Vermont’s Jewelers Create Timeless Pieces by Reinterpreting Classic Designs
Part of the beauty of a piece of jewelry is its history – and the sentimental value attached to it. Vermont’s most celebrated jewelers are finding fresh and inventive ways to update and restore beautiful pieces from bygone eras. Channeling their creative passion into each masterfully made piece, they deftly manipulate the elements to create evocative artworks that carry deep emotional significance. By forming a bond of trust and understanding with their customers, they help bring new meaning to the prized heirlooms that symbolize their clients’ most treasured memories.
Von Bargen’s Jewelry
Founded in 1978, Von Bargen’s discerningly curated collection of stylish and sophisticated jewelry pieces has won over the hearts of clients from all corners of the Green Mountain State – and beyond.
Roxanne Prescott is a knowledgeable industry professional who has been working in the jewelry business for over thirty years. As a proud member of the Von Bargen’s jewelry sales team, she is well-equipped to offer her clients the opportunity to create innovative new pieces out of their ancestral heirloom jewelry. Roxanne says that she is “incredibly grateful to work in the jewelry industry in
Vermont. The community that I work and reside in is so wonderful – as are all of the communities where Von Bargen’s stores are located. We take our craft very seriously, and we are blessed to have an incredibly gracious and loyal group of returning clients. They make our work so much more fulfilling.”
According to Roxanne, one of the most rewarding parts of working with her clients is “helping [them] rediscover the beauty of the pieces that were passed down to them. For example: someone may have inherited an antique diamond pin, but they don’t like to wear pins because it doesn’t match their stylistic preferences. Let’s say they’re an athlete, so they want a piece of jewelry that’s not going to fall off when they exercise – such as a ring. We use some of the gemstones from that diamond pin to make a breathtakingly beautiful piece that really suits their style. The aim is to transform something that was just hiding in their closet into something that they can be proud to wear every day.”
Roxanne says that “one of the preferred methods for repurposing the jewels that [her] clients bring in is wax carving. The first step in the process is a conversation with the client where we learn about what they might want for the piece. We look at a lot of reference pictures and do a lot of drawings to try to get as close as possible to creating exactly what the client wants. Once we have confirmation from the client that the preliminary sketches are in line with their stylistic vision, the wax model maker then carves a model based on the design sketches. When the wax model is finished, we can show it to the client and place some of the gemstones or the diamonds on the wax model in the exact places where they’re going to be set on the final piece. We do this so the clients can get an idea of how the final product is going to look. After receiving the client’s approval, the wax model is then cast in gold or platinum. After it is cast, the piece goes through many stages of finishing, filing, sanding, and reworking. Then we set the gemstones and diamonds. That type of specialized work is typically done by a master jeweler. After the gemstones are placed perfectly, the ring goes through another final finishing process before it’s presented to the client.”
Ferro Estate & Custom Jewelers
Third-generation jeweler Bryan Ferro has dedicated his life to building upon his family’s dynastic legacy of quality craftsmanship and business excellence. As the owner of Ferro Estate & Custom Jewelers in Stowe, Vermont, Bryan works with a knowledgeable and talented team of master jewelers to create an exceptional customer service experience for his clients.
Bryan says that the tastefully refined aesthetics of the Art Deco period “have had a large influence on [his] personal taste as a jeweler. Here at Ferro, we specialize in pieces inspired by the clean and elegant designs created by jewelers such as Cartier and Tiffany during the peak of the Art Deco era. For our custom pieces, we try to integrate stylistic elements that were prevalent during that period.
We use filigree in a lot of our pieces – which is beautifully shaped ornamental metal wirework that is painstakingly sculpted to make impeccable designs. It’s those all-important details in our pieces – like the tiny metal bead patterns on a mill-grain edge and the perfectly symmetrical stone placement – that really set them apart and give them that distinct and timeless quality.”
Ferro Estate & Custom Jewelers also specializes in Estate jewelry from the Edwardian and Art Deco eras. Many clients bring their own prized estate jewelry pieces in to the store to be restored or repurposed into new works. Through a series of face-to-face consultation sessions, clients work with Bryan’s team to incorporate materials from their old jewelry into stunning new custom pieces.
According to Bryan, “there are several possible options that we can present to our customers when they bring their estate pieces in to us for restoration or repurposing. We can measure all their stones and tell them what stones are in good shape and what stones need to be replaced, and we can give them credit for the old materials that they bring in to apply towards the cost of a new project. Sometimes customers come with ideas of what they want to do with their pieces, and we may supplement their design ideas by adding in a few extra stones from our own in-store supply. We work with them through the entire process to help make their dream into a reality. At the end of the day, the most fulfilling thing about my job is the feeling that comes from helping my customers reincorporate parts of their treasured pieces of jewelry into spectacular new creations.”
Since McWayne Jewelers opened their doors in Manchester, VT in 1948, they have built a sterling reputation through their honest business practices and their quality craftwork. Owner Tim Powden is proud to preside over a store that “uses a number of modern methods to help make sure that [their] custom pieces – including those that use repurposed pieces of antique estate jewelry – exceed the client’s expectations.”
One of the modern methods that McWayne’s employs in their custom jewelry making process is computer-assisted design and manufacturing (CAD/ CAM). According to Tim, “by using computerized rendering technology, we can create a detailed three-dimensional conceptual picture of the piece. You can even get a printout of the rendering and send it to a client or show it to them in person. The digital nature of the design process also gives us the opportunity to quickly change and tweak the design if it’s not up to the customer’s expectations.
Tim says that another modern technological improvement that has helped him to maximize the efficiency of his business is “laser-welding equipment. In years past, if something broke on a piece of jewelry, it would usually need to be fixed through the process of torch soldering. The problem with that method was that for any piece of jewelry that had heat sensitive stones, you would have to remove the stone from the piece before you made the repair. You would then have to reset the stone after using the soldering torch. The beauty of the laser-welder is that it doesn’t create the heat of a soldering torch. You can make incredibly nuanced and delicate repairs on very fragile pieces that have a lot of heat sensitive stones without having to remove any of the gems. It makes the whole process smoother, cleaner, and more cost effective. That makes for a better experience overall for our customers.”
Manchester-based designer and jeweler Judi McCormick is known for her vibrantly expressive line of pearl-centric jewelry. Judi says that one of her favorite things about pearls is the fact that they are “a very sustainable product. Many other materials used to make jewelry need to be mined out of the earth, but pearls come from a naturally regenerative source.”
Judi believes that one of the reasons that she has been able to build a successful business is because her pieces “reinterpret classic pearl jewelry in a uniquely modern way that resonates with [her] customers. I love being able to re-fashion classic pearl jewelry in novel ways that haven’t been done before. I’m always working towards ways to take the medium in a new direction, such as the jewel-embedded pieces I make by drilling precious stones into the surface of the pearls.
Judi cautions that “drilling into pearls and embedding gemstones is a very delicate operation. I tell people ‘I’m going into surgery’ when I go up to do this, because you have to be very precise and methodical in your movements. I use a Japanese-made drill. It’s a beautiful instrument. I have to be very slow with the drill to make sure that I don’t overheat it, because that will chip the nacre coating of the pearl – which will ruin the piece. At the end of the process, I use a special gemstone glue to set the stones into the pearls. The stones in the pearl’s surface reflect and refract the light with an intense and beautiful brilliance. It’s truly a sight to see.”
Arlington, Vermont-based jeweler Phil Burnham has garnered a loyal commercial following through his steadfast commitment to personalized artisan craftsmanship. Phil is a consummate jeweler in every sense. Rather than send his clients’ jewelry out to other shops or craftspeople for routine repairs and maintenance, Phil chooses instead to mend and fix their pieces himself.
According to Phil, his insistence on handling his repairs personally comes from “an intense feeling of pride in ownership. When a customer brings a piece of jewelry in to me, it’s always important to me that we meet face-to-face so that they can explain their concerns to me regarding the piece. We then work together to figure out the best way to restore it. I become personally invested in the outcome. I know that if I send the piece out to someone else, there is a chance that some all-important details might get lost in translation. I like to think that if you want something done right, you should do it yourself.”
Phil says that one of his primary specialties is “antique jewelry restoration. I work with some of my clients to bring their pieces back to their original states, and with others to incorporate different material aspects of the pieces to make something new. In one instance, someone brought in an old European-cut diamond from the 1890s. There were quite a few chips on the edge of the stone – which is called the “girdle” – so I suggested that we re-cut it. It was 1.58 carats when they brought it in. We re-cut it to 1.50 carats and I designed an Art Deco-style platinum ring with bead and bright cut set diamonds up the shank. I then re-set the stone on the new and finished piece. While the mounting was modern, the stone was re-cut in a way that maintained the old-style characteristics. In that instance, we were able to give new life to the stone by cutting it in an old-fashioned way.”
Drawing on the sentimental inspiration provided by her fondest family memories, Izadorable’s founder Carleen Ryducha has harnessed the emotional energy of her life’s most touching moments to create a strikingly unique jewelry collection.
After the loss of her father in 2015, Carleen says she “created Izadorable as a way to honor his legacy. His name was Izzy. An old family friend used to tell him ‘Oh Izzy, you’re so adorable.’ That’s what inspired the name for the company. He was such an incredible person. I try to capture the sentimental connection that I have with him in every piece I design.”
Izadorable’s Stratton ski-lift-ticket pendant – which came as the result of a collaborative artistic partnership with her cousin Stacey – pays homage to the time Carleen spent in Southern Vermont with her father in years past. Carleen recalls: “The memories that I shared with my mom and dad in Vermont were very special. Dad’s favorite spot was Woodstock. My cousin Stacey raced at Stratton when she was a kid, and my uncle also used to own a horse farm right by Newfane. I like to think that the wonderful moments I shared with my family up in Vermont are perfectly represented in pieces like the Stratton ski lift ticket. When I think of Vermont, I remember the happy times that I spent up there. I had such a good time skiing, antiquing, exploring, and vacationing with my family and friends. The ski lift pendant is my little way of remembering those times. It’s my hope that my customers will form similar connections with my pieces based on the experiences in their own lives. I also did an ‘802’ area code bracelet for Shop Taconic at the Taconic Hotel, and I did a zip code bracelet for Three Pears Gallery in Dorset. I love making custom jewelry like that. It gives me such joy to know that I’m helping people immortalize their most precious Vermont memories with my jewelry pieces.”
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FERRO ESTATE &
VON BARGEN’S JEWELRY