48 Leonard St., Belmont, Mass.
When Kirsten Ball moved to the United States from London nearly a decade ago, she began taking local metalsmithing classes with Munya Avigail Upin. Several years later, Ball sought out her former instructor to ask her advice on where to sell her work. “Munya joked that we should just open up our own gallery,” says Ball (pictured, right, with Upin). Less than four months later, in 2012, the pair opened Alchemy 925. “There’s a Yiddish word, bashert, and it means ‘meant to be,’ ” Upin says. “We just felt it was bashert!”
Alchemy 925 is nestled within a building in downtown Belmont that dates back to the 1800s and, rumor has it, once housed a blacksmith shop. Along with its fitting history, the Victorian-style store features a double front and restored oak floorboards. “It has character; people love this building,” Ball says. Ball and Upin, who share very similar tastes, found a midcentury modern credenza to serve as the store’s main focal point and designed custom cabinets that follow a similar clean, minimalist pattern. “We feel like it’s a very inviting space,” Upin says. “It’s not sparse, we have a lot of inventory, but we think it’s very elegant.”
Since the owners are jewelry artists themselves, it’s natural that their store specializes in handmade work. The inventory is primarily composed of jewelry, but also features scarves, candles, ceramics, and handblown glass. Many of Alchemy 925’s artists are local as well. Although Ball says naming a current favorite would be like choosing a favorite child, she cites Jera Lodge, who creates geometric jewelry with painted steel, as someone whose designs she’s proud to stock. “All sorts of people have been buying her work,” Ball says. “I’ve sold pieces to 70-year-old ladies and 17-year-old ladies.” Upin recommends Baiyang Qiu, an emerging artist who has won two MJSA awards in the past two years. “She has had a meteoric rise,” Upin says.
Customers—a diverse group from the surrounding suburbs and Boston proper—appreciate the pair’s background in metalsmithing and that they fully understand how everything is made. “They know we’re genuine, they know we’re passionate,” Ball says. “It’s incredibly important to us.” Like many contemporary jewelers, the Alchemy 925 team has embraced social media, utilizing Instagram and Facebook to connect with clients and solicit ideas about designers and merchandise. “It’s hard to know how many sales come back in through that,” says Ball, “but we get a good response whenever we post something.”
In addition to seeking out more talented jewelry artists, the retailers also hope to grow their wedding business. “We do a lot of wedding ring business and are very open and welcoming to all,” says Upin. They also aim to continue their work with Ethical Metalsmiths, which is dedicated to raising awareness of responsible mining and sustainable economic development. “We have several artists who are members, and we’re trying to educate our customers,” says Ball.
(Photographs by Webb Chappell)