08282016Sun
Last updateTue, 23 Aug 2016 8pm
Kentucky Jeweler identifies credit card scam

Kentucky Jeweler identifies credit card scam

One occurrence is an anomaly. Two instances of a p...

Jeweler helps staff with gun safety training

Jeweler helps staff with gun safety training

Sales and support staff in jewelry stores across t...

Retailers “ready to buy” at the Atlanta Jewelry Show

Retailers “ready to buy” at the Atlanta Jewelry Show

The doors of the Atlanta Jewelry Show opened to mo...

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Industry Events

JIS to relocate to Ft. Lauderdale during Miami Beach Convention Center renovation

(NORWALK, Conn.) - Jewelers International Showcase (JIS) provides the jewelry industry with three impressive buying and selling opportunities each year at the Miami Beach Convention Center - JIS Miami January, JIS Miami April and JIS Miami October (Oc...

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On The Move

24 Karat Club SEUS inducts new members

24 Karat Club SEUS inducts new members

The 24 Karat Club Southeastern United States (24K Club SEUS) welcomed two new members at their Forty-Second Annual Banquet held at the Atlanta Country Club on August 6. The 24K Club Class of 2016 includes Stark Harbour, owner Southern Jewelry Insuran...

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What's New

HOLLIS BAHRINGER expands line of men’s designer jewelry

HOLLIS BAHRINGER expands line of men’s designer jewelry

(NORWALK, Conn.) - HOLLIS BAHRINGER, a leading manufacturer of contemporary metal men’s jewelry is proud to announce the release of six new collections to its assortment. Adding both natural white diamonds and black diamonds, this season’s additions b...

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Featured Articles

Retailer Roundtable: What are the biggest challenges facing today’s independent retail jeweler?

Retailer Roundtable: What are the biggest challenges facing today’s independent retail jeweler?

Q: What are the biggest challenges facing today’s independent retail jeweler?

“As an independent retail jeweler we are constantly facing many challenges ranging from competing big box stores, other independent jewelers, a declining consumer interest i...

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Latest News

Lockheed Martin Files Patent to 3D-Print Diamonds

4 DAYS AGO
Lockheed Martin Files Patent to 3D-Print Diamonds

Aerospace company Lockheed Martin filed a patent for making synthetic diamonds from 3D printing.

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Digging underway in search for “Nazi Gold Train”

4 DAYS AGO
Digging underway in search for “Nazi Gold Train”

WALBRZYCH, Poland — A group of explorers has begun digging in southwestern Poland in a quixotic search for a buried Nazi train said to be filled with stolen gold, gems and artworks — despite experts’ doubts that the train even exists.

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JIS to relocate to Ft. Lauderdale during Miami Beach Convention Center renovation

4 DAYS AGO

(NORWALK, Conn.) - Jewelers International Showcase (JIS) provides the jewelry industry with three impressive buying and selling opportunities each year at the Miami Beach Convention Center - JIS Miami January, JIS Miami April and JIS Miami October (October being the 2nd largest jewelry trade show in ...

Readmore

Retailers “ready to buy” at the Atlanta Jewelry Show

18 DAYS AGO
Retailers “ready to buy” at the Atlanta Jewelry Show

The doors of the Atlanta Jewelry Show opened to models draped with pearls, welcoming buyers to a bright show floor brimming with new products and collections from first-time and long-time vendors. Held from August 6 to 8 at the Cobb Galleria Centre, the show’s robust agenda of events included educat...

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24 Karat Club SEUS inducts new members

11 DAYS AGO
24 Karat Club SEUS inducts new members

The 24 Karat Club Southeastern United States (24K Club SEUS) welcomed two new members at their Forty-Second Annual Banquet held at the Atlanta Country Club on August 6. The 24K Club Class of 2016 includes Stark Harbour, owner Southern Jewelry Insurance and Michael Lebowitz, Director of Jewelry White...

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IDD named Leading Jewelers Guild “Vendor of the Year”

11 DAYS AGO
IDD named Leading Jewelers Guild “Vendor of the Year”

IDD Jewelry of New York, an industry leader in basic diamond jewelry and bridal programs, was recently honored as the “2016 Vendor of the Year” by the Leading Jewelers Guild. As voted by the members of the group, the award recognizes excellence in customer service and innovative product. Already the...

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HOLLIS BAHRINGER expands line of men’s designer jewelry

4 DAYS AGO
HOLLIS BAHRINGER expands line of men’s designer jewelry

(NORWALK, Conn.) - HOLLIS BAHRINGER, a leading manufacturer of contemporary metal men’s jewelry is proud to announce the release of six new collections to its assortment. Adding both natural white diamonds and black diamonds, this season’s additions bring an ultra premium selection to the already exc...

Readmore

ASHI introduces Lovebright Essentials

4 DAYS AGO
ASHI introduces Lovebright Essentials

Offers big look, great price on diamond basics

Studies have shown that basic styles account for as much as 50% of a jewelry store’s total sales. ​ASHI presents Lovebright Essentials, a new ​POS ​program focused on helping you showcase and sell more ​of these ​basic, fast turning, full margin styles​....

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Virginia jewelers’ passion lies in the beauty of the Bay

For Karen Burke, inspiration comes in waves - gentle, peaceful waves from the breathtaking waters that surround her home and family-owned coastal jewelry business.

Karen is the designer for Burke's Jewelers and its Bay-Gems Collection, which she operates with her husband Fred in the tiny, picturesque town of Kilmarnock, Va. It's an idyllic setting lying between the Chesapeake Bay and Rappahannock River.

 

Burke-couple-April"I just feel so privileged to be able to live here," says Karen. "It's a wonderful place. I find peace and comfort in the water that surrounds us. Even if you're not surrounded by water, everybody loves something about the water."

With that assumption in mind, a successful line of coastal designs was born when Karen and Fred moved into the family line of work after marrying in 1988. (image right: Karen & Fred Burke, owners of Burke's Jewelers in Kilmarnock, VA.)

This year, the family business celebrates its 40th year in Kilmarnock's historic downtown, offering a special "Lady of the Bay" series in its Mermaid collection. In all, the Bay-Gems collection comprises more than 200 pieces of pendants, bracelets, earrings and rings.

A Family Legacy
Fred's parents, Dorothy and Fred Burke, founded the business in August 1969, running the store a couple of doors down the street from where Burke's is now. They moved into the current location in 1977.

"When it started out it was just a tiny little store, maybe 600 square feet," Fred recalls. Now it's 2,000 square feet.

"I was only 12 when my parents bought the business," Fred says. "There were probably three, maybe four people working in the store, including my mother and father; now there are six of us, so we have doubled our employees and tripled our square footage."

The elder Burkes, who gradually faded themselves out of the business about seven years ago, were reselling other companies' jewelry, nothing nautical themed like today's featured pieces.

Fred and Karen say business has been good - good enough to warrant opening a second location, in Gloucester, Va., in 2005. That store has about 1,000 square feet and three employees.

The couple have no plans to expand to another store.

"We're trying to evolve our website, so we could count that as our third store," Karen says. "Fred and I do a lot of outside business as well. We have a lot of people ask us to bring our jewelry to different outdoor events - festivals, local art shows. We do really well at that."

Burkes-Product-April

Karen Burke gets inspiration for her Bay-Gems Collection from the waters of the Chesapeake Bay and Rappahannock River.

 

Elegant, Artistic & Whimsical
Fred gives his wife credit for developing the company's successful coastal theme.

"My favorite piece was my very first piece, our signature bracelet," Karen says. The bracelet features hand-linked nautical icons including a crab, sea turtle, flip-flops, oyster shells and clam shells. "It fits really nicely on the wrist, with icons that everyone can relate to as well," Karen says.

"My second favorite piece is an oyster shell necklace. In the bottom ridge of the oyster shell are inlaid diamonds. The piece is very, very elegant; it's very peaceful."

Other popular pieces include destination bracelets for Virginia, the Northern Neck, and the Chesapeake Bay.

"We're very particular about the quality of our merchandise," Karen says. "We try to sell middle and higher. We're more comfortable selling better goods, great quality. We're not numbers people."

Bay-Gems' pieces of sterling silver, 14-karat yellow gold and white gold can range from under $50 to several thousand dollars. While elegance and quality are the standards, the Burkes aren't afraid to add a dash of quirky charm. The jewelers sell a lot of pieces like whimsical sea nettle earrings.

"Before I did the earrings I did a sea nettle pendant, and her name was Nettie - I name a lot of the pieces I create!" Karen laughs.

"I never want to be like the guy down the street. I always want to stand out, and I think that's probably why we've been successful. We haven't tried to follow suit with anyone else - we try to be our own entity. And so far it's done OK."

Burke's values it's customers' individuality as well, offering to customize existing designs to suit a client's particular taste.

"A lot of times we'll add different stones or whatever," Karen says. "With the sea nettle, for example, we could do the body in yellow gold and the tentacles in white gold. I could sandblast or high-polish - there are lots of different things we could do with it. If someone wants to definitely make it theirs and theirs only, we can do that."

Burkes-Store-AprilCustomers Near & Far
Every piece in the store is handcrafted individually. "We do the design work, then we have a man who makes the jewelry in Massachusetts," Karen says. "We're really proud that it's made in the United States, and we always offer free shipping. We send our bracelets out all over the country." (image right: Burke's Jewelers has been serving Kilmarnock, VA for 40 years. They have been located in this location since 1977.)

But the Burkes' local clientele are the customers closest to their hearts. It's a close-knit community, and the jewelers are adamant about providing great quality and attentive, old-fashioned customer service.

"Our local customer base is wonderful," Karen says. "We really don't feel like they're our customers; they're our friends. We still do free gift wrap. We still write them a thank-you note whether they spend $5 with us or $5,000."

In Kilmarnock, with its 1,200 residents, "most everybody knows everybody else," Fred adds. "When you get involved in a charity or civic function you're working with people who are your friends. You go to church with your friends, to the grocery store with your friends . . . everybody knows everybody."

"We see a lot of townspeople wearing our jewelry," Fred adds. "There are a lot of second homes here, with people whose primary homes are in the Washington, D.C. suburbs or the Richmond area. We see weekend and summer people on a regular basis. They're not here on vacation; this is a second home. They keep their boat here, or they have family here.

"We're working with some third- or fourth-generation customers in some situations," he adds. "One generation might buy a 50th-anniversary gift and their great-grandson might be ordering his class ring."

And you can bet Karen and Fred know them by name.
"It's a fun place to shop, it really is," Karen says. "We try to make everybody feel at home and we just wow them with customer service."

And just like a creature of the sea washing to shore, those loyal customers keep coming back for more.
For more information about Burke's Jewelers and the Bay-Gems Collection, you can call (804) 435-1302, send an e-mail to This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it., or visit www.bay-gems.com.

 


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