Gilbert Thomes: A gem of a store
June 9, 2008 · Updated 7:00 PM
Gemologist/designer duo set up shop in The Winslow.
Tucked through the archway of The Winslow is a new jewelry store in a space the owners liken to the tiny shops that dot Paris.
Id like to be the corner jewelry store, like the corner baker or shoemaker you go to, co-owner Drew Gilbert Thomes said.
Drew and his wife, longtime islander Alice Gilbert Thomes, melded their complementary trades Alice as gemologist and Drew as jewelry designer to form the store, which offers custom and antique jewelry, as well as cleaning and repair services.
For both, jewelry is very personal.
The couple met while working for independent jeweler Daniel Louis in Nordstrom. Later, Alice worked for over 20 years as gemologist at Carrolls in Seattle, analyzing, grading and appraising gemstones. Drew worked downtown in the Joshua Green building, where 90 percent of jewelry in Seattle is made.
As a designer, Drew takes drawings and turns them into a wax model, from which a plaster mold is created to receive the liquid metal.
After 30 years, he is adept at carving what the customer is looking for whether it is an architect who brings him a design in three views accurate to the tenth of a millimeter, or a person who brings in a stone and says I just want something to go around this.
His favorite pieces are rings, he says, probably because they are the most personal piece of jewelry, he said.
(People) wear them to mark special occasions.
To Alice, jewelry is a personal treasure. Its so involved with sentiment and family a personal symbol for a person.
Over the years, she has collected her share of such treasures many crafted by her husband. She recalls one February when the couple had returned from a Hawaiian vacation of tropical paradise to the gray, overcast Northwest. Knowing that his wife still longed for the flower leis sold everywhere on Hawaii, Drew crafted a dozen different flower blooms wrought in gold into a necklace and bracelet.
A similar motif in detailed miniature graces Alices wedding band, also created by her husband.
With the new store, the Gilbert Thomes have total control over the products they sell, and can share their talents directly with customers.
Their touch is evident in the glassy, sunlit, antique jewelry cases with wooden crossbars restored by the Thomes, and the nuanced, pastel colors of the paintings on the wall by friend Greg Krei.
As a wax carver working for others, Drew had rarely seen finished jewelry or talked with customers. Now, over half the pieces currently on display are of Drews design, and he can enjoy what both he and Alice agree is the fun part of owning their own store: getting to see the customers face light up.
Ive spent the last 20 years making people happy. A sale is no good if a person is not happy, Alice said. If you make something and it doesnt work out, you look at it and remember that.
While many people believe custom-crafted pieces are expensive, Alice says the store carries something for everyone.
We try to work within the budget (of the customer), she said. We have jewelry in all price ranges for all walks of life.
Often, the first major jewelry purchase people make is an engagement or wedding ring.
Customer relationships start when people are young, and maybe with not much money, but we want them to come back again and again, she said.
There are lots of reasons people need jewelry, Drew said. And were interested in people liking us. Its our life. Were going to be here forever.
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Gilbert Thomes Jewelry is open 10 a.m. to 6 p.m. Mon.-Sat., 12-5 p.m. Sun. Information: 855-9552 or firstname.lastname@example.org.