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One-of-a-Kind Jewelry at a Discount

Jewelsmith creates custom jewelry and offers unique pieces

Dan Maxwell holds the pendant made by Jewelsmith. Photo by Stephen Schramm.
Duke Libraries' Dan Maxwell holds his custom pendant made by Jewelsmith. Photo by Stephen Schramm.

When Dan Maxwell came into possession of an ancient Roman coin, he thought the worn bronze, with its portrait of Roman emperor Marcus Aurelius, would look nice as a pendant.

As soon as he had the idea, he knew exactly who could make it a reality.

“I immediately thought about Jewelsmith,” Maxwell said.

Last year, Maxwell, a senior library assistant with Duke University Libraries’ Technical Services unit, had the bronze coin ringed with gold and made into a pendant by artisans at Jewelsmith, a full-service jeweler with four decades of history in Durham.

Maxwell’s custom piece is attached to a sturdy chain and features gold that looks beautifully weathered, matching the primitive feel of the coin, which dates from 148 A.D.

“They did a fantastic job. I was really pleased,” said Maxwell, who first worked with Jewelsmith in 1995, when he and his wife had their custom wedding bands made there. “It was exactly what I wanted.”

By creating well-loved custom jewelry to offering a showroom filled with unique pieces to fit nearly every taste, Jewelsmith has built a loyal following. The store offers Duke employees 10 percent off jewelry, including custom pieces. The discount does not cover repair work, appraisals and diamonds over .25 carat.

Three pieces of jewelry from Jewelsmith.All of Jewelsmith’s inventory can be viewed or purchased online with curbside pickup. The store’s showroom is open by appointment only to four customers at a time.

“Celebrations and events worth commemorating are never canceled,” said manager Kristine Wylie Warsaw. “Jewelry is part of those celebrations, so we want to still be able to bring clients happiness into their lives. Jewelry helps do that.”

Jewelsmith opened in Durham’s Lakewood neighborhood in 1976, eventually moving to Brightleaf Square and finally Erwin Square, where it’s been in its current location since 1999. From the beginning, Jewelsmith established its business on acquiring high-quality gems and unique materials and letting its team of designers and goldsmiths create pieces that can’t be found elsewhere.

The result is a selection of pieces featuring gold, diamonds and delicate elegance, and more avant-garde jewelry with vividly colored stones and textured metals. There’s even one set of jewelry currently on sale that’s made from street stones from the home of Albert Einstein.

Dan Maxwell turned an antique coin into a custom keepsake with the help of Jewelsmith. Photo by Stephen Schramm.“We love traditional jewelry, we love traditional stones that people are familiar with, like diamonds, sapphires, rubies, emeralds,” Warsaw said. “But we also look for the hard-to-find, possibly-never-see-again pieces.”

The other piece to Jewelsmith’s formula is working with customers to turn their visions into one-of-a-kind keepsakes.

Jewelsmith designer Delouis Wilson worked with Dan Maxwell to create his pendant. With three decades of experience at Jewelsmith, Wilson said the collaboration involved in projects such as Maxwell’s – where she took inspiration from ancient artifacts to create the perfect feel for the piece – is what makes Jewelsmith unique.

“That’s the basis of what we do,” Wilson said. “It only works if we’re listening.”

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