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Stuller, Inc. wraps up annual Bench Jeweler Workshop

Stuller, Inc. wraps up annual Bench Jeweler Workshop

Jyothi Forman walks away with overall win

(LAFAYETT...

GA jeweler fosters, develops jewelry designing talent

GA jeweler fosters, develops jewelry designing talent

When Douglas Meadows was looking to phase out PAND...

Libby Brown named new Executive Director of Atlanta Jewelry Show

Libby Brown named new Executive Director of Atlanta Jewelry Show

Carol Young steps down after 20 years  

(ATLANTA) - T...

Retailer Roundtable: What was your most successful Mother’s Day promotion?

Retailer Roundtable: What was your most successful Mother’s Day promotion?

Q: What was your most successful Mother’s Day prom...

Other News

Colucci Jewelers owner charged with murder

Colucci Jewelers owner charged with murder

2 nd tragedy to strike family in last 2 years

A Summerville, SC family well-known for their dealings in the jewelry industry throughout Flowertown and North Charleston faced another tragedy Friday after a fatal shooting, according to North Charleston po...

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Industry Events

New jewelry show planned for Midwest

New jewelry show planned for Midwest

New Horizons Jewelry Show to be held August 19-21

Jewelry manufacturers, retailers and other industry professionals will come together for the launch of a new event this August in Columbus, Ohio. “The New Horizons Jewelry Show is the only show serving...

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On The Move

Jewelers of America expands IDEX partnership

Jewelers of America expands IDEX partnership

(NEW YORK) - Jewelers of America (JA), the national trade association for businesses serving the fine jewelry marketplace, has expanded its partnership with IDEX, the International Diamond Exchange.

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What's New

Gemvision launches new version of Matrix® and Clayoo software

Gemvision launches new version of Matrix® and Clayoo software

(LAFAYETTE, La.) - Gemvision, part of the Stuller family of companies, is pleased to now announce the release of a new version of their award-winning software, Matrix 9.0 and Clayoo 2.5.

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Featured Articles

Great American Pearl Rush: Wisconsin dealer fascinated by colorful past of his treasured

Great American Pearl Rush: Wisconsin dealer fascinated by colorful past of his treasured

Norman Lange, owner of M. Lange Co. in Oconomowoc, Wis., knows pearls. He’s been trading in the natural gems for half a century, living and traveling overseas in search of them - but it’s 19th century America that he finds really interesting.

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Latest News

Colucci Jewelers owner charged with murder

4 DAYS AGO
Colucci Jewelers owner charged with murder

2 nd tragedy to strike family in last 2 years

A Summerville, SC family well-known for their dealings in the jewelry industry throughout Flowertown and North Charleston faced another tragedy Friday after a fatal shooting, according to North Charleston police.

Readmore

Gold’s found a new pocket of opportunity

4 DAYS AGO
Gold’s found a new pocket of opportunity

"Don't gain the world and lose your soul; wisdom is better than silver or gold."

You may have to read the quote more than once, but Bob Marley knew what he was talking about.

At the moment, investors seemingly disagree a bit with him, and they have pushed spot gold up around 8 percent higher since the...

Readmore

New jewelry show planned for Midwest

11 DAYS AGO
New jewelry show planned for Midwest

New Horizons Jewelry Show to be held August 19-21

Jewelry manufacturers, retailers and other industry professionals will come together for the launch of a new event this August in Columbus, Ohio. “The New Horizons Jewelry Show is the only show serving the Midwest and will feature more than 250 booths...

Readmore

IAC announces 7th annual Gold Conference - “Creativity, Community & Collaboration”

11 DAYS AGO
IAC announces 7th annual Gold Conference - “Creativity, Community & Collaboration”

April 26 - April 28, 2017 

(NEW YORK) - Initiatives in Art & Culture (IAC) announced the agenda for its Seventh Annual Gold Conference, entitled "Creativity, Community & Collaboration," taking place April 26-28, 2017. Presentation highlights include:

  • "Transforming Retail," a conversation with An...

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Jewelers of America expands IDEX partnership

4 DAYS AGO
Jewelers of America expands IDEX partnership

(NEW YORK) - Jewelers of America (JA), the national trade association for businesses serving the fine jewelry marketplace, has expanded its partnership with IDEX, the International Diamond Exchange.

Readmore

Libby Brown named new Executive Director of Atlanta Jewelry Show

10 DAYS AGO
Libby Brown named new Executive Director of Atlanta Jewelry Show

Carol Young steps down after 20 years  

(ATLANTA) - The Atlanta Jewelry Show is pleased to announce the promotion of Libby Brown from Assistant Executive Director to Executive Director. Libby assumes the role from Carol Young, who held that position for the past 20 years.

Readmore

Gemvision launches new version of Matrix® and Clayoo software

4 DAYS AGO
Gemvision launches new version of Matrix® and Clayoo software

(LAFAYETTE, La.) - Gemvision, part of the Stuller family of companies, is pleased to now announce the release of a new version of their award-winning software, Matrix 9.0 and Clayoo 2.5.

Readmore

GIA demonstrates prototype mounted gem testing device

4 DAYS AGO
GIA demonstrates prototype mounted gem testing device

New accessibly-priced instrument to be available in late 2017

(CARLSBAD, Calif.) - GIA (Gemological Institute of America) has announced it will introduce for sale later this year an easy-to-operate, sophisticated desktop instrument to reliably identify natural diamonds, separating them from all simula...

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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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