As a young girl Kaye Irwin had design on her mind. She carried around a notebook filled with plans for shopping centers, even whole towns.
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“I was always creating something,” said Irwin, 59.
Her creativity took a turn in her 20s when she made beaded necklaces for her family. Forget those grand buildings in her notebook; Irwin had found her passion on a smaller scale — making jewelry. She began her new career by opening a small jewelry store in Turlock. “It was a nice little place,” Irwin said.
Today Irwin owns Goldsmith Gallery in Placerville, where she and her staff share their love of jewelry with all who walk in the door.
“This is not like a box store or a chain store,” Irwin said. “We listen to people’s needs and create it for them.”
Irwin’s approach is to let the design “show off the stone.” One of her favorite pieces is a tourmaline pendant set in gold and diamonds. This is an original Irwin design.
Irwin, a graduate gemologist, said she hasn’t lost her desire to design and still sketches new pieces. However, master jeweler Owen Dennis does the majority of design work at Goldsmith Gallery. He also does repairs, and is specially trained to repair Swiss watches.
Irwin also offers appraisal services at her gallery. Many customers have come in with inherited jewelry and sought her advice. Irwin said she enjoys sorting through the pieces with her customers because “you never know what you’re going to find.”
The same is true when customers come in to sell their jewelry; Goldsmith Gallery does buy gold and offers consignment services (a very popular display, Irwin said.). The goal, according to Irwin, is to help people “maximize the gold and stones that they already have.”
That gold might include a few teeth … and Goldsmith Gallery will gladly take them.
Irwin, who lives in Folsom, has owned Goldsmith Gallery for about 18 months. She’s not affiliated with the gallery’s previous owner and only purchased the fixtures and name. All the jewelry in the gallery was selected by Irwin. She selects pieces for their design — her own and community preferences.
“It can’t be all about what I like,” she said. “It’s not easy picking for everybody … and we want to know what people want. We invite the community to share comments and suggestions.”
Lately, Irwin said she’s seen a renewed interest in yellow gold. Two-tone gold has been a great seller the past few years but yellow is making its comeback. Irwin buys her jewelry at trade shows and designers often pitch their pieces to the gallery.
This year Irwin’s also unveiling a “Leap Ring” to celebrate the perfectly acceptable tradition of a woman proposing to a man on a Leap Year. Of course, Goldsmith Gallery also has a beautiful selection of traditional engagement rings, settings and stones.
And while design takes top billing, affordability is also a priority.
“Our prices are very reasonable,” Irwin said. “You get a good value.”
Irwin points out that her gallery also works with silver, something that not all galleries offer. She’s also interested in creating partnerships with local jewelry designers and showcasing their work.
The highlight of Irwin’s job, and that of store manager Ada Brehmer, is helping customers select that perfect piece of jewelry. The two worked together at the jewelry counter at a home consignment center in Folsom.
“When men come in here at Christmas time they look like a deer in the headlights,” joked Brehmer. “It’s so fun to help them pick something out. They walk out of here with a big smile.”
There’s no pressure and no push salespeople at Goldsmith Gallery, Irwin added. “It’s what I’ve always wanted … a relaxing environment where people come to shop.”
Irwin also gives back to the community, donating jewelry for local fundraisers (animal rescue organizations are near and dear to her heart). She’s a member of the El Dorado County Chamber of Commerce.
To learn more about Irwin and Goldsmith Gallery stop by the gallery at 3951 Missouri Flat Road, Suite 150, in Placerville, call 530-621-1188 or visit the gallery’s new, interactive Website at goldsmith-gallery.com.