06262016Sun
Last updateWed, 22 Jun 2016 1am
Not all was lost in the fire

Not all was lost in the fire

Namano salvages jewelry (and memories) scorched in...

Hale’s Jewelers looks back on 160 years of business

Hale’s Jewelers looks back on 160 years of business

entrepreneur: a person who starts a business and is...

Drive-through jewelry store?

Drive-through jewelry store?

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

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JBT Special Alert

Due to continued fraudulent ordering schemes, the Jewelers Board of Trade (JBT) would like to once again draw your attention to the following advice to assist you in avoiding being scammed by unscrupulous operators posing as legitimate jewelers.

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Industry Events

JCK Las Vegas, LUXURY and JIS Exchange glistened during a sweltering week in the desert

JCK Las Vegas, LUXURY and JIS Exchange glistened during a sweltering week in the desert

(NORWALK, Conn.) - Going out with the heat, JCK Las Vegas concluded its 26th edition on Monday, June 6. The show welcomed the best of the best in the jewelry industry with over 2,400 exhibiting brands and manufacturers, as well as an abundant lineup o...

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On The Move

Holojem wins first prize at JCK Think Tank

Holojem wins first prize at JCK Think Tank

Jewelers Mutual, Excelion Partners team up for 3D projection aimed at creating customized jewelry store experiences

(NEENAH, Wis.) - Holojem™, a Jewelers Mutual Insurance Company partnership with Excelion Partners, won first prize at JCK Las Vegas’ Thi...

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What's New

Hoover & Strong introduces white label diamond auction services

Hoover & Strong introduces white label diamond auction services

Hoover & Strong has announced a new white label auction service called myAuction™. This is an innovative service offered to jewelry retailers nationwide, allowing them to offer their own online auction service where their customers can sell their...

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Featured Articles

Retailer Roundtable:  At mid-year, how has 2016 been so far and what’s ahead?

Retailer Roundtable: At mid-year, how has 2016 been so far and what’s ahead?

At mid-year, how has 2016 been so far and what’s ahead?

“So far 2016 has been very strong for us. I’m very happy how things are going with our strongest sales in bridal jewelry and custom. Bridal got a significant boost when we began advertising long-...

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Latest News

JBT Special Alert

4 DAYS AGO

Due to continued fraudulent ordering schemes, the Jewelers Board of Trade (JBT) would like to once again draw your attention to the following advice to assist you in avoiding being scammed by unscrupulous operators posing as legitimate jewelers.

Readmore

Will Brexit Send Gold to $1,400

11 DAYS AGO
Will Brexit Send Gold to $1,400

Gold could climb as high as $1,400 a troy ounce if British residents vote to exit the European Union in a June 23 referendum, analysts at Capital Economics said.

A British exit from the EU would, by itself, not be a big deal, as the U.K. is likely to remain a member of the European Union for another ...

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JCK Las Vegas, LUXURY and JIS Exchange glistened during a sweltering week in the desert

4 DAYS AGO
JCK Las Vegas, LUXURY and JIS Exchange glistened during a sweltering week in the desert

(NORWALK, Conn.) - Going out with the heat, JCK Las Vegas concluded its 26th edition on Monday, June 6. The show welcomed the best of the best in the jewelry industry with over 2,400 exhibiting brands and manufacturers, as well as an abundant lineup of industry networking opportunities and informativ...

Readmore

Jewelers for Children celebrates 18 years, honors Stuart Lee and Dennis Ulrich

11 DAYS AGO
Jewelers for Children celebrates 18 years, honors Stuart Lee and Dennis Ulrich

(NEW YORK) - On June 5, 2016, Jewelers for Children (JFC) held the 18th Annual Facets of Hope event in Las Vegas at the Mandalay Bay Resort and Casino. The charity announced that $3.1 million had been raised to support their charity partners in the year ahead and that since 1999 $51.4 million had bee...

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Holojem wins first prize at JCK Think Tank

11 DAYS AGO
Holojem wins first prize at JCK Think Tank

Jewelers Mutual, Excelion Partners team up for 3D projection aimed at creating customized jewelry store experiences

(NEENAH, Wis.) - Holojem™, a Jewelers Mutual Insurance Company partnership with Excelion Partners, won first prize at JCK Las Vegas’ Think Tank on Sunday, June 5.

Think Tank, an event hel...

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IGI named Curator-at-Large for Museum of Named Diamonds

18 DAYS AGO

(NEW YORK) - The International Gemological Institute (IGI) announced its designation as Curator-at-Large for the Museum of Named Diamonds, a non-profit organization established by the jewelry industry to serve as a single registry for the world’s named diamonds.

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Hoover & Strong introduces white label diamond auction services

4 DAYS AGO
Hoover & Strong introduces white label diamond auction services

Hoover & Strong has announced a new white label auction service called myAuction™. This is an innovative service offered to jewelry retailers nationwide, allowing them to offer their own online auction service where their customers can sell their jewelry items to industry qualified buyers. The s...

Readmore

Thorsten Jewelry expands line of inlaid exotic hardwood bands

4 DAYS AGO
Thorsten Jewelry expands line of inlaid exotic hardwood bands

(LONG BEACH, Calif.) - Thorsten Jewelry, a leading manufacturer of alternative metal wedding bands for men and women, is proud to launch new models of wedding bands inlaid with exotic hardwoods. Due to the popularity of using natural materials in rings, Thorsten reports exotic hardwood inlaid rings h...

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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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