Concord jewelry line promotes awareness of Down syndrome
Monday, Nov. 04, 2013

Concord jewelry line promotes awareness of Down syndrome

Ruth Motley stands beside her Twenty One Design line of jewelry that was inspired by her daughter Emma, who has Down syndrome.
  • To learn more Resources about Down syndrome: • On Facebook, search for Twenty One Design. • Down Syndrome Association of Greater Charlotte: • Reece’s Rainbow:

Ruth Motley doesn’t wear jewelry often. It’s not her style. How many jewelry designers can make a statement like that?

This month Motley, an events planner and mother of four from Concord, launched Twenty One Design, a line of awareness jewelry to celebrate and support those touched by Down syndrome.

The decision was inspired by her own little charm, Emma, her 16-month-old daughter, who has Down syndrome.

Emma’s diagnosis was a surprise that Motley and her husband, Mike, didn’t receive until a few minutes after Emma was born.

“It was a complete shock,” said Ruth Motley.

But it didn’t take long for the little girl with the blonde locks and blue eyes to charm her way into the entire family’s heart.

“She’s just opened up a whole other world to us of what’s really important.”

Down syndrome is a chromosomal condition where the person has an additional full or partial copy of chromosome 21.

Children with Down syndrome often have low muscle tone and cognitive delays, and they are prone to congenial heart ailments, and respiratory and hearing problems. One in every 691 babies born in the United States has the condition.

Born in June 2012, Emma just began to crawl this past July, and she’s working to pull herself up to a standing position. Like most kids with Down syndrome, her muscle tone is not as strong as that of children her age who don’t have the condition.

“Typically all of my other children were walking by now,” said Motley. “But I’ve definitely enjoyed it. (Since Emma is) my youngest child, you don’t want it to go so fast. And every milestone she hits is so much sweeter.”

On the floor of The Bead Lady, a jewelry shop on Union Street in Concord, Emma crawled around, rolling her bottle and then following where it led, while occasionally flashing a big grin at her mom.

“She’s very easygoing. She laughs a lot,” said Motley. “She’s a lot of fun.”

It’s that kind of joy that Motley hopes others will be reminded of when they wear her jewelry.

Because she knew nothing about designing necklaces or bracelets, Motley turned to Kathleen Reeder for help creating the pieces.

Reeder has operated The Bead Lady on Union Street for years. In that time she has designed awareness jewelry lines for such other causes as autism, hospice and cystic fibrosis.

“She just really took me by the hand and guided me through,” said Motley, who wanted the jewelry to “whisper, not shout” the cause.

The pieces are simple. There aren’t 21 beads in each necklace, and they’re not limited to blue and gold, the traditional colors that represent Down syndrome.

“I wanted to do something different from that,” said Motley. “I wanted something people could wear every day.”

Motley started selling the pieces in October to coincide with National Down Syndrome Awareness Month. In just a few weeks, she sold between 25 and 30 pieces, from Ohio to California.

They’re available at The Bead Lady locally, and also on Etsy and Facebook.

A portion of each out-of-state sale goes to Reece’s Rainbow, an adoption grant foundation for special-needs orphans. A portion of local sales goes to the Charlotte chapter of the National Down Syndrome Association.

Motley hopes to expand the line of jewelry to include more men’s styles and also holiday styles before long.

“To me this is just the beginning,” she said.

Lisa Thornton is a freelance writer. Have a story idea for Lisa? Email her at

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