The Story of Jewelweed, Fine Handmade Jewelry, in Christiansted, St. Croix

handcrafted jewelry, fine jewelry
The glory days of Jewelweed, Fine Handmade Jewelry, in Christiansted, U.S.Virgin Islands.

In December of 2000, I embarked on a journey of self-discovery. I didn’t know that’s what it was, though. I thought I was opening a jewelry store. With custom designs. Made in the shop.

It wasn’t easy, but it was fun….Jewelweed was truly a dream come true for me. I loved cultivating that space. It became a place where people would come to relax, to distract themselves with good music, good conversation, and objects of beauty. Running a jewelry store was like being the queen of a sacred space. Designing jewelry for a special milestone is like being some sort of divine alchemist. I was among the first to know who was getting engaged, who was having a baby, and what folks were getting for big holidays. I look back at that time and can only thing one thing: IT WAS MAGICAL.

When owning a business, your neighbors can make it into a very rich experience. We had a great location, right in-between a wonderful clothing boutique, From the Gecko(curated by Danna Brosius), and a really unique textiles and gift shop, Textiles With a Story. We were right downstairs from THE BEST RESTAURANT on St. Croix, Bacchus (created by Frank and Katherine Pugliese). King Street was hopping, and we kept the beat.

We (I must include all of my brilliant apprentices in this sentence) designed everything under the sun. We collected sea glass and made beautiful souvenirs. We collected beach stones and created pendants and rings. We made jewelry out of the historical potsherds (locally referred to as “chaney”) that folks would find in their yard after a good tropical rain. We crafted platinum and diamond rings to honor marriages. We played with myriads of sapphires and OH THE BOULDER OPALS! Garry Roberts, from Queensland, Australia, would show up with opals and we would peruse and ponder and finally buy more than we ought to…because who says no to a dramatic fiery opal?

I learned so much from running a business, so much from my friends who were always there to help out, so much from my fantastic employees and apprentices. One of my most fortunate moments was when the guy known for watch repair asked me to apprentice his daughter, Chandar Ramon, because she would rather make jewelry instead of watches. Her commitment and natural talent are two of her greatest attributes. She is still working in the jewelry business in Atlanta. I feel great pride in Jendayi Collingwood, who went to my alma mater, Virginia Commonwealth University, and then moved to the big city to make a place for herself. Bonnie Dale Luria entered this story after moving from New York City to eventually marry one of my good friends, and she brought with her a world of experience and a sense of curiosity and humor that injected Jewelweed with an entirely new and joyful energy. My longest term employee (manager, partner in mischief, etc), the woman who can do absolutely anything she sets her mind to, Louella Johnson, is still my best friend to this day. My mind reels when I think of all the people who were involved in the world of Jewelweed. And I am so deeply grateful for that experience.

In earth years, it only lasted from 2000 through 2008, but in my heart it is eternal. I was young and idealistic,and I was able to create some amazing memories. Through my business, I was able to mentor four aspiring jewelers who then went on to make their own dreams come true. I supported the work of the Rising Stars, a group of local youth with amazing musical talent, who were mentored and promoted by Timothy Graphenreed and J. David Moore. I held space for artists to display their work during Art Thursdays. In fact, it occurred to me that Jewelweed was the first gallery to carry the work of Ted Davis, who then went on to open a beautiful photography gallery of his own in Christiansted, D&D Gallery (currently located in San Miguel de Allende, Mexico). I was fortunate to be able to commission some gorgeous pieces for the store, like the mahogany display cabinet designed and built by one of my apprentices, Allen LaBerteaux. Or the handpainted display cases with images of romance and mythology… Barbara O’Rork Gelardi is still delighting the island with her talent through murals that decorate more homes and business than I would even be able to list here. I still own many of my favorite sea glass ornaments, still being handcrafted by Lea Ann Robson (From the C Jewelry) and sold at local events like Mango Melee and Starving Artist.

Art Thursday
Chan, Tonya, Bonnie and Anita, All smiles after a long night… Art Thursdays still happens one Thursday a month from Nov-May in Christiansted, St. Croix.

Yeah, those were the days… It was a time of a lot of collaboration, cooperation, interdependence. I received support in the form of business advice, advertising advice, bookkeeping advice, and really every other way it was possible to be supported. It was the first time in my life I felt so intimately connected to community. The team that was magnetized to me were the greatest teachers a woman could ever hope for…youth and experience, determination and a lot of hard work, and great heaping helpings of optimism and sharing were the greatest elements that shone through the days and events at Jewelweed. The way Jewelweed evolved mirrored the way I was growing.

I will never forget the night my parents and my husband were able to throw a surprise party for me in the store… I was HUGELY pregnant, and wondered why on earth we were going back to the store when all I wanted was to sit down and eat….and there, inside my dark, locked up for the night magical store, were over two dozen of my dearest friends….”SURPRISE!” The thing about island life is, any chance to celebrate is embraced, and the joy of others is contagious. I marvelled at how many people would show up at Jewelweed late in the evening just to start off my birthday night with SO MUCH LOVE. For a confirmed introvert, to see that many folks in one place who all wanted to talk to me was a bit overwhelming, but THESE PEOPLE were family. These were the people who gave me the courage to be myself in such a public way.

I’m not sure if I ever would have opened a retail jewelry store in any other place, at any other time, but I do know that the time and the place were right for Jewelweed to blossom in St. Croix. The hardest decision I ever made was closing down. I was the mother of a growing toddler, and the time needed to be the mother I longed to be conflicted with the time necessary to be the queen of the Jewelweed domain. Laying down my scepter was a decision made ultimately by love… love for what Jewelweed had offered to me, what I had witnessed and enjoyed in my community, and love for my daughter, who needed me to evolve in a brand new way for her. I don’t regret the decision, but I do miss those days….

….when someone would stop by after a long day just to relax for a spell in the sanctity of the peaceful atmosphere.

….when I could share my skills and experience with someone who has the same love of the tools and materials.

….when someone would come in to celebrate a milestone and share their joy with me.

….when I would feel the deep connection of community and know that I could make a small difference.

Forgive me if I got all sappy there….and forgive me if I didn’t mention you or a very special event that occurred in my store. The twists and turns of memory are very unpredictable, and I was following a glowing thread through time…I am so grateful for everything I experienced during that time. It has led me to carry on with Jewelweed Sprouts, tiny precious fertile bits of Jewelweed that travel with me from place to place that allow me to bloom wherever I am planted.

Were you ever in St. Croix during the Jewelweed era? Did you visit my shop? Do you have a memory to share of Christiansted or King Street or Jewelweed? Did you live in St. Croix and make Jewelweed a part of your daily rounds or your Art Thursday experiences? Please leave me a sentimental comment so I can bask a little longer in the glow of this star…..

 

And HEY! Did you know I still make LOTS of stuff? Come check out my etsy shop: www.etsy.com/shop/anitashultz

OR my facebook page : Jewelweed Sprouts

WARNING: THERE IS NO SEA GLASS CURRENTLY FOR SALE.

To find out what From the Gecko is all about:  http://www.fromthegecko.com/

One thought on “The Story of Jewelweed, Fine Handmade Jewelry, in Christiansted, St. Croix

  1. My Precious Daughter, thank you for sharing your thoughts and joys. Your shop was so special. Your big, bear of a dog was a fixture both in Jewelweed and in downtown Christiansted! I am so proud of your creativity, your perserverance, and your deep love for what you do.

    Love, Mom

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