RED BANK – For Joel and Jennifer McFadden, owners of The art of jewelry at Red Bank, jewelry is not a mass production enterprise.
Thirteen years ago, one of their first customers walked into their store looking for an anniversary ring.
“This lovely lady walks into our store and wants a ring with diamonds all around it,” said Joel McFadden. “She had been to several other jewelry stores around Red Bank without success. She explained that she was a size 4½ and wanted to know how much it would cost to equip for a group. In the industry, the standard size is 6½.
The McFaddens jumped at the chance.
“As she sat in front of me, I gave her several options and prices without hesitation,” McFadden said. “She asked me how I could do this when everyone had refused her. I told her I would make this gem just for her and the only other question she had was what size diamonds to use because everything else was resolved. “
She has been a client ever since.
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Joel McFadden is a third generation jeweler. Both his grandfather and mother were jewelers, and he fondly remembers being with their business in Charleston, South Carolina, since he was six or seven.
“I used to go to my grandfather’s store when I was little, sweep the floor and run errands,” said McFadden. “When I was 12, my grandfather gave me a check for $ 80 and told me that I was an official employee for him and that I would now be at work at 2:30 pm everyday.”
As a young man, McFadden took a few minor classes in jewelry making and the ins and outs of the business, but believes much of his training came from his job.
“In the ’70s and’ 80s when we started, there wasn’t a lot of education on this type of work,” he said. “Most college programs aren’t very effective even now, and you can only really learn to be a jeweler over a long period of time. There are so many different skills to do what we do that it takes a half-life to figure them all out. “
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Joel and Jennifer, who grew up in Beachwood, Ocean County, met in North Carolina. “We met in a medieval hobby group called ‘The Society of Creative Anachronism’,” Jennifer said. “It’s like a social club that recreates medieval history which includes costumes, martial arts, artwork, poetry, music and everything medieval.”
Joel was a high ranking martial artist and Jennifer needed a trainer. Their paths crossed and they fell in love, got engaged and moved to Greenfield, Massachusetts, where Joel received a job offer in the jewelry industry. After two years and some disagreements with his boss, he opened his own jewelry store in Greenfield in 2003.
“He was the jeweler, but he needed help and I was able and willing, so I started answering the phones and greeting customers,” Jennifer said. “I quit my job at a department store at the time to pursue this business full time. We went from the two of us to 11 employees and 4,000 square feet.”
Three years later, the McFaddens chose to move to Red Bank to be closer to Jennifer’s aging parents, launching the store they now have. “We basically came back to be close to family and also because Red Bank was a working-class area with a lot of promise,” Jennifer said.
One of the key things the McFaddens learned early on was that being a jeweler meant more than being a designer.
“You have a physical item that you made for someone who has an emotional connection to them, whether it is an engagement ring or a wedding ring or an anniversary ring or something that signifies a touching memory,” Jennifer said. . “It’s really rewarding. “
Joel has also been teaching the art of jewelry making for years.
“We’re not in this business for the money,” he said. “About 15 years ago a friend of mine started running a traveling jewelry design seminar. I explained to him that I was not very impressed with the teachers he was. I gave him a list of things that I thought was wrong and he offered me a teaching position, which I humbly accepted.
“That’s how I started my teaching career and the more I did, the more I loved it,” he continued. “I’ve been a jeweler for so long, since 1972, and there are so many tools in the trade that I can teach other aspiring jewelers. There aren’t a lot of people doing what I’ve had for so long. I feel that I have nothing but expertise to offer my students and I am happy to pass this knowledge on to them.
The management of the company is a collaboration with the customers.
“When a client comes in, he sits down with Jennifer and talks to her about what he’s looking for,” Joel said. “From that point on, Jennifer will do all the foreplay, confirming if this is a repair or something… that needs to be done from scratch.
“Customers can watch something we’ve done in the past or they bring in photos of what they’re looking for more specifically,” Joel said. “Then the clients initiate a consultation and we’ll go through our own computer design program and build this gem down to the smallest detail. Everything evolves from there.
The McFaddens hope to grow the business and Joel wants to teach more.
“I want to be more involved in education,” he said. “Over the next five years, I want to have an online learning program. If someone wants to become a jeweler but cannot make it to a specific location, we can provide this service online. I already have a YouTube channel And that’s just the beginning.”
The art of jewelry
Site: 64 White Street, Red Bank
Hours: 10 a.m. to 6 p.m. Monday to Thursday; 10 a.m. to 8 p.m. on Fridays and Saturdays.