Beautiful Bling

  • By:  Brandy Centolanza

Meet local crafters who create beautiful bling.

From diamond earrings to pearl necklaces and everything in between, ladies have always loved jewelry. Jewelry accessorizing can be traced back thousands of years to three ancient civilizations—Egypt, India, and China—when early humans used stones, animal skins, feathers, plants, bones, shells and other natural materials to adorn themselves. 

These days, women and men enjoy wearing jewelry either as a way to make a statement, express their style, simply to look pretty, or because that watch or ring holds special meaning to them. While shopping for silver hoops or a gold necklace is fun, ever stop to think how that piece of jewelry is actually made?

Meet three local women who are passionate about creating beautiful bling.

Goldworks: Four Decades of Creating Handmade Jewelry

Theresa Parsons Specializes in Jewelry Repair and Custom Design

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Theresa Parsons is a goldsmith who fabricates works of gold by melting and molding it into a design. Her business, Goldworks, recently celebrated its 40th anniversary in Virginia Beach. Theresa opened her first shop on Holly Road in 1978 and has been in her current location in the Birdneck Shoppes for a decade.

“I started in the business because I wanted to make jewelry for me,” she said. “I think what sets me apart is I don’t just sell jewelry in my store. I am actually making it.”

Theresa first fell in love with jewelry as a young girl while playing in her mother’s and her aunt’s jewelry boxes. She took a course in jewelry making in high school in Richmond and later enrolled in the Bowman Technical School in Lancaster, Pa. Theresa spent two years there learning about jewelry repair and engraving, one of only ten females in the program at the time.

Theresa returned to Virginia in 1977 and began selling handmade jewelry at local art shows before opening Goldworks a year later.

“The timing was perfect, and before I knew what happened, I was busier than I ever could have imagined,” she said. “Gold soared in price in 1980, and big, heavy pieces were very much in style.” 

Theresa continued to show her work at local art shows in Virginia Beach and Norfolk, winning awards for her pieces. She also began to travel across the nation and the globe in search of unusual gems for her clients.

“My personal favorite stone is the diamond,” she said. “But not the ordinary round, brilliant cut stone you see everywhere. I like the antique cuts such as European, old mine cut, rose cuts, briolette and diamond slices. I love a lot of the pieces coming out of India mainly because the work there is still mostly done by hand, and I love seeing pieces with a less mechanized look.”

Goldworks specializes in jewelry repair and custom design. Theresa’s projects run the gamut from engagement rings and wedding bands to pins, pendants, and other pieces. She also created two crowns for the city of Virginia Beach for the King Neptune Festival.

Theresa’s had some unusual requests through the years. On one occasion, a man came in asking for a divorce ring. Another customer asked her to create a gold running shoe for her husband.

“I made it while he was running the Shamrock Marathon so that she could give it to him as he came across the finish line,” Theresa said. “One of my favorite things to do is to restore older pieces or repurpose old pieces to make them wearable today. Every job is different, and most are interesting.” 

A lot has changed in the four decades that Theresa has been in business, but she still enjoys her work. “Running a retail shop is getting more challenging because of sales over the Internet, but there is always a need for things to be repaired and for custom work,” she said.

An Artist Who Makes Jewelry

Anna Lorich Akers Loves the Challenge of Delicate Precision

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Anna Lorich Akers, owner of LORAK Jewelry in Norfolk, is also a jewelry maker who works with gold. “I consider myself an artist who ended up making jewelry,” she said.

Anna holds two art degrees, a bachelor’s from the Cleveland Institute of Art and a master’s degree from the Rhode Island School of Design. Her interest in jewelry making was first piqued while studying European jewel design in graduate school. She later worked for a goldsmith in Manhattan before relocating to Tidewater with her husband in 2008. 

Unable to find work due to the recession, Anna decided to open her own jewelry shop. LORAK Jewelry started as a small studio in 2009 and moved to downtown Norfolk in 2013. The name of her business is a mesh of her maiden and married names.

“I like to make pieces that are comfortable to wear and exciting to make,” she said. “I like to choose gems that have a lot of personality and tell a story. I like diamonds, but I choose stones with imperfections that I find appealing.”

Anna draws inspiration from her love of textiles, the ancient Greco-Roman and Egyptian cultures and artifacts, and the clean lines found in Scandinavian design. The collections at LORAK Jewelry include pieces made from brass, vermeil silver with a heavy gold plate, silver, and gold alloys. She makes custom jewelry including earrings, necklaces, and anniversary, engagement, and wedding rings.

“It all starts with the gem,” she said. “Whether, it is creating a new setting for a client’s repurposed family heirloom diamond or a gemstone I sourced just for them, the ring is designed around specifications for that gem.”

More than 85 percent of the gold used at LORAK Jewelry is recycled. Like Theresa, Anna can fabricate gold pieces through melting and molding or use other methods, depending on the accessory and her patron’s desire. 

“If the design is very ornate, I can create the setting in computer-aided design (CAD),” she said. “This is when the design is rendered on a computer and then printed in 3D. The benefit to this method is extreme accuracy.”

Anna prefers the process of lost wax casting, however. This process involves hand carving a model in wax, which is then cast in the chosen metal. “I adore getting lost in the process of carving wax,” she said. “The delicate precision needed is a challenge that I thrive on.”

Like many other women, balancing a job with her family, which includes her husband and 10-month-old daughter, can be challenging. Her husband provides much-needed support, whether it’s building a counter for her shop, assisting with the LORAK Jewelry website, or just providing a hug or words of encouragement.

“I’m always busy because there are always birthdays, anniversaries, and reasons to celebrate with jewelry,” Anna said. “I love what I do. I am never happier than when I am making something. I love making jewelry because a piece of jewelry is such a personal, sentimental thing in someone’s life, and to make something like that for someone that will stay with them forever is amazing.”

Anna Hubbard Jewelry: Minimalist and Modern

Custom Wedding Rings are a Popular Item

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While it is mostly women who tend to shop for jewelry either for themselves or as a gift, and it is the ladies who tend to wear more jewelry, men do also like to accessorize. Anna Hubbard of Newport News is noticing this trend of both men and women jewelry shoppers through her business Anna Hubbard Jewelry.

“I’ve had requests for men’s rings, cuffs, and chain bracelets,” Anna said. “I think men like my jewelry because it has a clean, contemporary look.”

Anna describes her style as minimalist and modern. She works with gold and silver and gemstones and sells necklaces, bracelets, rings, and earrings as well as a collection of bridal rings and necklaces through her website. The wedding collection also includes pieces for both bridesmaids and groomsmen.

She began her career in jewelry making in the 1990s using beads. Her beaded accessories were sold at art shows as well as gift shops including the Peninsula Fine Arts Museum in Newport News and the Virginia Museum of Fine Arts in Richmond. She later developed an interest in creating her own glass beads and took classes at Cristallo Art & Glass Studio, where she learned the art of lampwork (or torch glass beadmaking). She also took classes in glass blowing. 

Anna soon realized that silver and metals were her true passion, and she started taking classes to learn more about metalsmithing at various art studios throughout Virginia, Tennessee, and Florida. “I’ve always loved creating and experimenting with different techniques,” she said. 

As a child, Anna tagged along with her father to salvage yards throughout Richmond and constantly observed him as he made furniture in his wood workshop in their basement. She always had a fondness for jewelry.

“When I was younger, I remember taking apart and reusing junk jewelry to make something new and unique,” she said. 

Anna first launched her online business, Anna Hubbard Jewelry, in 2016. Today she devotes much of her time to sketching designs or creating custom pieces. She gets inspiration from geometric shapes, then handcrafts unique pieces using Sterling silver and semi-precious gemstones such as peridot, garnet, citrine, and opals as well as touches of 14K gold. 

She loves the process of starting with raw pieces of metal and—through sawing, soldering, setting stones, and polishing—transforming these materials into pieces of jewelry. She especially enjoys creating engagement rings and wedding bands.

“I love the relationships I develop with the bride and groom during the process of making their rings,” she said. 

For two years, Anna owned the Hip + Innovative Studio Boutique in Port Warwick. She is now focusing on her online business and working from her home studio, where she hopes to expand her collection for men this spring.

“Jewelry is a very personal, wearable piece of art,” she said. “It is very rewarding when customers share their love for a jewelry piece.” 

Brandy Centolanza is a freelance writer who covers health, parenting, travel, business, and community. She lives in James City County with her husband, two kids & three cats.

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