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The Spokesman-Review Newspaper
Spokane, Washington  Est. May 19, 1883

Goldsmith can make jewelry dreams come true

Cheryl Burchell is a goldsmith who creates most of the jewelry featured in her store on Northwest Boulevard in Coeur d'Alene. 
 (Kathy Plonka / The Spokesman-Review)

A true craftsman is a dying breed, but Coeur d’Alene is fortunate to have Cheryl Burchell.

The goldsmith owns her own small manufacturing company and showroom, Cheryl Burchell Goldsmiths. A jeweler for more than 29 years, Burchell offers custom-made pieces.

She has her own distinct style and can offer customers anything their hearts desire, plus give them specialized service. Her originals are top-end, elegant designer pieces. When customers really want something truly original that is going to last, that is when they come to her.

The signature piece for the shop is called the Heart of the Awl, or the meaning of Coeur d’Alene – a heart-shaped pendant in white and yellow gold, multicolor gold and silver.

Burchell also did moose necklaces for the EXCELL Foundation’s “No Moose Left Behind” public art project this past summer, and sold them at the auction with the proceeds benefiting the foundation.

“That was fabulous,” she said. “We donated our labor and the EXCELL group was very gracious and nice to have jewelry as part of the promotion. If you couldn’t get a big moose you could at least get a darling pair of earrings or necklace.”

Burchell has also been bringing in designer lines for limited engagements, such as the extraordinary and rare Tahitian Pearls she had in for the Christmas season.

Burchell moved her business to the current location at 1524 Northwest Blvd. last September from a rather tucked away location on Fourth Street. Business is going much better in the Northwest Boulevard location given the high visibility, but her loyal followers have always known where to find this creative, high-energy jeweler.

At her previous location there wasn’t enough room for Burchell to have her shop and retail storefront in the same location. Now, it’s all together, and she and her two assistant goldsmiths, Jerry White and Ed Lee, along with the sales associates Elfy Sala and Janie Lohoefer, have created a place for people to come to make their dreams come true. The shop hums with the three goldsmiths polishing and grinding – doing what they love to do.

“In a little store like that, people don’t take you seriously, they think you’re just a crafty girl that does silver,” Burchell said of the old location. “We needed to expand so people would be able to see more of what we sell and they could buy diamonds, color, and silver, whatever they wish; and every time they walk in the door, we’re here.”

Burchell has been in the business of producing jewelry for 29 years. She was taking a pottery class at her high school in Southern California, and realized that she couldn’t throw a pot “to save her soul.” She signed up for a jewelry class instead.

“It started just as an elective, sort of a fun thing,” Burchell said. “We had at least 32 kids in the class, and it was enamel work, very basic.”

She went to Berlin to live with her sister her senior year, and finished high school there. Upon returning to the United States, she attended college at Southern Utah State and took a rock-cutting class. She moved back to California, continuing with her education at California Polytechnic State University in San Luis Obispo. Her intent was to study journalism, but instead she took more jewelry classes.

“At that time I really just wanted to be a real jeweler, not just an artsy jeweler,” Burchell said.

She defined artsy jewelry as big, fabricated, far-out beautiful stuff, but she wanted to make regular jewelry such as diamond rings – things people would wear.

When she was 19, she talked a San Luis Obispo jewelry store called The Gold Concept into hiring her.

“I kind of told them I knew how to do everything, when I didn’t know how to do anything,” she said.

They trained her, and for a year she polished metal.

“It was the 70s, so everything was bangle bracelets, hoop earrings, tons of hammered rings, so I learned how to polish very well,” Burchell said.

One of her coworkers took her under his wing and she was his apprentice. He had his own creations he worked on in his garage. She learned from watching him, and continued to apprentice in a number of different stores, learning something new in each situation.

Burchell came to Coeur d’Alene in 1987, got a job at Clark’s Jewelry in 1988, followed by Goldwright, whose jeweler is now at Eversons, then the Golden Safari, which she described as an eclectic store with jewelry, art, furs … everything.

“Then the Plaza opened and everything died downtown for about two or three years,” Burchell said. She went to work for John Michaels, followed by the Silver Safari before going home to work out of her house.

“All of these jobs were kind of part time because I was raising kids,” she said. “I always had my shop in my house at the same time.”

In 1998 she was hired to be the goldsmith at J.D. Grays Designer Jewelry in the Plaza. After two and a half years, she became independent, opening her own shop.

She feels that with all the jewelry being sold now in large department stores that it has taken away from the craftsman angle of the work, which, she said, is a heck of a lot of work. She says her work will have a lasting endurance that mass-produced jewelry will not.

“Everybody has to have a starting place, but I think in the United States art jewelry has made a statement, we need to just keep it in the forefront,” Burchell said.

Burchell and her associates take obvious pride in their creations, and feel they are constantly giving away a piece of themselves. But that’s OK. As White put it, “We love to make things that make people smile.”

“When you get done making a piece of jewelry, you’re spent,” Burchell said. “Every time we make something we give a piece of our soul away, and you don’t get it back.”