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Veteran rep Carolyn Woltz Lennon retires

Veteran rep Carolyn Woltz Lennon retires

After 30+ years on the road covering North Carolin...

Shinola brings back American-built watches

Shinola brings back American-built watches

Business leaders that turn adversity into opportun...

Cargo Hold launches new line of classic, colorful bracelets

Cargo Hold launches new line of classic, colorful bracelets

(CHARLESTON, S.C.) - CARGO™ Enamel is the latest co...

Endless Jewelry strengthens senior management and secures investment

Endless Jewelry strengthens senior management and secures investment

“We proudly announce that we are strengthening the...

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Harmon Group’s 3 steps to handle negative comments on social media

Harmon Group’s 3 steps to handle negative comments on social media

Social media platforms have created a unique public forum for consumers to quickly spread their opinions and experiences with brands across the web for other consumers to read. And while social media can serve as a great tool to build brand loyalty a...

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Industry Events

Atlanta Jewelry Show ends 65th anniversary celebration with a flourish

Atlanta Jewelry Show ends 65th anniversary celebration with a flourish

August 2015 Edition Filled With New Resources, New Initiatives, Fun Networking Events

(ATLANTA) - The Atlanta Jewelry Show capped off its 65 th Anniversary year with fresh finds, new initiatives, educational and networking events and a festive finale tha...

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On The Move

Wholesale Moissanite expands its network of partners

(RALEIGH, N.C.) - Wholesale Moissanite, located in Research Triangle Park (RTP) in North Carolina, is an international wholesale-to-retail authorized distributor for Charles & Colvard created Moissanite. Wholesale Moissanite has been and continues...

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What's New

Retail consulting services for events now available from SimplexDiam

With more than 30 years experience providing jewelers with unique and exceptionally priced inventory along with premium service, SimplexDiam is proud to announce its new consulting services to help jewelers maximize their assets.

SimplexDiam can now h...

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Featured Articles

United Precious Metals Refining – steady growth since 1988

United Precious Metals Refining – steady growth since 1988

Established in 1988, United Precious Metals Refining (United) was founded by previous employees of the former P.M. Refining Co. in Buffalo, NY. A team of well experienced management, sales, office, assaying, refining, melting and fabrication personne...

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Latest News

Harmon Group’s 3 steps to handle negative comments on social media

4 DAYS AGO
Harmon Group’s 3 steps to handle negative comments on social media

Social media platforms have created a unique public forum for consumers to quickly spread their opinions and experiences with brands across the web for other consumers to read. And while social media can serve as a great tool to build brand loyalty and to foster customer relationships, it can also s...

Readmore

How jetsetting thieves who stole over $3M in diamonds, jewelry were caught

4 DAYS AGO
How jetsetting thieves who stole over $3M in diamonds, jewelry were caught

When Portland, Oregon police department Det. Eric McDaniel and Sgt. Brian Hughes began to interrogate a thief who had robbed a local jeweler, they had no idea they were about to learn that the con man would lead them to a nationwide crime spree masquerading as a shopping spree.

A pair of diamonds wor...

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Atlanta Jewelry Show ends 65th anniversary celebration with a flourish

12 DAYS AGO
Atlanta Jewelry Show ends 65th anniversary celebration with a flourish

August 2015 Edition Filled With New Resources, New Initiatives, Fun Networking Events

(ATLANTA) - The Atlanta Jewelry Show capped off its 65 th Anniversary year with fresh finds, new initiatives, educational and networking events and a festive finale that truly celebrated the Association’s 65 years. Fro...

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24 Karat Club Southeastern U.S. holds 41st annual Banquet

19 DAYS AGO
24 Karat Club Southeastern U.S. holds 41st annual Banquet

 

Mary Hayes, Hayes Jewelry in Mobile, AL named 2015 Jeweler of the Year

(ATLANTA) - The 24 Karat Club Southeastern United States (SEUS) hosted its 41st annual black-tie Banquet at the Atlanta Country Club on August 8th. The elite event was well attended with approximately 200 leaders of the jewelry in...

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Veteran rep Carolyn Woltz Lennon retires

29 DAYS AGO
Veteran rep Carolyn Woltz Lennon retires

After 30+ years on the road covering North Carolina, South Carolina and part of Virginia, sales representative Carolyn Woltz Lennon has announced her retirement. Carolyn began her career in 1983 with CMI Jewelry Wholesale in Raleigh, NC. She went on to represent Minneapolis, MN-based Jewelmont then ...

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Wholesale Moissanite expands its network of partners

29 DAYS AGO

(RALEIGH, N.C.) - Wholesale Moissanite, located in Research Triangle Park (RTP) in North Carolina, is an international wholesale-to-retail authorized distributor for Charles & Colvard created Moissanite. Wholesale Moissanite has been and continues to be a leading distributor for Charles & Col...

Readmore

Retail consulting services for events now available from SimplexDiam

5 DAYS AGO

With more than 30 years experience providing jewelers with unique and exceptionally priced inventory along with premium service, SimplexDiam is proud to announce its new consulting services to help jewelers maximize their assets.

SimplexDiam can now help convert your assets into the maximum amount of...

Readmore

Hoover & Strong introduces Guaranteed Recycled Diamonds in their Harmony Diamond Auctions

5 DAYS AGO
Hoover & Strong introduces Guaranteed Recycled Diamonds in their Harmony Diamond Auctions

Hoover & Strong has announced they are now offering guaranteed recycled diamonds in their online Harmony Diamond Auctions.

Virginia based eco-friendly refiner Hoover and Strong is an avid supporter of the “green” movement and feels it is their social, environmental and moral obligation to produce...

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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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