The heat of the torch, the smell of pickling solution, the sound of metal on a mandrel and the look of a completed piece are common aspects silversmiths and jewelers in the Denver metro area enjoy about their craft.
Sarah DeAngelo Jewelry: “Southwest, feminine, natural and detailed”
For Englewood business owner and professional jeweler Sarah DeAngelo, these aspects of the silversmithing system are elements she loves, but they come secondary in her personal process.
“I am obsessed with stones and the history of how a stone is formed and how it’s literally the only one in the world like it,” DeAngelo said.
She said taking a unique “peace of the Earth” and “turning it into this beautiful treasured something that makes somebody feel more beautiful” is her favorite part of the craft.
Originally from Los Angeles, DeAngelo began her career in 1997 after a terrible encounter with a rude customer. DeAngelo said she quit her job and the very next day began selling her pieces door-to-door at different businesses.
“I walked out the door and then the next morning I went around with my little trays of jewelry to a bunch of stores and I got two retail stores that first morning and that sent me on a totally different path,” DeAngelo said.
DeAngelo currently has a retail store and studio at 16 E. Girard Ave. in Englewood.
She describes her styles as “Southwest, feminine, natural and detailed.”
“I make mostly sterling silver. They’re usually hand stamped using Navajo stamps that I buy from the Navajo artists themselves and then (I use) unique gemstones that I literally search the world for,” DeAngelo said.
DeAngelo moved into her current location after outgrowing her last studio and while she wasn’t looking for retail, she’s happy she found it and she loves the connections she forms with people.
DeAngelo is an established artisan in the industry and she said she was featured in the Sundance Catalog. She said that was a dream goal for her and her work is sold in about 50 stores across the country.
She said the jewelry-making community is vast in Colorado because in her experience people seem to appreciate and value homemade items.
DeAngelo makes all sorts of pieces including rings, earrings and necklaces but she loves making earrings the most because they’re her favorite type of jewelry to wear.
DeAngelo said making a delicate piece can be very meticulous and detail-oriented.
“It’s harder than it looks…and it’s very exact,” DeAngelo said.
Velvet Moss Magic: “Edgey, kinky and biker babe”
Fellow silversmith and production assistant of DeAngelo’s, Katie White is also enjoying the process of building her own business and finding a balance between her two worlds.
White said her specialties in jewelry making are stone setting, intricate stamping work and making things that “excite people and offend them too.”
Originally from New Jersey, White moved to Colorado about seven years ago and is now based in Boulder. White sells her pieces in Denver at markets and in galleries.
White said she was “stone obsessed” as a teenager. “I was collecting raw stones and I actually started wire wrapping and making mainly pendants and rings out of copper and brass,” White said.
During her senior year in high school, White said she was supporting herself, and while she enjoyed making her pieces, she was also selling them as a means of survival.
For White, the best aspect of jewelry making, which she has been doing for about nine years, is that it’s a three-dimensional art form.
“I really love that metal feels like a resource that I can time and time again manipulate,” White said. “It feels like it can be recycled and repurposed. It feels like there is always a story to any jewelry pieces and anything metal-related.”
When she makes a piece, White said she notices a correlation between her mental state and the process.
The silversmith said she will start her process off with a “ceremony” whether it’s making a cup of coffee, smoking herbs or cannabis or saying a prayer.
“Jewelry making is like putting a little piece of my soul and body energetics into something that someone’s going to wear forever,” White said.
White describes her jewelry as different, unique and bold.
Want more stories like this? Consider a one-time or monthly recurring gift!
“I would say my jewelry has a core theme of being alternative,” White said. “I definitely dabble in everything from being edgy punk to almost like biker babe to boho flowy (and) gem-centered.”
White said people enjoy her jewelry which she sells through Instagram, on her website and in five stores in Denver and two in New Jersey.
White joined DeAngelo’s studio about three months ago and enjoys executing DeAngelo’s style of wire wrapping and knotting.
“What’s cool is I feel like I am honing a lot of my more nitty gritty skills,” White said. “Just making my things look nicer, cleaner, production style and mass quantity.”
In her home studio of organized chaos, however, with her own production assistant and canine companion Dobby, White said she’s a “one-man show.”
“I move all over the place. I change things. I do have a tendency to go in between projects,” White said.
White said she believes she’s “creating magic” in her studio.
“I feel like I am working with my hands and get to view magic by the end. I feel like I am an alchemist. I feel like I am connecting to the Earth,” White said.
Michelene Berkey: “Not for everyone”
Michelene Berkey is a metalsmith who has made jewelry for a large portion of her life and works from her home studio.
Based in Evergreen, Berkey said she designs and makes silver jewelry with high-carat gold accents, gemstones and different kinds of pearls.
Originally from New York, the 73-year-old said she has had an interest in jewelry making since she was child.
“My grandfather would go to the jewelry exchange in New York and bring home things wrapped up in little pieces of tissue paper and rubber bands,” Berkey said. “I remember standing at the table watching him unwrap these things and just being fascinated with jewelry.”
She attended California State of Long Beach, learned her techniques and “never stopped making (jewelry) and designing it.”
When she was in California, Berkey said she worked in various jewelry shops in the late 1970s and then she moved to Colorado. She said she didn’t have any jewelry connections and took a break from the craft profession to own and operate her own wallpaper and paint business.
Berkey said she returned to full time metalsmithing in 2000.
“The jewelry that I make is not traditional jewelry. It’s more what they call art jewelry,” Berkey said. “I know how to make traditional jewelry…That’s what I was trained to do but the jewelry that I am making now is made from little sections of cottonwood twigs and just natural things that I find.”
Berkey said the traditional process consists of a metalsmith making a piece out of wax, plastering it and then placing it in a “burnout” kiln where the wax is melted away.
“What’s left is the void of that particular piece that you’re making and then when you’re ready to actually do the casting. you melt your metal and you pour it in and it fills in all of those places where the wax had been originally,” Berkey said.
She said she wants her pieces to have a lot of texture.
“It’s an interesting process. The casting is the same as manufacturers would use to make anybody’s traditional wedding ring,” Berkey said. “In my case I am actually burning away the twigs because they burn away just the same as a wax.”
Berkey said her work is “not for everyone” but those who love it have responded well to her creations.
“The more people have seen it and understood that it’s silver and it’s made from the twigs they’re really fascinated with that,” Berkey said.
Berkey sells her work in galleries and she attends various shows throughout Colorado and other states.
Denver Jewelry Studio: A place to learn
Berkey is always willing to learn, and said she has attended the Denver Jewelry Studio in Littleton and has taken classes in different techniques.
The studio has various levels of classes taught by many different instructors and managed carefully by studio owner Judy Brown.
“Our studio we call it a maker space. It’s basically for people who have no experience at all in metal smithing or they’re professionals and they’re looking to learn a new technique,” Brown said.
Located at 8392 South Continental Divide Road, Unit 104 in Littleton, Brown said Denver Jewelry Studio is open daily, except on Wednesday, from 9:30 a.m. to 5 p.m.
There are four total employees including Brown and 30 contract instructors who travel from all over the country to hold classes.
Brown said she purchased the studio from the previous owners in 2018 after teaching there.
“I am a retired state auditor for the state of Texas and Colorado and I needed a creative outlet,” Brown said.
Brown loves “the endless learning” of metalsmithing.
Brown said her style of jewelry is more natural, which was what she was interested in exploring.
“For somebody that’s a numbers cruncher I found that I gravitate to the organic because it gave me so much more freedom and a lot of times it mimics nature,” Brown said. “I am always fascinated with not only textures but colors that we find in natural rocks and tree bark.”
Brown said her primary technique to do and teach is cuttlebone casting.
“It’s a very old technique. They use the cuttlefish. I learned that one in 2007 and I just gravitated to it because I love the texture that you find in that,” Brown said.
Brown said she was developing her own style to the technique by making the casting thinner which wasn’t common. This she said is how she also entered the world of teaching.
“I love teaching because I love to see people learning to be creative. I think being creative feeds our souls,” Brown said. “All of us need that in our lives in whatever form we have whether it’s cooking or painting.”
Brown said for those looking to venture into metalsmiting the studio recommends that they take the 30-hour Metalsmithing course and then go from there. She said information on classes can be found on the studio’s website.
She said people will learn the basics including sawing techniques, filing, hammering and setting stones.
“For us teaching the beginning students all of these techniques they don’t have to buy a lot of equipment to get started at home and they can really express their creativity,” Brown said.
Denver Jewelry Studio also offers Open Studio where artisans can pay a monthly fee to utilize its tools.
New Denver resident and jewelry maker Jenny Foulkes said she recently moved to Colorado and found the studio.
“I needed bench space because my studio is not set up in my home and (Brown) has all the tools, all the solder stations and they’re open all day,” Foulkes said. “I like the warm welcoming atmosphere.”
Miro Jewelers: A family owned business
Maira Miro, marketing and supplies of Miro Jewelers, said her family has been in the jewelry-making business for four generations.
“We’re a custom fine jewelry store. We do retail and manufacturing,” Miro said.
Located at 6750 S. Emporia St. in Centennial, Miro said the family opened their retail space 15 years ago.
Miro said both her father and her brother are jewelers and the family owns a factory in Lebanon, which is where the business began.
The family opened their current location in 2017 and Miro said her father attended college in Colorado and wanted to return.
For Miro, the best aspects of what she does are seeing the custom pieces the business creates and seeing its journey over the last several years.
“It’s just the custom part of it and being able to take something that has been in our family for a long time and evolve it over time,” she said.
Miro explained the business has evolved from bench jewelry to manufacturing and retail.
She said they make everything from wedding bands to engagement rings to necklaces to earrings.
“The nice thing about custom is you can work with any style because you’re creating it all,” she said. “It’s not like you’re a brand that you have specific styles that you’re working around.”
While versatile in design, Miro said she would describe the company’s pieces as classic and trendy.
Miro said she is not a jeweler but she works on the back end of the business in purchasing and finance.
“I like that it’s a family business that we’ve grown over the generations and we will have it for future generations too,” she said.