. I moved here from Hawaii in 2010, and Lisa’s lived here all her life, and we, like many Filipinos, just clock that we’re Filipino and bonded over that.”

Cracker Snack earrings by Sisterfriend Jewelry

Before Sisterfriend
Mercado: “I worked for Jinxed as a vintage buyer and in sales for Printfresh Studio.”

Maita: “I’ve been working in the jewelry business since ’05 and climbed the ladder to the point I’m at now. I learned everything on Jewelers’ Row.”

How we got started
Mercado: “I had asked Lisa to design a cute alien ring. Lisa had other ideas, and we created a line out of them. We started selling exclusively online and sent Filipino influencer Bretman Rock a gift that he shouted out on his Instagram stories. That gave us a large bump in followers, and it snowballed from there.”

Maita: “We launched in February 2020, right before the pandemic hit. It felt crazy starting a business, especially when gold was at an all-time high and the world was at such an uncertain place. But we stayed the course.” 

Tiny Alien ring by Sisterfriend Jewelry

Mercado: “The rice paddle charm, for sure. After the alien ring, Lisa was like, ‘We’ve got to make a rice paddle.’ It’s such an iconic shape and in so many Asian kitchens — like, you grew up with a plastic rice paddle in your drawer.” 

About the name
Maita: “It’s loving your friends like family. We even have a broken heart pendant you can get for you and your sisterfriends, connecting the pieces when you’re together.” 

Published as “Gold Standard” in the November 2022 issue of Philadelphia magazine.