Rapaport Magazine

Old West Meets New Design

Sherrie and David Rabellino, owners of the Artful Eye Jewelry Design Center, use their creativity and versatility to design fresh new pieces for their clients.

By Nancy Pier Sindt

They are a husband-and-wife jewelry designing team who began their careers in California and continued their journey in Arizona. Their first store was in the northern California wine country town of Santa Rosa. After 15 years, the couple made the move to Prescott, Arizona, which Sherrie describes as a “charming town that reminds everyone of where they grew up.”

Their Prescott store, the Artful Eye, was founded about 15 years ago and sells a variety of fine jewelry and gift items, about 80 percent of which is designed and made by the Rabellinos and their jewelry staff. They remain a fairly small establishment, employing six people, including inlay jeweler
Kevin O’Neill, CAD/CAM designer Holly Stringer and four sales associates.
A year ago, their daughter joined the sales staff.


David and Sherrie each have more than 34 years experience designing, making and selling jewelry. David began his career “tinkering in his garage making jewelry” and was hired by a family friend in his retail store. Now an award-winning jewelry designer, David specializes in handcrafted jewelry known for its originality and incredible detail. Sherrie, a Graduate Gemologist from the Gemological Institute of America (GIA), hand-selects each gemstone used in the company’s jewelry designs and specializes in redesigning old jewelry into something new and beautiful.

Over the years, the pair has built up a loyal following of local customers, who range in age from college students to retirees. The Prescott area is home to a number of retirement communities. The restored “Whiskey Row” shopping area where the store is located also attracts its share of tourists, who visit the area in the May-to-December period to enjoy the warm weather and a taste of the Old West. The city of Prescott was an old Gold Rush town and the store’s décor, with its tin ceilings and wooden flooring, accented with outdoor and mining articles, reflects that period.


The major part of the Artful Eye’s sales comes from custom work and commissions.
Retail prices begin at less-than-$100 for custom-made Prescott- and Arizona-themed beads to $10,000 for commissioned pieces. Materials range from sterling silver, enamel and colored gemstones to diamonds and 10-karat and 14-karat gold. Signature designs include colorful intarsia pendants of precisely cut gemstones that are set, mosaic-like, into patterns.
Stones include Australian opal, black onyx and sugilite accented with sapphires, tanzanite
and diamonds.

Of growing popularity are David’s “Scene Rings,” dimensional designs that capture true-to-life animals and wildlife scenes. Each Scene Ring is hand-carved with strict attention to detail, cast in 14-karat yellow gold, white gold or sterling silver and hand-finished. So popular has this category become that the retailer is considering the creation of a wholesale collection.


Historically, diamonds and diamond jewelry were never a huge part of the business, but
now represent a growing category, says Sherrie. These include fashion rings and earrings as well as bridal rings, which have become a big growth area. Especially in demand are custom-made diamond wedding rings set with stones of G to H color or better, SI to VS in clarity. “Our mission is to grow bridal,” Sherrie says.

Diamonds also appear in the retailer’s custom-made line in a handful of larger diamond rings. These feature important center diamonds, including one stunning ring (shown at right) with a 4-carat cushion-cut yellow diamond in a frame of smaller brilliant white diamonds on a triple diamond band.

In addition to its emphasis on custom work, the personal touch is evident in the store’s outreach and activities. The Rabellinos regularly host in-store special events and recently launched a shopper-friendly website that has already charted some sales. For advertising and promotion, the Artful Eye produces TV ads, performed by the owners themselves, as well as direct-mail pieces and radio spots.

One of the highlights of the year is the Artful Eye’s literal half-off sale, says Sherrie.
This weeklong event is promoted by a red line running the length of the store, with all items to one side priced at half off regular retail. Other in-store activities include a restyling event where customers bring in their old or unwanted jewelry to be sold or styled into something fresh. While jewelry restyling is a regular part of the retailer’s service to its clients, available anytime, Sherrie says when the big annual event is staged, it never fails to attract a
large audience.

The Rabellinos are longtime members of the Independent Jewelers Organization (IJO), which they say is supportive and efficient, providing them and other members with
good vendors, exclusive merchandise and good prices for diamonds, gemstones and finished jewelry. The Artful Eye has repeatedly been cited by IJO for Superlative Design
and Innovation.

In addition to this award, Sherrie says that both her husband, David, and O’Neill from the store’s staff have won many first-place awards through IJO’s Jewelry Design Contest. “It has been such a privilege to win these awards in past years because the voting is done by jewelers who know design and quality. We are obviously super proud of them!”

Article from the Rapaport Magazine - July 2012. To subscribe click here.

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