A Lifetime Spent with Gemstones

04 Dec 2019

Gemma Gallery is as one-of-a-kind as its gemstones

By Lesley Berkshire Bradley  »  Photos by Mollie Tobias

Chocolate diamonds, black diamonds, citrines, Tahitian pearls, chrysoprase stones…the words gently spill from Lisa Anderson’s mouth as she points at the gems in the jewelry cases.

The love of gemstones runs deep for Anderson, a local gemologist, fine jewelry designer and owner of Gemma Gallery in the Village of Pinehurst. For 37 years she has worked with gems, and this does not include the countless hours she and her brothers spent as children in her father’s Illinois jewelry store.

So, if you count those childhood hours, Anderson has been surrounded by beautiful jewelry and gems since birth. Not many people, other than royalty, can make that claim.

“My Dad was always so happy, his customers loved him and that inspired us to follow him,” says Anderson.

Three of the four Anderson kids have made jewels their life focus. Lisa with Gemma Gallery, brother Britt is a fine jewelry designer in Maine, and brother Todd now owns their Dad’s eponymous store across from the county courthouse in Effingham, Illinois.

Growing up Anderson particularly loved colored stones. Their natural beauty mesmerized her. So, she became a certified gemologist, traveled throughout the country and worked for jewelers in Los Angeles, Naples and Albuquerque before landing in Moore County 27 years ago.

After living in big cities, Anderson was drawn to the intimacy of the Sandhills, reminding her of hometown of 12,000 people.

“I feel so lucky to be in Pinehurst—it is a slice of heaven,” she says.

Gemma Gallery sits on the main Village of Pinehurst street, not unlike her family store. But the resemblance ends there. Gemma Gallery is an intimate store with only a few jewelry cases, each displaying classically contemporary jewelry that emphasizes the gemstones in each piece.

About half of the jewelry is designed by Anderson, and the other by her brother Britt. The rest she acquires from specialty jewelry designers, mainly U.S.-based, who share the same design aesthetic and, like Anderson, have an unparalleled attention to detail.

“The jewelry that Britt makes is all made by hand from a flat piece of gold and then sculpted by hand. There is no forging,” explains Anderson.

Anderson designs each piece in her mind, then sketches a pattern, then Britt uses a kick press to create each piece and hammers it by hand. This is a time-consuming process to make each piece. A small pendant can take over 15 hours to create.

And the Gemma Gallery jewelry is predominantly gold. Gold is fluid and more malleable, allowing her to be more creative with her designs. The result is jewelry with exceptional polish and finish, symmetrical bezels and a distinct style.

“It is the difference between a Kia and an Alfa Romeo,” explains Anderson.

The gemstones that Gemma Gallery sells vary from diamonds to sapphires to pearls. Anderson prefers natural gemstones. To ensure that the diamonds are sourced ethically she only buys those that have been certified by the American Gem Trade Association. Anderson personally inspects each gemstone before she buys them to ensure that they are top quality gems.

Fine jewelry cycles around like fashion. Pearls are very much in style, and Gemma Gallery is creating very distinctive pieces that take advantage of the breadth of color, shape and size available in pearls. The pearls Anderson carries come in soft peach, lavender, black, green, brown, blue….all taking on the hue of the mother oyster’s interior.

The key to the Gemma Gallery style is that Anderson believes that less is more. A perfect example is a necklace with a single substantial pearl floating freely on a delicate gold chain. Or, gold drop earrings each with a baroque pearl and a small coral stone set below the pearl. Or, a stunning pendant with a curved triangular deep green chrysoprase stone bezel-set in gold with a single diamond at the top.

“I want my customers to wear what they buy from me and to be proud of what they are wearing,” Anderson adds.

Sometimes entering a small fine jewelry store can be a bit intimidating. Anderson’s warm Midwestern demeanor is welcoming, even if someone just needs a repair or an appraisal. Visitors at Gemma Gallery particularly enjoy talking with Anderson who enjoys discussing the various gemstones and her designs.

Another passion of Anderson’s is exploring custom jewelry pieces with customers whether from the ground up or by recreating existing pieces. Taking the gems from a family heirloom ring and restyling them into a contemporary pendant or combining the stones from two rings into one new ring, are both examples of the custom work she has done. She has even taken the World War II dog tags from a client’s father, framed the tags in gold, placed bezel-set diamonds on each side and soldered to a gold chain.

“I love to create special pieces for my customers,” adds Lisa, “I am always thinking of new design ideas.”

Anderson still thrives on what she does, after all she has spent a lifetime surrounded by gemstones and gold. “I get to see all gems that come from the earth and see such beauty, and I get to design with it. I am truly very fortunate,” Anderson says as she puts a Fire Opal necklace back into the case.

Gemma Gallery is located at 48 Chinquapin Road, Pinehurst. For information, call 910-295-3010 or email gemmagallery@gmail.com.

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