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These jewelry styles ring true with many

Local jewelers say custom work that holds on to memories is a popular trend

Dec. 10, 2012

Jewelry has always been a popular part of Christmas giving, even taking a central role in the "12 Days of Christmas" song. We checked in with a local jeweler on what the trends are this season.

Heirloom jewelry is passed down for generations through family members. A grandmother's engagement ring. A father's pocketwatch.

It's popular right now, too.

"Let's get something that we'll never throw away. Let's get something that means something to us and our family," explained Matthew Willert of Steven Paul Designs in Delafield, explaining a tenet of the business.

He told me about some of the different customers who sought out heirloom pieces from him. Some have never had one in the family but wanted to start that tradition with their children. Others wanted their older family jewelry updated, so they trust the shop to break down the piece and turn those gems or diamonds into a new, completely different ring. Some wanted their dear jewels repaired so they could wear it again. Other families are at a different stage in their life where they want to celebrate their children or remember loved ones who have died.

"Family importance has really come back. I don't know if that's just the demographic in this area, but more people are seeking out heirloom pieces," Willert said.


When a piece of debris passes through the earth's atmosphere, it looks like a brief streak of light in the sky. A shooting star. If it survives the heat of the atmosphere and reaches ground, geologists can try to find it. And jewelers can try to make something beautiful out of it.

"It's hard to find and, even in the industry, we'll have competitors ask who our suppliers are," Willert said.

Steven Paul Designs will take entire slabs of real meteorite and turn them into rings, for men and women, or other kinds of things. Because it's taken from the same piece, it's whole and seamless. It also requires a lot of skill, from powerful forging to delicate metalsmithing, to create such a thing.

The crystalline patterns within Gibeon meteorites are known as "Widmanstatten patterns," and no two are the same. They're definitely eye-catching and great conversation pieces.

Bold jewelry

Colorful jewelry, more than a simple diamond or birthstone, is popular, too. Bold, colorful pieces can be worn year-round for everyday occasions or to make a statement.

That's why Steven Paul Designs does not limit itself to selling only diamonds or engagement rings. As a matter of fact, jeweler Steven Paul Kistner has been in the business for around 25 years, most of those years spent working with gems.

Layering different jewelry and mixing metallics is trendy, too. You no longer need to wear only silver with your outfit. Plus, it's not at all unusual for one piece of jewelry to have both yellow gold and white gold, for example.

"Years ago, we used to sell a suite. The ring, the necklace, the earrings - and they all matched. That kind of has gone to the wayside. Now it's mix and match," Willert said.

Finding a jeweler

Steven Paul Designs in Delafield started about five years ago.

At the time, Kistner and Willert were actually rivals. They competed neck-and-neck in custom jewelry competitions. Kistner would win best of show, for example, while Willert would follow right behind him in first place - or vise versa. When they started their business together, about one year later, it was no surprise that they blew everyone else out of the water.

Steven Paul Designs has won every competition it's ever entered. While the partners have been busy in the shop, they hope to enter competitions again next year.

"It's tough to run your own business. You're the designer, the buyer, the creator and the salesman," Willert said.

Indeed, it's a painstaking but worthwhile process. It's a small shop, and they manage to set up one-on-one consultations with their customers. They make sketches and renderings. They procure the precious metals or stones then cast, set and finish each piece in-house.

The two opened their business at a risky time, during the low point in bad economy, but somehow Steven Paul Designs is doing well - growing, in fact. Willert isn't surprised. He said that in a good economy, chain retailers and big-box stores that sell jewelry make money because it's easy to spend a few thousand dollars on an impulse buy. Custom jewelers, like Steven Paul Designs, build their client base off a different kind of customer.

"We sit down, design and create. That's our niche … A lot of customers say 'don't go big' or 'don't be a big-box store,' and we won't. We'll never leave Delafield, and if we ever need a bigger space, you can bet that we'll be a stone's throw away from where we are today," Willert said.

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