By Pamela Dozois
It was a glistening evening as James and Ginger Cleland celebrated the 10th anniversary of their store, Designs in Gold, on Nov. 15 as more than 100 well-wishers dropped by throughout the evening. The wine flowed along with hors d’oeuvres catered by K’Syrah.
The Cleland’s hail from St. Louis, where they had a jewelry store for 20 years. They are considered experts in antique jewelry, and they consider themselves preservationists with an extensive knowledge of jewelry history, construction, gemology and repair. Ginger has a deep fondness for early American silver pieces.
“In the 1900s St. Louis was ranked No. 2 in jewelry manufacturing in the world, next only to Paris,” said James. “The city was called the Gateway to the West because of its location. It was in the center of the great trade route between Philadelphia and San Francisco.”
It wasn’t until the Clelands embarked on a Mediterranean cruise that they decided to make a move to the Santa Ynez Valley.
“I’d been selling antique jewelry as a consigner to many stores for more than 20 years, one of which was the Solvang Antique Center,” said Ginger. “In May 2007 Ron and Julie Paladino, former owners of the Solvang Antique Center, hosted a Mediterranean cruise … We became aware that the people on board were spending lots of money at each of the ports of call. At the time we had no idea that people on the West Coast were spending such huge amounts on luxury items and we thought to ourselves, ‘What are we doing in the Midwest? Let’s move to California.’
“It was a struggle at first,” she continued. “The cost of living in California is so high but with a ton of hard work and frugality we survived and flourished. We brought our experience in the jewelry business with us to the valley, and here we are celebrating our 10th anniversary.”
James has a degree in biology and gemology and is also a certified hand engraver. He considers himself an old-school artisan who, just for fun, creates three-dimensional engraved pendants of houses whose doors open to reveal amusing and surprising interiors. His work has been exhibited in the Santa Barbara Museum of Art and in the St. Louis Art Museum, and he has been featured in Art Buzz and Art Jewelry Today.
“I have fun making art sculpture pieces,” he said.
The store has a new laser welding machine that, according to James, facilitates the repair of most jewelry, even if the pieces have sensitive stones, because the area around the damage doesn’t heat up.
Expert jeweler Dave Espino, formerly of Johnson’s Jewel Box, and James work the laser machine. Penny Mull came onboard to help with the store in 2015.
The Clelands have been married for 31 years and have two sons.
Designs In Gold is at 1640 Copenhagen Drive in Solvang. For more information, call 805-693-8700.