Netherlands native Harold Van Beek had a lifelong
connection to Iowa City, Iowa, so when the opportunity to own and operate a
jewelry store came calling, he didn’t hesitate.
The master goldsmith studied at the Netherlands
jewelry school Vakschool Schoonhoven, and opened his first jewelry store
in his homeland when he was 21 years old. But he also had to a
personal connection to Iowa, which began in World War II, when the Iowa
City-based American Youth Red Cross helped refugees from the Netherlands
province Zeeland that were affected by a flood.
Van Beek designing
Van Beek visited Iowa when he was 17 years old—a family tradition—and continued to visit. In 2005,
following increasing crime in the Netherlands, Van Beek and wife Astrid
relocated to the United States.
Astrid says that, while attending the University
of Iowa for a Masters degree in Art Education, a friend called asking if the
Van Beeks would be interested in taking ownership of the store her husband
owned before his death.
They said yes, and Jewelry By Harold opened April
2. But their new store is different from the typical jeweler. “We’re a
combination of a jewelry store and a coffee shop,” he says. “It’s artsy and
it’s basically an extension of our living room.”
The store has booth seating for customers to
engage with the store’s staff and drink Dutch coffee. Harold does CAD-CAM
design, casting, and setting in-house. “People can sit on a barstool and get a
cup of coffee and watch my work bench and see me work on the pieces,” he says.
“Having a store is what we do best,” Astrid says.
“We are showing people that we don’t have to have a jewelry store that’s all
glass cases where you lean over and point to the jewelry.”
The store features Pandora and Dutch jewelry line
Pure as well as Harold’s original designs.
Harold and Sally Mason, guests of honor and ribbon cutters (Photos courtesy of Jewelry By Harold)
Sally Mason, the University of Iowa’s president,
was on hand for the ribbon cutting. “In 1997, the city of Iowa City named a day
after my mom because of the relationship we have with the city and 14 years
later the president of the university did the ribbon cutting for my store,”
Harold says. “It was like a dream come true.
The couple knows opening a store in an unsure
economy is a challenge, but they are confident in future success. “Our goal is
to get people in the store and show them we have a reasonable price range,” she
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