Feature Friday – Teva Dekel
My earliest memories of jewelry were accompanying my stepfather (who dealt mainly in fine estate jewelry) to auctions and estate sales. He would have me dig through the boxes looking for the quality marks and gemstones. I always loved the designs, color combinations, and silhouettes of the jewels that I would come across. I would imagine the time period of the pieces, who had once owned them, the gowns they wore, and the fabrics that may have complemented them.
My parents knew early on that I would find my way into fashion design. My first job was an internship in Florence, Italy, with a high-end designer by the name of Patrizia Fusi. I spent my days creating new pieces for her collections, immersed in textiles, patterns, and sketches. We would spend the morning thumbing through magazines and shopping in elegant boutiques looking for the always-needed inspiration. The sketches rolled into seamstress-made samples, and fabric swatches became jackets and gowns. Looking back, it always feels like those days were the absolute height of my fashion career—I was given so much creative space and so much influence.
A couple years later, I found my way to New York City designing in small family companies, such as Provence D’Amour, heavily involved in textile design and coloration. After three years of freelancing from Avenue to Victoria Secret, the economy (This was 2009.) started to impact the fashion industry intensely. I chose to leave and move to Israel. I took a break, picking up a few freelancing jobs and some incredible experiences. There was a disconnect starting to form. And I was called home to be with my Mother as she fought valiantly against leukemia. When she passed away, I moved back to Italy. I was looking for peace and for a way to reconnect with the place that I passionately fell in love with fashion and started my career.
I returned to the USA a year later with my other half deciding to come home to the Midwest—something I never believed I would do. I wanted to be close to my family. It was at this point that I realized that my career in fashion was coming to a close, and I started to rethink the things I loved. On a recommendation, I went to see a friend of the family, Denise Wurtzel, owner of Williams Diamond Center in Eau Claire, Wisconsin. We talked about the industry as a whole, mentioning all the different aspects and avenues that could be taken. Denise suggested that I pursue some education with GIA®. She set up an appointment for me to meet with her mentors Barbara Hight and Randy Randall of Hight and Randall in Rochester, Minnesota. I brought along some sketches from my fashion portfolio and some new additions of jewelry designs. I look back at those first designs and smile. They are nice, but I really have a much better idea of what makes a well-made piece of jewelry now. I felt that spark of excitement start to reverberate through my veins. They wrote letters of recommendation for me, and I was awarded a long distance scholarship for a Graduate Diamond Diploma. I was thrilled! Before I knew it, I was in the thick of my diamond studies and loving every second.
In 2014, I officially started working at Williams Diamond Center. We are a neighborhood jewelry store built around this philosophy: Treat those who come in our door like family. Make the community we live in much better through acts of charity and outreach. Denise gives the best advice: “Be genuinely interested in your customers. It is essential to always go to great lengths to take care of them and keep your promises.” At once, I felt that what we do at Williams Diamond Center is very personal. This incredible new curve in my career changed the way I viewed my day and the way I looked at design. Soon after I began at Williams, I learned our newly acquired program Countersketch® by Stuller. I dove right in, ecstatic to be back in the design world. Hours would slip away as I played, getting to know the ins and outs of each freeform element. Renderings flashed before me, sparkling and colorful. It was a beautiful merger of fashion and architecture.
I will never forget the first ring I did for a customer, a redesign using customer stones. We chatted; we talked; we laughed; and we imagined. This was the first time I had direct contact and immediate input with anybody in a design setting. It was exciting and empowering. It was at this moment that I realized the power of jewelry or heirloom diamonds and stones. When I designed a nice jacket, a beautiful sweater, or a flowing gown, there was nothing that felt permanent. You may wear a sweater, but a year later, that sweater finds it way to the bottom of a drawer and into a box to give to the local second-hand thrift shop. But with jewelry, if somebody gives a ring or you inherit grandmother’s diamond earrings, there is incredible sentimental feeling. Simply stated jewelry acts as the tangible symbol for powerful emotions. It is working within this context that I find every day to be that much more exciting. To participate so intimately in such serious life events is quite an honor.
Months later, we decided to take Countersketch to the next level by adding our logo in the rings and pendants I designed and by setting our own diamonds and gemstones into our collection that bears my name. We are creating space for a product that is solely ours, designed in-house, and created by our own master goldsmiths in the USA at Stuller. It is beyond amazing that we can offer local shopping and a local flavor for design at such a level. Stuller has made this all possible.
Today, I am grateful to have found myself in an industry that encompasses so much. Jewelry is celebratory and beautiful. I’m able to get up every morning and go to work in a cause that I believe in under the direction of a boss who is imaginative and generous. Every day, I celebrate with others: marking special moments, congratulating somebody, hugging and even crying with others. Still in sad circumstances, jewelry is blissful. Resetting diamonds or gems into something new from a loved one who has passed is all done because of love and because it carries those memories and those stories. That is jewelry. It follows us and creates space for wordless emotions. I love it, and I love all that we do for others by being part of what is an ancient trade.
“Williams Diamond Center has been a leading jewelry store and active member of its community, in Eau Claire, Wisconsin, since 1982.”