/Tag: Jewelry

Chocolate and Pearls at Becky Thatcher Designs

Becky Thatcher Designs Pearls

Open House at Becky Thatcher Designs

Visit Becky Thatcher Designs in downtown Traverse City this Saturday, April 25th from 1-4pm for ‘Chocolate & Pearls,’ an open house event for jewelry lovers. Get a glimpse of new designs featuring pearls in earrings, necklaces and more. Pearls come in all shapes, sizes and many colors. At the open house event you’ll learn about the differences between Cultured, South Sea and Tahitian pearls.

Becky will be in store to share her knowledge of these traditional adornments. Browse her displays of creative handmade jewelry or peruse the loose pearls available for a custom design.

Becky Thatcher Designs | gemstone roundtableFor a truly unique learning experience ask about the upcoming gemstone roundtable event, where dealers present a collection of gems from around the world. Here’s a peek inside last year’s event.

Becky Thatcher Designs is located at 234 E. Front Street in downtown Traverse City, across from the State Theater.

By |2018-12-12T09:19:43+00:00April 24th, 2015|Arts & Culture, Events|0 Comments

Buying Gemstones with Becky Thatcher

Becky Thatcher Designs Glen Arbor

A visit to Glen Arbor isn’t complete without a stop at Becky Thatcher’s studio.

I’ve been a fan of Becky Thatcher Designs since the first day I walked into her Glen Arbor studio and saw her jewelry displayed in cases filled with birch, sand and stones collected from the nearby Lake Michigan shoreline. A pale purple and blue landscape was painted on the walls, and I felt as though I’d never left the beach. From her petoskey stone watches, to freshwater pearls and signature rings that blend gold, silver and gemstones, Becky has a gift for crafting exceptional jewelry. She has a passion for sharing her knowledge as well. I thought it would be fun to share a piece of her world with you.

I asked Becky if I could get a behind-the-scenes look at the world of jewelry design for the Traverse Traveler blog, and Becky had the perfect solution.

Invitation to a Gemstone Roundtable

Earlier this summer I had the privilege of joining a gemstone roundtable hosted by Becky Thatcher and gemstone dealers from Mayer & Watt. Twice each year Becky Thatcher welcomes a handful of guests to join her in experiencing what it’s like to purchase gems directly from dealers who travel the world in search of beautiful stones. This was to be my glimpse behind the scenes of the gem buying process.

Our presenters, Simon & Laurie Watt, of Mayer & Watt, are accomplished gem dealers with whom Becky has worked for many years. Simon has served on the board of the American Gem Trade Association for more than 9 years, and Laurie was one of the first three women in the gem business.

Becky Thatcher Designs | Traverse City store

Becky Thatcher Designs, located on Front Street in downtown Traverse City. Becky also has stores in Glen Arbor, Leland and Harbor Springs.

We met at the Becky Thatcher Designs store in downtown Traverse City. A lovely light dinner and refreshments awaited while guests mingled and met our hosts. We sat at a long narrow table carefully prepared for the process of examining stones for purchase.

For over 30 years Mayer & Watt have developed relationships with a network of cutters and miners in every corner of the gem world, to bring stones to jewelers like Becky. Fair trade and fair labor are of utmost concern to be sure their products do not fund terror. They specialize in rare and unusual stones, many of which we had the chance to see and to hold.

Guests were seated around a long table with Simon at the head. He held a box with dozens of simple paper envelopes inside. We were asked to pass the envelopes around the table one by one. The outside was labeled with the name of the stone, the cut, the carat weight and the price. Since all stones were available for purchase we employed a special process for laying claim to a certain stone.

Becky Thatcher Designs | gemstone roundtable

At the roundtable event we viewed over 150 gemstones which ranged in price from $99 to over $100,000.

As the envelopes passed round the table each guest carefully opened the paper folds to reveal the loose stone(s) inside. Some were single stones and others were cut and sold as a pair. If one of the stones caught our eye and warranted a second look we called “dibs” along with our name and the number on the envelope, then passed it along. Dibs wasn’t a commitment to buy, “just a flirtation,” said Simon. A chance to see the stone again, handle it, and perhaps compare it to another stone that came along.

 

Becky Thatcher Designs | gemstone roundtable

Guests had an opportunity to view each stone up close as they were passed around the table. To see a stone a second time you call ‘dibs’ and they placed the stone on a tray in front of you.

 

Becky Thatcher Designs | gemstone roundable

Stones were packaged in a folded paper envelope, numbered and labeled. Each guest had the opportunity to see the stones unveiled for the first time upon opening the final fold. After viewing we passed them on folded inside just as they had been received.

I saw amazing gems that evening. Stones I’d never heard of. From Spinel, Chrysoberyl, Nephrite and Alexandrite to the familar Opal, Amethyst, Sapphire and Ruby. But the most unusual name and the most amazing story go hand-in-hand. We waited for the Rhodocrosite. Simon came across this award-winning stone 16 years ago. He offered to buy it and was told to “get in line.” Years went by and he never forgot the beauty of that stone. Just weeks before coming to Michigan he received a call about a special stone for sale. Lo and behold it was one in the same. The stunning Rhodocrosite (shown above) was finally his. You’d think this one would be marked “not for sale” but in the gem business that’s not how it works. The stones are always for sale. “It’s like getting to fall in love all over again,” said Simon. And he hopes someone will fall in love with this beauty.

Becky Thatcher Designs | gemstone roundable

Some stones were presented and sold as pairs.

It took hours to make our way through the entire box of stones. We all had fun calling “dibs” to see some of the stones up close. We marveled at the beauty of these treasures and imagined what Becky could do with them in her capable hands.

Becky Thatcher Designs | gemstone roundtable

This amazing gem is a green beryl. What a stunning cut, and surprisingly affordable.

Attending a gemstone roundtable was a fascinating experience. If you’d be interested in seeing this first hand I’d suggest you pay a visit to Becky Thatcher Designs in Glen Arbor, Leland, Harbor Springs or Traverse City and inquire. Becky will be hosting another roundtable yet this year. It could be a great place to start shopping for Christmas!

But wait, there’s more! Have you heard about Becky’s Tuesday Tea & Talk series? Throughout the summer she hosts a formal tea in her private garden behind the Glen Arbor store where Becky’s husband David shares a lecture on gemstones. The topic changes each week. Click here for the Tuesday Tea & Talk schedule and stop by for high tea in the garden and a glimpse into the world I found fascinating.

By |2018-12-12T09:31:14+00:00August 5th, 2014|Arts & Culture, Events, Made in Michigan|0 Comments

10 Places I've Never Been: Korner Gem

10 Places I've Never Been

This summer I’m on a mission to explore uncharted territory in my own backyard, and improve Michigan’s economy one purchase at a time.

 

The strategy is simple. Visit 10 places I’ve never been before…just because, I’ve never been. Next on my list: Korner Gem

Korner Gem sign image

Ever since I received an unusual Fordite necklace from my husband I’ve wanted to stop in and meet the jeweler at Korner Gem. But I’d never found the time or opportunity.

 

Then I began my mission to explore 10 Places I’ve Never Been. And I realized…we don’t find time, we make it.

Brewery Creek entrance imageBrewery Creek sign

 

Korner Gem is located in a small plaza called Brewery Creek, across from the marina on the West side of M-22 as you head towards Suttons Bay. The best way to spot the entrance is to look for the big blue building that looks like a lighthouse (but houses a Subway). With a giant blue diamond sign on the white building it’s easy to find once you know where it is. This is the type of place you’ll be sharing with family and friends once you’ve seen what’s inside.

As soon as I opened the door I was greeted by the owner/designer, Kevin Gauthier. Although we’d never met, the jewelers glasses perched atop his head were a dead giveaway. Before I explained my mission I spent a few minutes absorbing the surroundings.

Korner Gem interior view imageKorner Gem mosaic image

 

Most shoppers would go straight for the jewelry cases to see what treasures await just behind the glass. But I couldn’t help looking at my feet. Just inside the front door, and sprawling across the tile floor was a beautiful stone mosaic river. The cut stone slices shone with a high polish and flowed across the floor in a rainbow of colors. But the story behind it was even more beautiful.

 

Kevin has honed his skills in gemology and rock collecting for decades as of the oldest—albiet youngest—members of the Grand Traverse Rock & Mineral Club. He’s met many friends along the way, some of whom have passed on. The stones in his river were collected and purchased from fellow rock hounds and vendors, only two of whom had the chance to see his creation before passing. The river remains a beautiful tribute to a lifelong journery collecting precious fossils and friends.

 

There are over 600 slabs of stone in Kevin’s river, represending some 70 varieties of rock from across the world. Having designed and laid a tile mosaic in my own home I have a special appreciation for the time, toil and back pain associated with a project like this! It’s worth a trip just to see it.

Korner Gem necklace display

The first impression that struck me in Korner Gem was the atmosphere. Perhaps the stone river carried me away, but there’s something very relaxed and comfortable about this store. I think it’s the rocks. They’re everywhere. From agates and petoskeys, to fossils and geodes exploding with amethyst.

 

Then Kevin said something that explained what I was feeling, "The jewelry profession supports the rock habit."

Korner Gem amethyst geodeKorner Gem display

 

Indeed, Kevin has created a fabulous jewelry collection by focusing on what he loves: rock collecting. Since the age of nine when he floated along the waters of Lake Leelanau on a surfboard wearing a dive mask and scanning the shallows for stone, Kevin has had a rock habit. At fourteen he started is entrepreneurial adventure selling polished petoskey stones at the Holiday Inn gift shop. Years later, he’s turned that childhood pastime into a 12-year-old jewelry business. After two moves, Korner Gem has found a home in Brewery Creek.

Korner Gem charms in hand

 

His work ranges from elegant to whimsical. Display cases throughout the store showcase custom necklaces, pendants, rings and charms. But what strikes me the most is Korner Gem’s use of Michigan beach stones in creative settings that reflect the area. Petoskey stones, Leland blue and even Fordite (or Paint, as he calls it) have been fashioned into creative charms in familiar shapes.

Korner Gem charms image

 

First known for his signature design, the ‘Beachcomber’ —a flip-flop sandal crafted from beach stones and sterling silver—Korner Gem now creates several charm designs with a Michigan theme. From the mitten state (upper and lower peninsulas) to sailboats and lighthouses, shells, frogs and turtles, each design is crafted from sterling silver and local stones, and polished to a beautiful sheen. What a perfect souvenir from a trip Up North.

What’s even more exciting to a rock scavenger like myself…is Kevin’s interest in creating custom designs. I love the idea of bringing in stones I’ve picked up along the shore and having them made into a charm, a ring or even a beaded watch band. And Kevin is more than willing to create a custom shape for his customers. If you’re into birding, how about a chickadee? Or maybe a fish ring for the angler in your life.

Korner Gem stone beadsKorner Gem necklace 

 

Some of the most popular items at Korner Gem are the Michigan stone beads designed to fit today’s charm bracelets like Pandora, Camille and Troll. Imagine creating a memory bracelet from stones you collected along the shore at grandma’s cottage? Or how about a necklace featuring the petoskey that took all afternoon to discover? I’m always on the look-out for unique gifts and this is a great place to find them.

I’ve spent many hours searching for petoskey stones on the shores of Lake Michigan, and I happen to have a pretty good eye. So I brought some of my stones in with me to see what Kevin could do. After looking at the beads I fell in love with his idea for a four-sided bead featuring four different stones. He’ll use my Petoskey, a Leland Blue, a Favosite fossil (which I didn’t know that I had) and Fordite—because I’m a huge fan.

 Korner Gem rock collecting books

Kevin identified my stones in no time at all, which should come as no surprise since he’s written three books on the subject. Rock Picker’s Guides to Lake Michigan, Lake Superior and Lake Huron. What a great cottage coffee table read, or gift for a child who needs something to do at the beach besides chasing seagulls and fighting with their siblings.

 

Korner Gem iron ore samples

Kevin also took the time to share some rock facts with me. I asked about the creation of Leland Blue and Frankfort Green, since these are "misfits" found only in this region. He pulled out samples of iron ore and the glass-like by-product that formed in the smelting process. This "slag" was deposited in Lake Michigan from several processing operations in the late 1800s. The source of the color (blue vs. green) is debatable, but most likely determined by the process used at each location.

Korner Gem Kevin Gauthier imageKorner Gem lapis image

I also learned that rocks smell. Didn’t know that, did you? There’s something called a stink stone that smells like rotten eggs when you break it open. When grinding the stones for shaping and polishing some produce a pleasant smell, like turquoise. Petoskey stones have an oily smell, and the aroma from a ground piece of amber is like pine. The grinding process is a dusty one, but sometimes it too yields an interesting result. Lapis creates blue dust, where most stones are white.

 

Korner Gem my purchase imageKorner Gem book and stones image

Part of the magic at Korner Gem is the knowledge you receive when talking with Kevin and the staff. Their passion for jewelry making, and rock collecting is infectious. I left my stones there for a make-over, and picked up the Lake Michigan Rock Picker’s Guide to share with my kids. Hopefully our next trip to the beach will yield many more colorful memories to treasure.

 

In the back of the book there’s a line I just love, "We don’t own rocks, we only borrow them…so enjoy them while you are their keepers."

 

The next time you’re cruising through your hometown on auto-pilot, thinking about the grocery list and searching for the dry cleaning ticket you thought was stuck to the bottom of your cup holder, put that thought on hold. Look around you, at the OPEN signs on doorways your pass every day. Find one that calls to you and take a mini detour. I’d highly recommend a stop at Korner Gem, in Traverse City.

 

Korner Gem is located just off M-22 in Traverse City, on the West side of town. 13031 S. Fisherman Cove, Traverse City to be exact. For more information reach them by phone at 231.929.9175 or visit them online at www.KornerGem.com. They are not yet on Facebook, but you can find them on the Traverse Traveler iPhone app — our free mobile guide to the Traverse Area. Download on iTunes here.

 

If there’s a place in northern Michigan you’ve been dying to visit, but you’ve never made the time, I’d like to hear about it. Join the conversation on the Traverse Traveler Facebook page, and let me know where you’re going.

 

And stay tuned, as I plan to explore the next stop on my 10 Places I’ve Never Been tour:  Woodland Creek Furniture.

By |2011-07-21T09:40:10+00:00July 21st, 2011|Place's I've Never Been, Traverse City|0 Comments