Hartley Jewelers: Artisan Crafters Creating And Repairing Precious Family Heirlooms
“You wouldn’t believe how many people walk in the door and say, ‘Oh my gosh, they’re working back there!’” says Linda Hartley, co-owner and manager of Hartley Jewelers.
People are often surprised to see the Hartley Jewelers team of goldsmiths and designers peering down over their workspaces behind the store’s gleaming gallery of gems and one-of-a-kind pieces. It’s certainly not something you find in other local jewelry stores.
Hartley’s talented staff members, led by owner Rick Hartley, have all made their careers in the jewelry business. Their high-level expertise and professionalism is evident from the smallest repair to the most intricate heirloom restoration project.
“We don’t have anyone working for us that’s ever worked outside of jewelry,” says Linda. “They’re all extremely talented. We’ve looked for them and we’ve waited for them.” Some employees have been with Hartley Jewelers for 20 years.
Rick and his brother began the business in 1967, when Rick was still in high school. “They were rock hounds, and started making jewelry with silver and semi-precious stones,” explains Linda, who is married to Rick. Over the years, the brothers did work for local jewelers, but then people started coming to them directly. “They worked out of a converted garage studio, in the house we live in, for close to 20 years,” Linda says with a laugh. “Then I got involved, finished my business degree, and we decided we needed to expand beyond the garage.”
Hartley Jewelers has remained at its same fantastic location – on the corner of Harrison and Cooper Point Road in West Olympia – for 25 years.
Linda likes to call the store a shop, since so much work is done there. “But it’s really more of a gallery than anything. We carry select pieces from major brands, but we also carry a number of really artistic and one-of-a-kind pieces. We like to feature new artists.” Linda often discovers new artists at jewelry shows across the nation.
“My preference has always been to go to the new designers, who are just beginning,” Linda says of the distinctive pieces she brings to Hartley Jewelers. “It’s been fun over the years because I’ve purchased pieces from designers who are very accomplished and well known now.”
That’s not to say Hartley Jewelers doesn’t still create unique designs in-house.
“As soon as we create a new design, it sells right away. It’s fun, and we do keep trying to put in a few new pieces,” she says of original Hartley designs. In fact, the shop recently became the official jeweler of the Miss Washington Pageant and is currently designing and creating the official ring to be worn by Miss Washington.
Hartley Jewelers may have the most extensive supply of loose stones in the Northwest. “We can pull out all our sapphires, for example, and sit down and start exploring ideas,” Linda says of the custom design process. “One advantage with custom work is you can fit the piece to the individual, make it work for their life. That’s who we are, really; custom work is our forte.”
Linda doesn’t hesitate when asked what her favorite thing is about working at Hartley Jewelers. “It’s the life stories and the people,” she says, smiling. “There’s a really poignant new story every week.”
Debbie Burk’s husband, Larry, designed their wedding rings and had Hartleys create them nearly 21 years ago.
“It was designed to have his birthstone and mine, a ruby and an emerald,” Debbie explains.
When the couple married, they each already had three children – Larry had three daughters and Debbie had three sons. “So each of our rings had our birthstone, and then three diamonds representing our three children.”
Larry recently passed away, and Debbie turned to Hartley Jewelers to have his ring melted down and made into three crosses for his daughters. “I took the diamonds that represented the three girls off of his ring and put one in the center of each cross,” Debbie says of the delicate necklaces.
“They turned out really beautiful,” Debbie says of the crosses, which she gave to the girls on a recent trip to Seaside, Oregon, where the family scattered Larry’s ashes. “Right before we headed to the beach, I handed them their crosses. I told them it was a gift from their dad and I.”
Debbie says Hartleys is the only jeweler she’ll use. “I trust them to do a good job for me. I’ve trusted them to take care of me, all these years.”
Wedding jewelry, of course, is also a big part of Hartley Jewelers selection.
“We specialize in mature tastes, a time in life when an additional or new ring may replace the original,” Linda jokes. “That’s when people know what they want and they want to do something really unique.”
Linda has also seen a trend of new brides coming in with pieces from their mothers and grandmothers. These clients work with Hartleys to come up with new wedding pieces created from their heirlooms.
“We get such wonderful and heart-felt thank you notes,” says Linda.
For clients looking to walk in, select a ring, and leave with it the same day, a wide array of gorgeous options are available. And budgets don’t have to be huge for a bride-to-be to leave happy.
“We have a conversation with them about what they may want to do in the future,” says Linda. “We can talk about the possibility of later adding a solitaire or stacking rings.” Jewelry doesn’t have to be unchanging; they can build on it and grow with it over the years.
“It’s a very intimate thing when you’re helping a client with treasures they’ve had in their family or are going to wear for the rest of their lives,” says Linda. “The stories, the history – it’s wonderful.”