Anneliese Nefos, owner of Medina Gem Co. in Medina, Ohio, celebrated her store’s 25th anniversary on Dec. 6. The jewelry outpost, located in Towne Commons on Public Square, is yet another milestone for the woman who’s been twice widowed, served as chief of household staff for Winston Churchill from 1959 to 1961, and raised swans and angora goats on a farm in Medina County. (She sold her farm 12 years ago.)
A Switzerland native, Nefos began designing jewelry as a teenager. “I come from a very large family,” she says. “My father was the last of 14 children. We are an old aristocratic family and I was exposed to beautiful jewelry. I saved up my money and I designed pieces that our goldsmith made.”
Exposure notwithstanding, Nefos never dreamed she would be running her own jewelry store one day. Some years after arriving in the United States, she began working part-time for Sterling Jewelers, where her husband was an advertising director. When her husband died, she enrolled in the Gemological Institute of America and began working for Sterling full-time. When the company hit hard times, Nefos was laid off. She went back to school again, enrolling in the University of Akron and earning a bachelor’s degree in the humanities and European literature. Sterling eventually hired her back; she married a man who operated a camera store in Medina. When her second husband died, the landlord offered to let her out of her lease, but she declined. In her late 40s, she founded Medina Gem Co. with $1,140. She started out selling silver jewelry in her own designs because she couldn’t afford gold. Priding herself on always being independent of banks or investors, she owns every piece in her store.
Now, the store remakes family heirlooms and custom-makes jewelry, eschewing mass-produced goods.
“‘It cannot be done’ was never an option,” she says. “I never accepted it. All my life, I never said it cannot be done. And two out of three times I succeeded. How does anyone know something can not be done without trying? Being a woman never stopped me either. In my thinking, whether I was man or women had absolutely has no bearing on what I’m doing. If you like to do it, go for it! I feel very blessed that I do something that I really love to do.”