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Creator of 'Heart Like an Awl'
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For Cheryl Burchell, it’s always been about the jewelry. Learning her trade the old-fashioned way through the simple desire to create, and years of tapping into other talents to learn her trade along the way. She’s now lending her highly respected, down-to-earth goldsmith genius to up-and-coming jewelers in scenic Coeur d’Alene, Idaho.
Making it real started at a young age for Cheryl. “It’s always been jewelry for me,” she says. “I just went right to apprenticeships, watching other bench jewelers work. When I started out in San Luis Obispo, California, I took an art jewelry class but felt like it just wasn't real jewelry. So I got a job in a jewelry store and started apprenticing with whoever was on the bench. I learned from standing by, being ready to get my hands on it at any moment. Now I’ve been involved in the jewelry business for 40 years!”
While independent retail jewelry stores often spring from decades of family connections, it’s not the case with Cheryl. “It was all me, out of nowhere. It's different to get started if you don't have family in the business as well. But I am very tenacious, like a little bulldog. Without family in the business you don’t get the same connections with reps and associates… when you have family you have an extra set of perks. It’s always the first generation that works the hardest, it seems.”
Cheryl calls herself a classic, love-it-all kind of person – and she’s situated herself in the ideal place for her craft, in the Gem State of Idaho, surrounded by rustic, rocky beauty. She saw the future in agates and semi-precious stones and says young people in recent years have proved her right. “They’re buying strange stones with black diamonds around them, or slices of color with diamonds around them. And I just love it all!”
Although Cheryl Burchell Goldsmiths’ primary business is focused custom pieces and repair; the store is stocked full of beautiful finished designs. “We have bridal lines and a lot of silver, pearls – all the usual suspects,” Cheryl says. She employs three bench jewelers – a team she directs with an eye on the old, handwork style.
“A lot of my customers come in with their own ideas,” Cheryl says. “In today’s market everyone wants to be designer and have an original piece! I do have a special little knack for listening. I can usually hear the gal or the fella; they’d been to places where they didn't get the ring they really wanted so they come here. We use their own stones or gold. I will point them in a direction if they need to go there and open their mind up to something different.”
While Cheryl’s shop utilizes wax carving and CAD/CAM, it’s hand-carving that she loves most. Her favorite piece is still to come. “I haven’t made it yet,” she laughs. “I have a safe full of fabulous Spectrum Award-type gems that I have yet to make.”
“We do a lot of hand-forged jewelry. Idaho is the Gem State, and we have beautiful agates, star garnet, sapphires, opals – and there are just tons of rock all around us. Montana, Washington, Oregon – we’re surrounded by rock lands. It’s a fun thing about our area.”
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