WRITTEN BY MEGIN POTTER | PHOTOS PROVIDED
In deJonghe Original Jewelry’s new Graphite Collection, a dash of bright 22K gold flakes burst from several styles of black oxidized sterling silver bracelets. Reminiscent of a comet’s sparkling ice and dust trail illuminated by the sun, this new work is a reminder that with deJonghe Jewelry, we are in the presence of something special and rare.
Dennis deJonghe remembers when events have happened over the years at deJonghe Original Jewelry by using his kids age as a gage. He can do so because deJonghe’s is a multigenerational family treasure.
While studying to become an art teacher, Dennis deJonghe fell in love with the process of creating jewelry and the sculptural possibilities it affords. On the road since 1975 attending craft shows, in 1981, Dennis and his wife, Peggy, signed the lease for a shop on Caroline Street while they were pregnant with daughter, Sarah. In 1984, their daughter, Rebekah, was born. In 1988, when their son, Evan, was born, they moved into a space on Broadway that had formerly been Raymond’s Shoe Store.
“We renovated the whole space. It was in dire straights and hadn’t been touched in many years,” recalls Dennis.
After defining the office and retail areas, they transformed the back, which had been boarded up, into the jewelry making studio. By removing a drop ceiling that was added in the 1950s, a lovely 15ft tin ceiling was revealed. A new heating and security system were also installed.
In 2014, the building was again refreshed. By removing the front alcove, Dennis, former chair of the Saratoga Preservation Foundation’s Major Properties Committee, respected the building’s historic visual appeal while gaining lost retail space. A transom window now lets in more natural light and their signature copper foot plate at the entryway was reset.
Beginning in the late 1980s, deJonghe’s “Spirit of Life” collection kicked-off a Saratoga tradition that came to include many of the city’s most iconic structures. Their “Equestrian Jewelry Collection” has also been a memorable hit, but what will live on in the memories of many who walk through their doors is how their jewelry has graced the most special moments of their lives with beauty.
Several times there have even been proposals right at the store. Once, a young man serving in the Navy came in to make a payment on an engagement ring with his soon-to-be bride. A bystander witnessed them together and approached Dennis after they left, saying they reminded him of when he was young and in love and he wanted to anonymously pay off their remaining balance. It was well over a thousand dollars and when the couple came in next, they were awestruck by the stranger’s generosity.
“He is just a very giving, gracious person,” remembers Dennis fondly.
A Journey of Many Hands
When perusing the finished pieces in deJonghe’s gallery, you can hear long-time crafters; including Sheila Cote, who has been with them for more than 20 years, and John DeRosier, their diamond setter for the last seven years, at work, but there are many people, and many stages of the jewelry-making process, you can’t see.
“It’s a very collaborative effort, everyone joins in, completing different aspects of the process along the way,” said Dennis.
The story of the gemstones begins with the miners. Customers can be secure in what they’re buying from deJonghe’s because they deal only with ethically conscious miners for the gems in their award-winning designs.
“We’re not actually going to the mine but it feels like we are,” said Evan, who, like his dad, is certified by the Gemological Institute of America.
A gemstone purchased from the gem show is sketched into a design, then drawn with CAD or hand carved into wax, before a mold is made and cast into the respective metal. Then it goes through the stone setting, polishing, quality control, inventory, photography, and marketing processes. In addition to new jewelry, deJonghe’s also redesigns heirloom jewelry.
“There’s so many facets,” said Sarah. “It runs the gamut here.”
A Bright Future
For the past two years, Dennis and Peggy have continued to transition into retirement with the return of Rebekah and Sarah back to the shop. The deJonghe children making jewelry for their customers’ children creates a beautiful circle within the community that the deJonghes consider to be like family.
“It’s not just about the jewelry, it’s about the family,” said Evan.
“It’s so important because this is a treasure that lives on forever,” added Sarah.
The deJonghe Original Jewelry 40th anniversary ribbon cutting will be November 30th, 10 a.m., at 470 Broadway, in Saratoga Springs. The year-long celebration featured monthly giveaways to Instagram followers (including a stunning four point .40ct diamond pendant). A limited quantity of earrings inspired by the design will be available in yellow, white, and rose gold during the holiday season.
For more information, find deJonghe Original Jewelry on Facebook and at www.djoriginals.com
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