“My parents told me to ‘go where your heart is,’” says Stephen Spicer recalling his college years, struggling with a marine biology major he thought would be practical. “I loved working with gems, but thought you couldn’t make a living creating jewelry.”
“I started collecting rocks when I was ten. I was mesmerized by my first purchase, a quartz and pyrite mineral specimen - its beautiful crystalline structure. My parents spoke to a local Chattanooga lapidarist when I was 12 and they accepted me as an apprentice. I learned how to cut cabochons and cast jewelry and gained knowledge of gems. I made my first ring that year. My dad still wears it.”Ultimately Stephen followed his parents’ advice and switched majors, receiving a BFA from Tennessee Technological University (TTU) in Cookeville. ‘Do what you love and success will follow’ has proven wise counsel. This year Stephen won First Place and Best of Show in the first contest he entered, the Tennessee Jewelers Association Design Contest, for his mokume gane earrings and rings.
“I studied with Bob Coogan at TTU, learning the art of mokume gane. He’s one of the top 12 mokume gane artists in the country. Mokume is a centuries old Japanese technique of fusing different metals in distinct layers to form one piece. Each finished piece is slightly different, unique. Then the piece can be used to make anything you can imagine. I enjoy the endless possibilities.”
Stephen owns Spicer & Co., an upscale boutique gallery at 123 W. Broad St. in historic downtown Cookeville (931-525-3935), specializing in “antique, vintage, one-of-a-kind and artist-made jewelry.”
“Couture is what sets me apart from other retailers. I concentrate on designing unique pieces made for a single client. It’s very personal and meaningful, more than the usual custom jewelry. I’ll often go out to dinner with a client, imbibe their environment, personality and appearance to design a piece of jewelry they’ll love.”
Stephen cultivates his clientele, who have multiplied primarily through word of mouth. “For my core clientele, 98%, I become their personal jeweler, catering to their unique needs. To thank them, I host an annual anniversary party honoring the launch of my gallery in 2007.” He sends out 500-1000 invitations to the elegant formal event, complete with catering and fine wines. “It’s my way of honoring my clients, of saying thank you.” For the past two years, the annual party has included a Trunk Show of the Collections of Mia Katrin for Jewel Couture LLC.
Spicer & Co. reflects its clients’ appreciation of the arts. Fueled by the Appalachian Center for Craft (http://tntech.edu/craftcenter), an instrument of the Fine Arts program at TTU. “Cookeville is a growing cultural center for small town Tennessee.” The Center hosts world-renowned artists, both visiting and in residence. Acting as a magnet, it attracts a rich cultural life to the region, including opera and dance. Spicer & Co. thrives in the atmosphere, catering to the regional love of the arts. “I settled here after graduating from TTU,” Stephen explains. “I like the area because of the small town atmosphere.”
What does the future hold? “Currently, I’m designing my own line, developing collections that can be marketed in stores throughout the country,” Stephen reveals. “I’m excited about expanding in this direction.” The path to success is open. When you follow your heart, the possibilities are endless.