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13 Shops That Bring Bench Jewelers Center Stage

Customers crave transparency.

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WATCHING WHAT HAPPENS behind the scenes at a jewelry store is an important part of the shopping experience for customers, retailers have begun to realize. Not only does it reassure clients their jewelry is being handled properly, but it also invests them in the process, particularly when custom design is involved. Shops are increasingly showplaces, visible to the public through a window, a doorway, or integrated into the showroom itself. Clients are now invited to tour the shop, watch bench jewelers setting their diamonds, and perhaps, make their own wedding band in a workshop or cast their own engagement rings.

Drenon Jewelry

Talent on Display

The newest location of Drenon Jewelry in Independence, MO, was built in 2018 by Icon Architecture. Owners Steve Frisch and Rhonda Wilks realized that one of their greatest assets was their ability to create jewelry from scratch. They decided to put their jewelers’ talents on display in the all-glass 1945 Design Studio, where customers can watch everything the jewelers do. The custom design process happens in-house, starting with a simple sketch on paper, brought to life on the screen by a CAD designer. From there, it’s sent to a 3D printer that can print a wax in as little as 45 minutes. Once the item is ready to be cast, the Drenon Jewelry team invite their customers to watch as their piece is being made.

Vandenbergs

The Goldsmith Show

At Vandenbergs Jewellers in Edmonton, Alberta, Canada, owned by Ralph and Lori Vandenberg, a floor to ceiling glass wall separates the workshop from the sales floor. The casting room is at the front of the store, where it’s visible from the exterior glass wall. The goldsmiths put on a show for passersby every morning and often throughout the day through the glass wall. The Vandenbergs team also offers shop tours of their store and explanations of the processes.

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Barry Peterson

Out Into the Open

During a recent renovation, Barry Peterson of Barry Peterson Jewelers in Ketchum, ID, moved his personal workstation from the shop on the second floor onto the main floor showroom to easily interact with customers and show people what it takes to make that custom piece of jewelry. Peterson’s shop features new tools and technology as well as vintage tools owned by his late father, which sit atop the jeweler benches Barry built himself more than 45 years ago.

Cronins

On Display

At Cronin Jewelers in Boulder, CO, owner Bill Cronin’s passion for the art of making jewelry is reflected in the design of his store’s interior. A full 60 percent of its square footage is dedicated to the workshop studio. The open design allows customers to see Cronin and his staff craft custom designs, perform repair work and cast precious metals. A large cottonwood tree stump holds an anvil which is used to stamp Cronin’s hallmark into each custom piece. Tools are on display in every nook and cranny. One wall holds a variety of sanding belts while another features many years’ worth of custom wax models. The neon “Goldsmith” sign which once hung out front now decorates the full length of a back wall.

Make Made Jewelry

Behind the Scenes

At Make Made Jewelry in Greenville, SC, jewelers benches are incorporated into the checkout counter, so customers can see their projects easily during various stages of production. Make Made is owned by designers and makers Katie Poterala and Danielle Miller Gilliam, who support the growing interest in sustainable metals, ethical gems, and meaningful purchasing, and also offer metalsmithing courses. Customers feel incredibly involved in the process, they say, and get to see a behind the scenes view of how artisan makers work (and sometimes even get a hands on experience themselves.)

Revolution Jewelry Works

Interactive Experience

Jennifer Farnes focused on client experience when she expanded and redesigned Revolution Jewelry Works in Colorado Springs, CO, in 2019. Everything is built to allow the clients to actively participate in their jewelry journey. Every corner of the store is visible through windows. Custom clients can sit, sketch, and design live with CAD experts while seated in consultation booths and then make an appointment to watch their design being poured and taking shape. The RJW team also casts live in the studio every day.

Hugo Kohl shop tour

Museum-Quality Tour

Hugo Kohl leads tours of his factory, adjacent to his Hugo Kohl Jewelry boutique in Harrisonburg, VA, where he demonstrates the function of the Industrial Age tools and machines he has acquired to manufacture his signature die-struck jewelry. He also has more than 7,000 hubs, dies and rolls he’s collected, which he uses to manufacture collections. He’s gathered the tools, machinery and workstations needed to process these designs. The space is also a museum. The Museum of American Jewelry Design and Manufacturing. Kohl has found that clients who see how the jewelry is made develop a feeling of ownership in it and are more likely to make a purchase.

Tholot Casting and Repair bars

Pour Your Heart Into It

Thollot Diamonds & Fine Jewelry in Thornton, CO, owned by Troy and Joy Thollot, has a “Pour Your Heart Into It’ Jewelry Casting Bar, where clients are invited to pour the gold into their own custom rings; as well as a Jewelry Repair Bar. The Thollot team and master jewelers guide each client through the design, creation and centrifugal casting process of their rings. The couples are also invited to cast each other’s wedding bands.

Waterfall Jewelers

Holistic Approach

A window and a door offers transparency while connecting showroom and shop at Waterfall Jewelers in Waterford, MI, owned by Tom Brown and Chris Strong. The shop is part of a major 2019 renovation of a former bank building, designed by interior designer Leslie McGwire and Scott Monchnik & Associates. Waterfall has created another bridge between shop and showroom by teaching all staff members to use Stuller’s 3C and Counter Sketch program to design and price jewelry, using melee, colored gemstones and in-stock diamonds up to a quarter carat.

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Jacob Raymond Custom

A Personal Connection

When Jacob Wosinski began designing the interior of Jacob Raymond Custom Jewelry in Greensoboro, NC, he wanted people to see that all of the jewelry is made on site. For that reason there are no walls between the showroom and the workshop and the casting station and lapidary equipment are set up in one of the front windows. “I can sit at my bench and work while looking at the shop,” Wosinski says. “Clients are always fascinated about how jewelry is made and enjoy hearing about it. They get to sit down and actually meet with the designer and maker of their custom piece. No two items are mass-produced, which makes each customer experience personal.”

Carters Jewel Chest

Transparency

At Carter’s Jewel Chest in Mountain Home, AR, three jewelers occupy the shop, which is exposed to the showroom through a glass wall, providing constant advertising and proof of the work and quality of Carter’s. Owners T.C. and Beth Carter and their son, Chris Carter, worked with Jesse Balaity of Balaity Property Enhancement on a major renovation of their space in 2018.

Williams Jewelers

A Window on the Work

At Williams Jewelers of Englewood, the opportunity to watch the jeweler in action is incorporated into the bridal and diamond experience. The Williams family and interior designer Leslie McGwire worked together to achieve a look they describe as both grand and inviting for the 12,500 square foot store, which opened in 2017.

McCoy Jeweler

A Tight Fit

McCoy Jeweler in Dubuque, IA, is 16 feet wide and has the layout of a bowling alley, but somehow accommodates a fully functioning shop as well as a sales floor. Owner Jonathan McCoy is the head of bench operations, custom designs, CAD/CAM and repairs for the shop. “We have a very small footprint,” he says. He’s able to complete an entire custom piece in a shop barely larger than many garages; all benchwork and stone setting is performed in front of his clients.

Eileen McClelland is the Managing Editor of INSTORE. She believes that every jewelry store has the power of cool within them.

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Orin Mazzoni, Jr., the owner of Orin Jewelers in Garden City and Northville, Michigan, decided it was time to downsize. With two locations and an eye on the future, Mazzoni asked Wilkerson to take the lead on closing the Garden City store. Mazzoni met Wilkerson’s Rick Hayes some years back, he says, and once he made up his mind to consolidate, he and Hayes “set up a timeline” for the sale. Despite the pandemic, Mazzoni says the everything went smoothly. “Many days, we had lines of people waiting to get in,” he says, adding that Wilkerson’s professionalism made it all worthwhile. “Whenever you do an event like this, you think, ‘I’ve been doing this my whole life. Do I really need to pay someone to do it for me?’ But then I realized, these guys are the pros and we need to move forward with them.”

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