LENOX -- Laurie Donovan recently opened a new jewelry business on Church Street, but it’s located in a space that she’s extremely familiar with.
It used to house R.W. Wise Goldsmiths Inc., which closed last fall when gem dealer Richard Wise decided to retire from the jewelry business.
Donovan was Wise’s partner when the duo moved to the Berkshires to establish that business in 1980 (the business was originally known as L. & R. Wise Goldsmiths). She left in 1997 and established her own jewelry design business that she operated out of her house in Richmond.
But Donovan returned to her Berkshire roots when Wise asked her to take over the business following the completion of his retirement sale, and opened Laurie Donovan Designs in that spot.
She purchased the assets of the business from Wise, his workshop and all his machinery.
"I’ve been involved in the business, I know the customers, and I know the business," Donovan said. "I had maintained a relationship with (Wise) after I was gone, and continued to do orders for him. Besides asking me to take over, he had asked me to come back to work as the main goldsmith this summer."
Donovan creates jewelry from high-karat gold, and her work has been displayed in numerous publications and in galleries throughout the country as far away as New Mexico. She’s also a Spectrum Award winning goldsmith, an international recognition that is bestowed by the American Gem Trade Association. A pin/pendant that she conceived received an award in the 1991 AGTA Spectrum Awards, an international colored gem design competition.
Given those accomplishments, why would she want to take on the hassles of running a retail store?
"I wanted a home for my work," Donovan said. "I feel very passionately about what I do and what I have to offer people.
"All those years trying to work with people; it was hard doing it out of my home," she said.
Laurie Donovan Designs offers contemporary and antique jewelry made from fine colored gemstones that include one-of-a-kind items made from precious metals. She specializes in antique and estate collections, custom designed special orders and wedding sets.
Donovan has been designing jewelry for 35 years. She decided to pursue the practice after taking jewelry making as an elective while attending Southeastern Massachusetts University (now UMass-Dartmouth), where she majored in graphic design.
"I learned to enjoy it very much," she said. "It was very satisfying."
She opened a jewelry store in the New Bedford area before meeting Wise and moving to the Berkshires.
The sole proprietor of her business, Donovan has three employees. Unlike some new business owners, Donovan was not required to make renovations. She said Wise had renovated the store himself in 2002.
"It’s set up beautifully," she said.
Laurie Donovan Designs is open from 10 a.m. to 5 p.m. Tuesday through Friday. For more information, go to www.lauriedonovan.com.
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