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Last updateTue, 24 May 2016 9pm
Drive-through jewelry store?

Drive-through jewelry store?

With no serious injuries and a great attitude, own...

JA fights for jewelers on Capitol Hill

JA fights for jewelers on Capitol Hill

Association continues to promote industry policy p...

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Lafonn celebrates 5 Years at JCK with Anniversary Collection & Gold MacBook giveaway

Lafonn celebrates 5 Years at JCK with Anniversary Collection & Gold MacBook giveaway

(CYPRESS, Calif.) - Lafonn, the brand known for luxury within reach, will celebrate its 5th Anniversary at JCK with a Gold MacBook Giveaway to one luck retailer and an Anniversary Collection.

To enter to win, retailers must complete an entry form (whil...

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Industry Events

Top 5 Reasons to attend JCK Las Vegas

Top 5 Reasons to attend JCK Las Vegas

(NORWALK, Conn.) - The countdown to Las Vegas Jewelry Week has begun. With 2 weeks left until show time, JCK Las Vegas has announced some attributes, features, and amenities that indicate both their readiness and allure. Here are the Top 5 Reasons not...

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On The Move

PhotoScribe jewelry inscription service now operating exclusively from IGI

(NEW YORK) - The International Gemological Institute (IGI) – creators of diamond laser inscription, Laserscribe - has announced that jewelry inscription service, PhotoScribe, will operate solely from the Institute’s New York laboratory.

PhotoScribe las...

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What's New

Michou Jewelry announces marriage of two popular collections

Michou Jewelry announces marriage of two popular collections

When Michou Jewelry founder Michele Sonner thinks back, the seeds of a relationship began over a decade ago, when Michou unveiled the first pieces in its One-of-a-Kind collection.

Michou Jewelry has always been a gem-focused line, thanks to Sonner’s e...

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Featured Articles

Retailer Roundtable: What was your best store promotion?

Retailer Roundtable: What was your best store promotion?

Q: What was your best store promotion?

“For a number of years we’ve held a VIP event and an 11-Hour Sale usually scheduled after Thanksgiving Day and before early December. The VIP event is like a customer appreciation event in that we cater to our to...

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Latest News

Lafonn celebrates 5 Years at JCK with Anniversary Collection & Gold MacBook giveaway

2 DAYS AGO
Lafonn celebrates 5 Years at JCK with Anniversary Collection & Gold MacBook giveaway

(CYPRESS, Calif.) - Lafonn, the brand known for luxury within reach, will celebrate its 5th Anniversary at JCK with a Gold MacBook Giveaway to one luck retailer and an Anniversary Collection.

To enter to win, retailers must complete an entry form (while supplies last) at Lafonn’s JCK booth #B19179 bet...

Readmore

JA offering Certification exams at JCK Las Vegas

2 DAYS AGO

(NEW YORK) - Jewelers of America (JA), the national trade association for businesses serving the fine jewelry marketplace, is offering its renowned Sales and Management Professional Certification exams at the JCK Show. In 2015, the number of jewelry professionals who completed JA Professional Certifi...

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Top 5 Reasons to attend JCK Las Vegas

9 DAYS AGO
Top 5 Reasons to attend JCK Las Vegas

(NORWALK, Conn.) - The countdown to Las Vegas Jewelry Week has begun. With 2 weeks left until show time, JCK Las Vegas has announced some attributes, features, and amenities that indicate both their readiness and allure. Here are the Top 5 Reasons not to miss JCK Las Vegas 2016 (Friday, June 3 - Mond...

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GIA announces dates for New York Jewelry Career Fair

16 DAYS AGO
GIA announces dates for New York Jewelry Career Fair

GIA’s Jewelry Career Fair will return to New York City on Monday, July 25, 2016. Dozens of gem and jewelry companies will be looking to hire skilled and motivated professionals at every career stage. The free event is expected to draw crowds similar to last year’s event in New York, which attracted ...

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PhotoScribe jewelry inscription service now operating exclusively from IGI

2 DAYS AGO

(NEW YORK) - The International Gemological Institute (IGI) – creators of diamond laser inscription, Laserscribe - has announced that jewelry inscription service, PhotoScribe, will operate solely from the Institute’s New York laboratory.

PhotoScribe laser inscription service specializes in laser engrav...

Readmore

Rio Grande announces winners of 16th annual Saul Bell Design Award

2 DAYS AGO
Rio Grande announces winners of 16th annual Saul Bell Design Award

At a celebration dinner held May 15 during the Santa Fe Symposium® in Albuquerque, NM, Rio Grande announced the winners of the 16th annual Saul Bell Design Award competition. Through rigorous judging, a panel of judges chose first- and second-place winners in each of six competitive categories, as w...

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Michou Jewelry announces marriage of two popular collections

2 DAYS AGO
Michou Jewelry announces marriage of two popular collections

When Michou Jewelry founder Michele Sonner thinks back, the seeds of a relationship began over a decade ago, when Michou unveiled the first pieces in its One-of-a-Kind collection.

Michou Jewelry has always been a gem-focused line, thanks to Sonner’s early training as a gemologist, which instilled a d...

Readmore

Dazzling Paws Jewelry debuts new Spring Collection

2 DAYS AGO
Dazzling Paws Jewelry debuts new Spring Collection

(PLOVER, Wis.) - Dazzling Paws Jewelry has announced a large expansion of their original dog themed sterling silver jewelry collection. The new product line debuts a grand assortment of styles ready for spring.

Myra Westphal, company President, created these pieces with the sunny seasons in mind. “Our...

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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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