Four days before the grand opening of New Gild Jewelers in Linden Hills, a team of artists applied gold leaf designs to the walls and prepared vintage jewelry cabinets. To reference candy shops that originally operated in the building at 4250 Upton Ave. S., they ordered handmade Leccare Lollipops. And they hung elaborate frames to recall the building’s former frame shop.
Owners Jenifer Bellefleur and Kelsey Lee-Karol previously worked down the street at Uniquely Yours and decided to create a venue of their own.
“If we were going to work like we owned a jewelry store, then maybe we should,” Bellefleur said.
New Gild carries jewelry by local artists, designs custom pieces, handles repairs and restores antiques.
Lee-Karol uses a laser welder to precisely fix jewelry that has worn thin over time.
“I’m a real nerd about best practices and processes,” he said.
“You could give him the Queen’s crown and he would fix it appropriately,” Bellefleur said.
When designing new jewelry, she said the last thing they want is something that looks like it came from a chain store.
“It’s a sacred object and it needs to be perfect,” she said. “We work from a combination of people’s imagination and our intuition.”
She said one client arrived with a marquise cut diamond, for example. They designed a wax model featuring a collapsed Star of David, and melted the old ring into the new design.
“The secret message of that star is inside the construction of this ring,” Bellefleur said.
They can use a 3D printer to create wax designs, and Lee-Karol hand-carves designs as well. They send the models to partner studios for casting, and set the stones and polish the finished product on the bench in-house.
Bellefleur received a scholarship from the Women’s Jewelry Association to study diamonds in 2015, and earned the Mikimoto scholarship for pearl education in 2016.
“Everything comes out of the ground like a rock, except the pearl. It’s like nature’s ready-to-wear gemstone,” she said.
Bellefleur hasn’t always worked in jewelry, however. She entered the Army at age 17 to help cover her college tuition. She worked as part of the bomb squad, though she never needed to see action.
“We mostly stayed at the firing range and blew stuff up as a form of training. It was really fun,” she said.
Co-owner Lee-Karol studied jewelry at Minneapolis Community and Technical College and worked at jewelers across the metro. He handled high-end pieces in Wayzata and honed his polishing and sizing speeds at Pawn America’s corporate headquarters. He keeps a studio at the Casket Arts building in Northeast.
New Gild launched with the help of WomenVenture, which provided a small business loan in a matter of weeks as well as legal and accounting advice.
“I had experience running a jewelry store, but not starting one,” Bellefleur said. “We did in the last six weeks what most people do in six months.”
The storefront’s previous occupant was Who’s Driving, an app designed to streamline carpooling for kids’ activities.
For more information, visit newgild.com.