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Inventor clasps idea of jewelry revolution

Denise Couling might have created the next big thing in jewelry. Could it make her famous? Probably not. Could it make her rich? Quite possibly.
/ Source: The Associated Press

Denise Couling might have created the next big thing in jewelry.

Could it make her famous? Probably not.

Could it make her rich? Quite possibly.

Couling, the owner of Just So! jewelry store in downtown Brighton, said she's excited about getting a patent for her Connectables clasp, which allows women to add and change necklace strands with ease. However, the Green Oak Township mother, attorney and store owner said her focus remains her customers and having fun with her jewelry business.

Couling said she's been tinkering with jewelry and making her own creations since she was a teenager in Grand Blanc.

"I like making my own things, I knew what I wanted," she said.

Although she was talented in art and loved it, Couling never considered a career in art. She wanted to be able to support herself and decided to become an attorney. Her father, Terrance Sheehan, is a lawyer. After graduating from the University of Michigan Law School in 1989, she worked for a large firm in Ann Arbor before going into private practice with her father.

Couling lives with her husband Mark and sons J.P., 11, and Christopher, 9.

About five years ago, she came up with an idea for a clasp that allows women to add, remove or change necklace strands with ease. She figured someone must already be making the clasp, and she began looking for a place that sold them.

She would draw the clasp design on napkins and papers and show them to jewelry makers, who understood what she was looking for but told her no one was making it.

Couling eventually decided to make her own clasp and created a turquoise necklace that she wore to a party. Everyone loved the layered necklace made from the clasp, and she applied for a patent about four years ago.

Couling is still a little surprised no one else ran with the idea.

"I'm just a mom in the middle of Michigan," she said. "It should have been a fashion person in Los Angeles or New York."

Dina Haase, a frequent customer at Couling's store, is certain the Connectable clasp will take off. The Fenton woman called it a "brilliant idea," not only functional but also allowing women to create beautiful necklaces.

"From a business perspective, get ready to figure out how you're going to spend your billions," said Haase. "Pick your island."

Haase said she and a friend stopped by Just So! by chance while visiting Brighton, and she became addicted to the store and the jewelry.

"It was just a really fun experience, and you don't find a lot of blatantly fun experiences these days," she said. She bought her mother and sister a clasp, and she received one for Christmas.

Lori Buiteweg, a longtime friend, called Couling a "Renaissance woman."

"She's so ingenious and practical," said Buiteweg, who is godmother to Couling's youngest son and also an attorney. "She just loves what she does so much and it shows."

Couling opened her store two years ago because she wanted to provide women with a collectable system for jewelry. She said her store allows them to alter their favorite jewelry and never worry they won't be able to find a matching piece again.

Couling said she has designed jewelry that might be part of a national clothing line, but she hasn't received final confirmation on this deal.

"I like the business. It's fun," said Couling, who runs her store and still practices law. "I feel like I'm getting to work with my hobby."