Long associated with power, spirit, and protection, the intimate aesthetic of jewelry speaks a language all its own. Lovers of ornamentation will find much to admire in downtown Santa Cruz. Whether your taste runs to refined bling, organic materials, jewelry as artwork, or eco-conscious creations, there’s a gem here for everyone. Here’s where to start your shiny object tour:
Artisans Gallery: A stroll through Artisans Gallery will remind you that jewelry designers are true artists. This 40-year landmark carries thoughtful, eclectic, hand-crafted, American-made jewelry at every price point, along with glass, ceramics, and more. One thing is certain: whatever you buy, you’re not likely to see it on anyone else. A popular hotspot for husbands sent by their wives to hunt down the perfect anniversary gift. 1368 Pacific Ave., Santa Cruz.
Byzantine Jewelry: For Old World, European flair, Byzantine offers the kind of Victorian, art deco, and art nouveau designs that are passed down from generation to generation, as well as custom pieces that reflect owner/jeweler Mark Ocal’s long family history of jewelry-making in Istanbul, Turkey. 1530 Pacific Ave., Santa Cruz.
Dell Williams Jewelers: This iconic store celebrates its 90th birthday this year, and has provided more celebratory pieces, fine watches, and classic design than anyone in town. They’ve also grown with the times, offering contemporary motifs and stunning art glass. Look for handcrafted collections by the likes of famed local glassware company Annieglass. 1320 Pacific Ave., Santa Cruz.
PF Atelier: PF Atelier opened on North Pacific Avenue last year to rave reviews. Part workshop and gallery for jewelry designer and artist Paola Favatà, part revolving monthly exhibition space for other artists, it’s a playful cross section of tradition and innovation. It’s in the process of moving to a bigger space; look for updates at pfatelier.com.
Stephan’s Fine Jewelry: If you need a family heirloom repaired, or some help with a wedding ring, look no further than Stephan’s. Owner and Master Jeweler Greg DeVecchio takes pride in custom work and customer service, and felt no greater joy (or pressure) than when he designed his own daughter’s wedding ring. Check out his specialty—opals—which are transformed into exquisite jewelry and named after local landmarks. The 17-Mile Drive pendant is pretty spectacular. 201 Walnut Ave., Santa Cruz.
Super Silver: The moniker says it all. This super store of sterling features designs from around the world, with many exquisite and exotic semi-precious stones organized by color as well as design. Locations downtown as well as in Capitola.
Variance: Sometimes, the rough beauty of raw materials shines brightest. For a glimpse at what nature can do, go to Variance. You’ll see earth, wind, and fire in these minimalist pieces, their stones cut to showcase unique characteristics. Here gold and silver are often mixed, meant to start dark and brighten over time. Look for unusual minerals and metals that emphasize depth over sparkle. 1537 Pacific Ave., #101, Santa Cruz.
There are also a number of clothing and accessory boutiques that offer exceptional jewelry:
Pacific Trading Company: PTC offers beautiful, fashion-forward clothing, but it also has a robust jewelry selection, where local artists shine alongside national names, and environmentally friendly materials and ethical business practices matter as much as great designs. 1224 Pacific Ave., Santa Cruz.
Stripe: Always on the hipster edge, Stripe works with emerging jewelry designers, showcasing fierce bronze and brass-hammered and cast pieces alongside simple and pretty shapes on a smaller scale. 107 Walnut Ave., Santa Cruz.
Wallflower Boutique: At Wallflower, owner Terra O’Neill designs one-of-a-kind earrings and necklaces while showcasing other artists and designers. Look for original jewelry, clothing, and accessories. Since the boutique is also a work space, you can see designers sewing, making jewelry and creating art. 103 Locust St., Santa Cruz.