Fifth-generation jeweler carves out antique niche
Allie DeSeelhorst resisted the siren’s call of the jewelry trade as long as she could.
In college, the 27-year-old Carlsbad resident earned dual degrees in fashion and merchandising and started her career as a clothing stylist. But three years ago, she realized the jewelry business was not only in her blood but her heart as well. In November 2015, she opened the Copper Canary jewelry boutique in Carlsbad, following a family tradition that stretches back more than 130 years.
DeSeelhorst is a fifth-generation jeweler. The antique pieces she loves best are those that could very well have been sold at her great-great grandfather’s store in Chicago in 1885.
The Copper Canary boutique is known for its collection of antique jewelry dating back to the 1700s, as well as unique items refashioned in a contemporary way from vintage jewelry like pins, watch chains and brooches.
“I love how every piece has a story,” she said of the antique jewels. “So many of these pieces are in pristine shape and have been handed down in the family for generations. I love the craftsmanship, too. The makers had such vision, and no two pieces are alike.”
DeSeelhorst’s great-great grandpa ran a successful jewelry trade until he was wiped out in the Great Depression. His son also ran a Chicago store from 1925-1970 and employed his own son as a traveling salesman. But the son retired when his job became too dangerous (gun-toting robbers frequently tried to steal his merchandise). Fourth in line was DeSeelhorst’s father, who entered the trade on his own 40 years ago. DeSeelhorst is the first female jeweler in the family.
As a young girl, DeSeelhorst said she enjoyed playing in her dad’s store. As a teen, she’d come in after soccer practices to polish the silver. She especially enjoyed finding vintage pieces to wear to school dances.
“She was the jewelry queen of Carlsbad High,” said Perry Coles, her father. “She always loved vintage jewelry. Other kids would be wearing costume jewelry and she’d be wearing the real thing.”
But DeSeelhorst said she didn’t want to follow the family path. Her dream was to open her own clothing and accessories boutique.
“I resisted for years,” she said. “I’m very opinionated and saw myself opening a retail store. But I always had a passion for diamonds and stones. I really love doing this now.”
The north side of The Copper Canary store is dedicated to vintage jewelry and the south side features contemporary jewelry. There are also a few accessory items for sale, like alligator-skin wallets from Florida and ostrich handbags from South Africa. Jewelry prices start around $50 and go up into the thousands of dollars.
The store’s specialty is pristine-quality antique jewelry from the eras known as Georgian (1700s-1830s); Victorian (1830s-1907); Art Nouveau (1890s-1905); Edwardian (1900-1918); Arts & Crafts (1905-1917; Art Deco (1918-late 1940s) and Retro (1930s-late 1940s). To find these items, DeSeelhorst travels three times a year to Europe and around the U.S. visiting dealers, trade shows and estate sales.
The Copper Canary
Hours: 10:30 a.m. to 5 p.m. Mondays-Saturdays
Location: 2832 State St., Carlsbad
The store offers antique jewelry restoration services as well as a service to reimagine out-of-date pieces into something more modern and wearable.
From 1900 to 1930, women wore many layers of clothing they held together with lingerie pins and bar pins. DeSeelhorst can redesign these into earrings, necklaces, wrist cuffs and rings. There’s also a necklace in the store made from a mourning piece, which were large pins or lockets that Victorian-era women wore to commemorate the loss of a loved one.
She promotes many of her reimagined pieces on an Etsy page that’s become so popular it has drawn shoppers to the store from as far as San Luis Obispo.
The Copper Canary doesn’t carry any name-brand modern jewelery lines. DeSeelhorst said she prefers to work one-on-one with jewelry makers to find unique products. She also will work with clients to design custom jewelry and bridal ring sets.
DeSeelhorst is married but she and her husband don’t have any children yet. When they do, she hopes that her son or daughter will be the next to carry on the family tradition.
“I see myself as a working mom with a baby in the store,” she said. “I’d love to see a sixth generation in the business.”
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