“Every piece of jewelry has a story. Ask the story first,” suggests David Phelps as I join his family for wine and delicious catered Chinese cuisine provided by neighboring Neo China at Precision Platinum, their beautiful new store in Durham NC, now also featuring the Collections of Jewel Couture LLC.
David and Gaybeth Phelps and son John begin to unravel their own family’s saga, leafing through photos from the family album. “We didn’t choose jewelry. Jewelry chose us,” Gaybeth recounts. “David’s father started forging silver and selling his craft from a tent in
“David and I met as students at
“David’s parents followed us to
“At first, it was sink or swim,” Dave reveals. “I’ve been a bench jeweler now for over 30 years. I love the challenge of figuring out how to create a piece, new ways to do something, always pushing the envelope. We will make a ring from scratch, have cast pieces from bench sweeps and do old-fashioned hand engraving. People in the trade send us custom work to do that no one else can do.
“I love working with platinum because you can do anything with it. It’s exceptionally malleable. I’m a perfectionist in platinum. And so the logo Precision Platinum was born. It was always our dream to open our own store.” In 2004 the dream became a reality and Precision Platinum was born.
It’s a family affair all around. The cozy environment is enhanced by Gaybeth’s interior decorating – designing display cases, painting and decorating walls – drawing on her fiber arts skills from spinning to weaving. She’s a soon-to-be Graduate Gemologist taking her final distance education course at GIA,
Son John, after graduating from college with a Bachelor of Science in Business Administration, joined the family business where he works at the bench along with three additional bench jewelers. The family pet, Miniature Pomeranian Chalcedony, weighing in at three pounds, completes the family environment. People stop by just to visit “Callie.”
“There’s a certain dynamic that works because we’re a family,” David explains. “We try to make everyone feel like family. We get included in people’s lives. Jewelry is very personal to a lot of people. People will tell their jeweler things they wouldn’t tell a therapist.
“One couple actually got engaged at our store. The groom wanted to make the ‘grand gesture’. We suggested he focus on the highest quality diamond. He could always upgrade the setting for a future anniversary. He proposed outside our front door and brought her in. It was a complete surprise. Flawless. All the wedding party have subsequently bought their rings here.
“We invite people to come in and watch their piece being fabricated. Everything is transparent.” The ongoing process is magnified on large projection screens. “People come in to watch their piece being cast. They get very involved in the process. We say, the more involved, the better!”
Philanthropic by nature, the Phelps support especially Duke Children’s Hospital, Duke Hospice and the Guardian ad Litem program, representing children. “Everything we do has a philanthropic nature. If it’s not helping someone, we’re not doing it.”
It’s a rich, rewarding life. “If you start working in jewelry, there’s no end to learning,” David reflects. “You find challenges here you can’t find anywhere else. So many facets – bench work, sales. There’s always room for growth, endless opportunity.”
The Phelps family’s story – positive lives enhancing so many others – perfectly reflects their family values. Spinning their family story, they reflect their spin on life.
Mia Katrin is an award-winning, internationally celebrated couture jewelry designer specializing in high-end necklaces with precious gems in 18-22 karat gold as well as the new affordably priced Jewel Casual Collection. Her Collections, which have been worn by A-List