BRATTLEBORO -- Nearly 10 years ago, Caitlyn Wilkinson opened Renaissance Fine Jewelry in downtown Brattleboro, which has one of the largest collections of antique jewelry in New England.
Renaissance also offers contemporary rings, pendants, bracelets and other adornments.
Wilkinson, a former vice president of the Bellows Falls Historical Society, is an expert on the authenticity, identity and value of certain gems and pieces of jewelry and revels in exploring the historical context from which unique styles of jewelry emerged.
"I’m completely passionate about antique jewelry," she said. "I’ve specialized in it, and I work with estate jewelers all over the U.S. and Europe." Her expertise includes gemological testing, appraisals, buying and selling, and trading and identifying vintage pieces.
To ensure she completely satisfies the demands of her customers, she employs a master jeweler, a wax model maker, and a laser operator for gold repairs.
Her key to success?
"Be passionate and surround yourself with people who are already successful in the field. We have fun every day at work, we love working together, and we’re all intensely interested in what we’re doing. We want to make our clients happy because that’s what makes us happy."
At age 14, Wilkinson was designing her own jewelry and focused on business management at the University of Vermont, a time when she was also working
Wilkinson went on to develop and manage Von Bargen’s Jewelry in Burlington and received valuable mentoring from the owner, John Von Bargen.
Much of Wilkinson’s work as a jeweler involves the custom design of engagement rings or the reworking of estate jewelry and other precious gems.
"Emotion plays a huge role in the jewelry industry," she said. "People often bring in their family pieces, which are priceless emblems of their personal history. For instance, to make a single, gorgeous ring, I might combine a grandfather’s wedding band, a diamond from an aunt, and the engagement ring sections from a mother’s ring."
In addition to creating jewelry to a customer’s specifications, Renaissance also offers a line of products such as LeStage, which has been creating high quality jewelry products in precious metal since 1863; Allison-Kaufman Company, in business since 1920, one of the oldest and most respected diamond jewelry manufacturers in the United States; and Parle Jewelry Designs.
In addition, Renaissance offers Reactor watches, considered one of the best built sport watches ever conceived; Imperial Cultured Pearls, featuring Akoya pearls, Tahitian pearls, South Sea pearls, freshwater pearls, and Keshi pearls; and Pandora jewelry, which offers a whole collection of earrings, rings, and necklaces that coordinate with the most popular bead designs.
The Renaissance Fine Jewelry Signature Bridal Collection is hand-crafted right in the store. There are several styles available, from intricate Victorian designs to modern fashions, or a design can be started from scratch, creating anything a heart desires.
Renaissance is a member of the Independent Jewelers Organization, a group of more than 800 independent retail jewelers nationwide.
Renaissance is located at 151 Main Street in Brattleboro and is open seven days a week -- Monday through Saturday from 10 a.m. to 5:30 p.m. and Sunday from 11 a.m. to 4 p.m.