Walk into the Jewel of Minnetonka, and you’ll find lots of beautiful antique jewelry, as well as costume jewelry, engagement rings and wedding bands. You’ll also find the shop’s owner, Ann Eliason, who specializes in re-designing antique and costume jewelry—she helps clients re-make pieces they’ve inherited or that aren’t quite the right style.
“A lot of people come in and have things they inherited from family members that are out of date or don’t fit them,” Eliason says. “They want something modified into something a little more wearable.”
Eliason does just that (in addition to sourcing antique jewelry from around the country). “A lot of people inherit something and put it in a drawer, and never wear it their whole life,” she says. Eliason does all of the designs herself, and works with other craftspeople to do the actual construction. She wants to help clients keep precious family heirlooms, while having a piece of jewelry they will actually wear and appreciate.
The Jewel of Minnetonka, located on the corner of Minnetonka Boulevard and County Road 101, is full of vintage and antique pieces that Eliason finds at estate sales around the country. She has owned her business since 1987, and was in Hopkins and St. Paul prior to moving to Minnetonka.
In order to find pieces for her store, Eliason travels around the country, shopping at estate sales and working with dealers. “I mainly buy out East, in Manhattan,” Eliason says. “I travel out there and shop on the way back. I also travel to Florida and buy down there. And I buy a lot from the public. People bring stuff in looking for information about the piece or how to sell it at estate sales.”
Many of her clients know her travel schedule and are eager to see her latest finds when she gets back, Eliason says.
“I have a wide-ranging clientele looking for specific stuff,” she explains. “I hunt hard for special pieces around the country. I also sell to other people in the trade around the country and out of the country.”
The Jewel of Minnetonka offers engagement rings and bands, and vintage costume jewelry, but at the end of the day, the antique jewelry is really Eliason’s passion, and the heart of the business. “That’s the stuff I know really well and love,” Eliason says. “I have a lot of neat stuff in my collection.”
She comes by it naturally. Eliason grew up surrounded by antique cars, thanks to her dad, who collected them. She also found herself frequenting antique shops, even as a kid. “I toured all over the country since the time I was born,” she says. “I used to go into antique shops. I started redesigning jewelry in college as a way to make extra money. When I graduated, I thought I’d get a regular job, and here I am, still doing it.”
While Eliason doesn’t have a single favorite piece, the ones that are most special to her are the pieces of jewelry she’s collected over the years as well as those that she redesigns for the recently bereaved. “When someone comes in, and a mom or grandparent has passed away, they are emotional, and [they often] have something that isn’t wearable,” Eliason says. “They are scared to bring it somewhere, because a diamond is falling out or loose.” Another example? “Men whose wives have passed away make their daughter a ring. It is my favorite thing Áto do. It means something to them.”