Feldman Design Fine Jewelry

Feldman Design Fine Jewelry
By Ann Wlazelek

The quality of the custom-designed gold, silver, platinum, pearl and gem stone jewelry you find at Feldman Design Fine Jewelry is like that you would find at high-end malls and big cities. Yet, Feldman’s is located in a strip mall in the East Penn Plaza in Emmaus.

“It’s where I started and where we’ve stayed,” Karen Feldman said of the family business that has been at 1245 Chestnut Street, across from the Weis Market, for 26 years. Besides, she adds, “Emmaus is a really nice community. You’re not in the city but not so rural either, and the people are great.”

Feldman, who runs the shop with her husband Kurt and three long-time employees, is the artist in the family. A native of Norristown, she graduated from Temple University’s Tyler School of Art in Philadelphia in 1982, decided to use her training as a metal smith and in glass to make a career of jewelry making. She came to the Lehigh Valley at the urging of friends. She worked at the former Lehigh Jewelers for two years before having the opportunity to start her own business.

Kurt Feldman, who was born and raised in Whitehall Township, was a physical education grade school teacher for a few years before joining his wife at the shop. The Feldmans pride themselves in the one-of-a-kind pieces they can offer their customers.

“Our specialty is custom design,” Karen Feldman said. “We take a more artistic approach, working with a lot of colored gem stones combined with beads, pearls, tourmaline…”

She loves when people bring in heirloom pieces, even old rings and strings of pearls, to be taken apart, melted down and refashioned into something more modern and stylish. “It’s a lot of fun to do and we are only limited by our imagination,” Karen Feldman said. “After all, jewelry is meant to be worn and enjoyed, and if we use the customer’s gold and diamonds in a different piece, then sentimental-wise it’s
the same.”

The store also provides the usual services at jewelry stores these days, such as changing watch batteries and giving price estimates on gold and silver pieces an owner might want to sell for cash.  Do not, however, look for costume jewelry. Feldman’s can repair some costume jewelry but does no buy or sell the pieces.

Instead, customers can find photos on the walls and showcases filled with hand-crafted, one-of-a-kind creations, many designed and made by Karen. One set of “before and after” photos show a string of pearls and another necklace the owner wasn’t wearing transformed into a single, two-strand necklace that combined the pearls, beads and some gem stones for a more modern, colorful and sophisticated look the owner was happy to wear.

“We talk to our customers and listen to their lifestyle and what their style might be and make a design for that person,” Karen said. Although she does not have a favorite piece, Karen loves working with pearls, sapphires and tourmaline for their colors.

Feldman’s can immortalize a favorite pet or animal, often working from a photograph to hand carve the image onto a wax model, then transferring it to a silver disc to be worn as a charm or pendant.

While many of the creations found at Feldman’s might cost thousands of dollars in the high-end jewelry stores, the same pieces are more reasonable priced at this local store. “We have a good range,” Karen said of prices. “We’re happy to work within a customer’s budget.”

During the winter holiday season – a jeweler’s busiest time of year – Feldman Fine Design bustled with business for the five-member staff, who worked extended hours for months to meet customer requests.

She believes many other area jewelry stores that have closed recently were caught up in the general retail business slump or closed because the owners wanted to retire. Yet, Feldman’s shows no sign of slowing down or expanding. The shop boasts 3-5 new customers every week, according to Karen.

“We don’t want to spread ourselves too thin,” she said of a reluctance to open a second store or change what has worked for her staff for a quarter century. “It’s good to be busy,” she added. “We’re happy for the business we have and get excited every time we get to do new pieces.”

Karen said she thinks even close friends and long-time customers might be surprised to know that she and her husband enjoy their work as much as they do, even when putting in 12-hour days. Having been in business as long as they have has brought them in touch with three generations of families they’ve gotten to know. Some were once grade school students of Kurt’s.

“Jewelry is about making milestones in people’s lives,” she said, citing graduations, anniversaries, new babies, marathons, any accomplishment. “When you get to meet a couple and help them celebrate their 50th wedding anniversary, that’s really great.”

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