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Made in Kakeland-2012

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Education in Design, Metalworking Serves Wichita Jeweler Well

By JOE STUMPE

Eagle correspondent

August 11, 2011

 

With the price of gold at an all-time high — more than $1,700 an ounce this week — Melanie Williamson is noticing the effect on potential customers.

 

"People will come in and you'll price out a piece for them and their eyes bulge," said Williamson, owner of Melanie Rene Jewelry. "They'll say, 'Let me think about that.' "

 

On the other hand, customers bringing in gold as a trade-in are often happy with the result, she said.

 

Williamson, who opened Melanie Rene two years ago, has spent more than 20 years in the jewelry business.

 

She grew up in Wichita and went to the University of Kansas to study graphic design. One bad instructor in that field, and one good elective course in metalworking, caused her to change her degree to the latter.

 

"It's a very little class," she said of the metalworking program.

 

After graduating from KU, Williamson worked for a silversmith in the Kansas City area. Most of her college instruction had been in design, she said.

 

It took "a lot of experience in the real world" before she felt like a skilled jeweler, and she said she's "still learning every day."

 

Her equipment includes hand tools, a rolling mill, a soldering iron and a tree stump that's held her vise since her Kansas City days.

 

"My cat loves the stump," she said. "It's his favorite place to sit."

 

From Kansas City, Williamson moved to Colorado, where she had stores in Breckenridge and Arvada, a suburb of Denver. Then it was on to Las Vegas, where she and her now ex-husband had a jewelry store for five years.

 

Returning to Wichita, Williamson found a space on Central that had been used for years by Jim Emmert of Jim Emmert's Jewelry & Repair.

 

"It was real convenient to come in this space and work on the traffic he had," Williamson said.

 

Williamson also brought in Greg Breeden, who she said is one of three certified master watchmakers in Wichita.

 

Williamson's own line of jewelry, for men and women, is featured in one of the store's display cases.

 

"They're real architectural, more linear pieces," she said, noting the square and zigzag designs of several pieces.

 

She also does repairs and custom designs for customers. People often trade in gold rings or necklaces but keep the stones to be used in a different piece, she said.

 

The price of gold has her carrying more pieces made of sterling silver and titanium, although there's still plenty of gold on hand. She designed one sterling piece, shaped like a perforated heart, for a friend who has a motorcycle business geared toward women.

 

"When I get inspiration, I make something," she said.

 

Williamson does a considerable amount of business through her website.

 

"Since I've been so many places, I have customers everywhere," she said. "I just work with them, send them pictures."

 

Jewelry styles have changed through the years, she said, but the effect the right piece can have on someone is a constant.

 

"I enjoy making the pieces, especially when people pick them up and they like what you do," she said.

 

"And people bring in wedding rings and other pieces — they're really family heirlooms — and being able to fix them is nice."

 

Melanie Rene Jewelry to open in former Emmert’s Jewelry & Repair on East Central

By CARRIE RENGERS

July 7, 2009

 

WICHITA — After 35 years in business, Emmert’s Jewelry & Repair at 4618 E. Central closed, but a new jewelry store is opening in its place.

 

Melanie Williamson hopes to open her Melanie Rene Jewelry by Aug. 1.

 

The custom designer says, “I do real modern, contemporary stuff, but I also will do remounting, repair, appraisal — everything.”

 

Williamson grew up in Wichita, went to the University of Kansas and never returned home until now.

 

Initially, she studied graphic design, but she says one bad teacher caused her to change her focus.

 

Williamson took an elective class that piqued her interest and caused her to shift her major to metalsmithing.

 

Eventually, she opened Gemesis Jewelers in Las Vegas, which she had for five years. She closed the shop three years ago but decided she wants to get back in the business full time.

 

Williamson says she’s “done with Vegas.”

 

“I was there almost 10 years. It’s really hard to get a business going there right now.”

 

Williamson likes that her new space is close to the popular Bella Luna Cafe .

 

Her mother, Barbara Williams  of Prudential Dinning-Beard , helped her find it.

 

And though Williamson says she’s a very different jeweler than Jim Emmert is, she likes that she’ll occupy the East Central space where he was for 15 of his 35 years in business.

 

“It was previously a jewelry store, and everybody knows it’s a jewelry store,” Williamson says. “I’m just kind of relying on the old foot traffic.”

 

 

 

 

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AGTA Spectrum Award Winner

2003