09282016Wed
Last updateTue, 27 Sep 2016 11pm
TJA examines gemstone treatments at Annual Conference

TJA examines gemstone treatments at Annual Conference

The Tennessee Jewelers Association (TJA) hosted it...

Steve Silver - setting the ‘Gold Standard’ in appraisals

Steve Silver - setting the ‘Gold Standard’ in appraisals

Appraising jewelry – it’s about more than gemology...

The partnership that produced a golden egg

The partnership that produced a golden egg

Based on a mutual respect and appreciation for eac...

Kentucky Jeweler identifies credit card scam

Kentucky Jeweler identifies credit card scam

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

Alabama’s Saltwater Seminar announces new venue at Perdido Beach Resort

Alabama’s Saltwater Seminar announces new venue at Perdido Beach Resort

The Alabama Jewelers Association (AJA) invites all...

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Woman receives mystery Rolex in the mail

Woman receives mystery Rolex in the mail

SAN FRANCISCO (KPIX 5) — It came out of the blue, a Bay Area woman gets a Rolex watch in the mail.

The woman, Marie, thought it was strange that she had a package waiting for her at the post office. She said it was from an unknown sender. Then she ope...

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Industry Events

Join ISG on a diamond mining field trip to Crater of Diamonds State Park

Join ISG on a diamond mining field trip to Crater of Diamonds State Park

The International School of Gemology (ISG) has announced a field trip to the Crater of Diamonds State Park in Murfreesboro, Arkansas. This is a great opportunity to visit a real diamond mine and share knowledge and fun with ISG Global Network members...

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On The Move

Jeff Sadowsky named President of Global Fine Jewels

Jeff Sadowsky named President of Global Fine Jewels

Global Fine Jewels (GFJ), a division of world dia­mond trade leader Jay Gems, is pleased to announce the appointment of Jeff Sadowsky as its new President. Sadowsky, a 48-year veteran of the jewelry industry, previously worked as Director of Acquisit...

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What's New

Darling Imports releases new color stone catalog

Darling Imports releases new color stone catalog

Over the last twenty plus years, Darling Imports has remained a reliable and trusted color gemstone wholesaler offering an extensive inventory for all your color needs. To continue their great service they are introducing a brand new, spiral bound ca...

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Featured Articles

Retailer Roundtable: What do you expect to be your holiday hot sellers?

Retailer Roundtable: What do you expect to be your holiday hot sellers?

Q:  What do you expect to be your holiday hot sellers?

“Two-stone rings haven’t performed real well for us, despite marketing the whiz out of it. Each holiday season we do very well with bridal. This year I’ve invested in Fire Polish to help increase ...

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Latest News

Woman receives mystery Rolex in the mail

18 HOURS AGO
Woman receives mystery Rolex in the mail

SAN FRANCISCO (KPIX 5) — It came out of the blue, a Bay Area woman gets a Rolex watch in the mail.

The woman, Marie, thought it was strange that she had a package waiting for her at the post office. She said it was from an unknown sender. Then she opened it up and things got stranger.

Inside, a Rolex ...

Readmore

Canadian Mint employee accused of smuggling $180K of gold – the hard way

18 HOURS AGO
Canadian Mint employee accused of smuggling $180K of gold – the hard way

 

An employee of the Royal Canadian Mint allegedly smuggled about $180,000 in gold from the fortress-like facility, possibly evading multiple levels of detection with a time-honoured prison trick.

Hiding the precious metal up his bum.

The case against Leston Lawrence, 35, of Barrhaven concluded in an O...

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Join ISG on a diamond mining field trip to Crater of Diamonds State Park

13 DAYS AGO
Join ISG on a diamond mining field trip to Crater of Diamonds State Park

The International School of Gemology (ISG) has announced a field trip to the Crater of Diamonds State Park in Murfreesboro, Arkansas. This is a great opportunity to visit a real diamond mine and share knowledge and fun with ISG Global Network members, and those thinking about joining.

Readmore

JIS teams with Texas Jewelers Association to offer free trip to JIS Miami Show October 2016

13 DAYS AGO
JIS teams with Texas Jewelers Association to offer free trip to JIS Miami Show October 2016

Winner of trip for 2 to October Show will be announced at TJA Convention Sept. 25 th

 

(AUSTIN, Tex.) - There is no other selection of shows like that of Jewelers International Showcase (JIS), and one lucky attendee of the Texas Jewelers Association (TJA) 2016 Convention has the chance to win a trip for...

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Jeff Sadowsky named President of Global Fine Jewels

7 DAYS AGO
Jeff Sadowsky named President of Global Fine Jewels

Global Fine Jewels (GFJ), a division of world dia­mond trade leader Jay Gems, is pleased to announce the appointment of Jeff Sadowsky as its new President. Sadowsky, a 48-year veteran of the jewelry industry, previously worked as Director of Acquisitions at GBC, Inc., and most recently as Vice Presi...

Readmore

Quality Gold acquires North American Jewelers, Inc.

13 DAYS AGO

(FAIRFIELD, Ohio) - Quality Gold has purchased North American Jewelers, Inc. (NAJ) the Chicago based supplier known for bridal and special occasion diamond jewelry. Along with NAJ, Quality Gold now owns Steckbeck Jewelry PVT LTD (STJPL), its wholly owned subsidiary and manufacturing facility opened i...

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Darling Imports releases new color stone catalog

18 HOURS AGO
Darling Imports releases new color stone catalog

Over the last twenty plus years, Darling Imports has remained a reliable and trusted color gemstone wholesaler offering an extensive inventory for all your color needs. To continue their great service they are introducing a brand new, spiral bound catalog that is almost 33% larger than the previous ...

Readmore

Griffin Enterprises introduces new design in safes

18 HOURS AGO
Griffin Enterprises introduces new design in safes

Mike Griffin, owner of Griffin Enterprises, has been specializing in safes and vaults for over 25 years. “Having taught safe technicians from all over the world how to open and repair all types of safes, I can now introduce the most secure safe in its class, designed specially to stop the most curre...

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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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