05292015Fri
Last updateWed, 27 May 2015 2pm
24 Karat Club SEUS adds 4 new members

24 Karat Club SEUS adds 4 new members

The 24 Karat Club Southeastern United States annou...

Jewelry Pie reacts to increased demand for high-end product

Jewelry Pie reacts to increased demand for high-end product

“In the last year Jewelry Pie has seen a large inc...

Goldstein introduces new diamond & ruby ring

Goldstein introduces new diamond & ruby ring

Goldstein Diamonds, an industry leader in GIA cert...

Endless enters 21st market in 20 months, securing New Zealand retail partners

Endless enters 21st market in 20 months, securing New Zealand retail partners

Endless Jewelry has announced they  have secured m...

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IGI introduces virtual 3-dimensional diamond viewing

IGI introduces virtual 3-dimensional diamond viewing

Institute’s Diamond Reports to feature QR codes

(NEW YORK) - The International Gemological Institute (IGI), a world renowned independent gem certificati...

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Guertin Brothers to display Fabergé egg inspired Fender guitar at JCK Vegas

2 DAYS AGO
Guertin Brothers to display Fabergé egg inspired Fender guitar at JCK Vegas

Guertin Brothers has announced they will have a one of a kind Fender guitar in their booth at the JCK show. Also on display will be a replica of the Fabergé Egg, which was the inspiration for the guitar.

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Jewelers of America adds new GEM Award for Watch Design category

2 DAYS AGO
Jewelers of America adds new GEM Award for Watch Design category

Submission period opens for 2016 Award nominees

(NEW YORK) - Jewelers of America (JA), the national association for businesses serving the fine jewelry marketplace, has announced the addition of a GEM Award for Watch Design to the 14th Annual GEM Awards gala taking place on January 8, 2016, at Ciprian...

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GIA’s goes “All In” for JCK Las Vegas

9 DAYS AGO
GIA’s goes “All In” for JCK Las Vegas

Exclusive in-booth briefings, museum displays, colored stone services and more

(CARLSBAD, Calif.) – Attendees of the 2015 JCK Las Vegas show at the Mandalay Bay Resort & Casino can visit GIA’s booth (L99) from May 29 – June 1 to learn about the Institute’s not-to-miss show offerings, ranging from th...

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Texas Jewelers Association announces 2015 Convention dates, plans for JCK Vegas Meet & Greet

28 DAYS AGO

San Antonio will again be the host location for the 2015 Texas Jewelers Association (TJA) Convention.  The event will take place from October 10 - 12 at the El Tropicano Hotel, located directly on the Riverwalk.

The Convention will kick off Saturday evening with a President’s Party, hosted by TJA Pre...

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Reed Exhibitions acquires Jewelers International Showcase

2 DAYS AGO

(NORWALK, Conn.) -  Reed Exhibitions has announced it will expand its jewelry event portfolio with the acquisition of Jewelers International Showcase (JIS). JIS has three annual business-to-business events for the jewelry industry at the Miami Beach Convention Center. Thousands of retailers attend th...

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Rio Grande announces winners of 15th annual Saul Bell Design Award

2 DAYS AGO
Rio Grande announces winners of 15th annual Saul Bell Design Award

At a celebration dinner held during the Santa Fe Symposium® in Albuquerque, NM, Rio Grande announced the winners of the 15th 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 well as ...

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IGI introduces virtual 3-dimensional diamond viewing

2 DAYS AGO
IGI introduces virtual 3-dimensional diamond viewing

Institute’s Diamond Reports to feature QR codes

(NEW YORK) - The International Gemological Institute (IGI), a world renowned independent gem certification and appraisal institute, has announced its long-standing diamond grading reports will now include QR (quick response) codes, which will allow for f...

Readmore

Stuller, Inc. introduces new tools catalog

2 DAYS AGO
Stuller, Inc. introduces new tools catalog

Book highlights tried and tested tools and supplies

(LAFAYETTE, La.) – Solutions supplier and prime manufacturer, Stuller has announced the release of its newest tools catalog, Tools, Equipment, and Metals 2016-2017 . The 600+ page book features a variety of new products, bestsellers, exclusives, and St...

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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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