Making beauty that lasts
Nov 21, 2019 11:26AM
By J. Chambless
Ben Anemone has owned Anemoni Jewelers for 20 years, currently at the Limestone Crossing Shopping Center in Hockessin. (Photo by John Chambless)
Everybody’s happy when they’re buying jewelry. Ben Anemone gets the benefit of that every day.
He just marked 20 years in the jewelry business – the last six of those at his location on Limestone Road in Hockessin. Since he started in 1999, he has begun seeing the children of his first customers coming in. “I end up becoming friends with a lot of my customers,” he said. “And now the kids of my first customers are coming in for engagement rings.”
There’s more art than business in what Anemone does. Working from a customer’s design ideas, he turns whatever they want into jewelry that will last a lifetime, and be passed on to the next generation. But his start in the business certainly didn’t give any hint that he’d still be here, two decades later.
“I got into it accidentally. I used to work for a law firm in Wilmington,” he said. “I bought myself a pinkie ring, and my girlfriend at the time said she thought her cousin ran a jewelry shop in Wilmington. The next day, I went in and I hit it off with the owner. I thought it was really neat that he sized rings while people waited. It reminded me of building model airplanes when I was a kid. Two months later, I got a job as an apprentice at the jewelry store, in 1995. I worked there for six years. I had three jobs at that time. I was hustling.”
Anemone worked in jewelry repair, which gave him a good idea of the quality – or lack of it – in many pieces. “I sized rings, fixed chains, stuff like that,” he said. “I did everything from casting to repair work. One night I sized 52 rings. I got good at reading people. When I was in the repair trade, I repaired a lot of junk. Sears and Boscov’s and Zale’s – all the big box stores. That showed me how not to make stuff. If you get good at repairing junk, you’re really good at repairing something that’s well made.”
Gradually, repair work has disappeared in the region as stores send repairs to other locations. Anemone, a graduate of the Gemological Institute of America, began doing repair work out of his home in 1999, and his store is one of the few remaining Delaware locations that still provides the service.
After his initial stint in Wilmington ended, Anemone took his father’s advice and opened his own store. “I had bought display cases from stores that were going out of business, and I had them in my dad’s garage. My dad was in construction so he could build and install them. So that’s what we did,” he said. “For 14 years, I had a shop at the Shoppes at Louviers,” he said. “I knew nothing about running a business, but I had learned from working at the other jewelry store.” The location of his first store was not ideal, he said, “and I wanted to move somewhere really nice.”
He toured the site of his present shop at Limestone Crossing “when it was still just a hole in the ground” and knew he had found the right spot, on a highway with good visibility and parking. He signed up that day. He’s been in business there for six years.
“I do a lot of design work. I design pretty much all the engagement rings I sell,” he said. “It’s rare that somebody comes in and picks something out of the case. Most people know what they want, but if they don’t, I work with them. It’s a face-to-face business, and I enjoy it.”
Anemone has a friend in Philadelphia who does computer-generated designs, which allows customers to literally turn anything they can dream up into jewelry. Presenting a virtual design of a piece to a customer, and tweaking the details, is vastly easier than constructing a piece that a customer ends up changing. With the cutting-edge technology, every aspect of a piece is rendered and approved before it is cast – a process that takes only about two weeks.
Anemone is the owner of the store, and the main designer, but his staff of two – Darla and Dina – make the business run smoothly. His father comes in once a week to do the bookkeeping. “He also built the cabinets in the shop and put everything together. He’s awesome,” Anemone said.
The store offers a wide range of brands and price points, including LaFonn, Ania Haie, Citizen Watches, Belle e'toile, Shefi Diamonds, Rembrandt Charms and more.
Anemone lives in north Wilmington right now, but is planning to buy a home in Hockessin. “I love this area, I’m moving here,” he said. “My customers are the best, the restaurants here are amazing. I just love this area.”
The store has distinctive touches, such as racing bikes atop the display cabinets. They are Anemone’s bikes. “I’m a master’s level cyclist,” he said. “I used to race a lot. I’ve always ridden my bike through the Hockessin area, and I’ve always liked it.” Just inside the front door is a motorcycle – also his – “because it looks cool, and most guys don’t like being in jewelry stores, so this helps put them at ease,” he said, smiling.
As a dedicated cyclist, Anemone is in the kind of top physical shape that allowed him to climb Mount Kilimanjaro in late October, basically without a lot of preparation. “I just turned 50,” he said. “A couple of weeks ago, I went to Africa and climbed Mount Kilimanjaro. I’m not your average jeweler,” he added, smiling.
“The porters had oxygen bottles with them if you needed it, but we didn’t need it. It’s only 20,000 feet, as compared to Everest, which is 29,000. Kilimanjaro is basically at the death zone. On Everest, you have another 9,000 feet to climb in the death zone. I had hiked in Colorado, but I had never done anything where mountaineering was involved. It’s the best experience I’ve ever had.”
While the store sells vintage and antique jewelry, Anemone enjoys sometimes taking old jewelry that’s out of fashion, and reusing the raw materials in new pieces.
“I like hand-making things,” he said. “One of my favorite things about jewelry is that all the materials are recyclable. Gold and diamonds are recyclable, so you can melt it and make something that you’re going to enjoy.”
For more information, visit www.anemonijewelers.com.
To contact Staff Writer John Chambless, email [email protected].