At Jewels That Dance in downtown Asheville, jewelry designer Paula Dawkins is getting started on nine orders for custom work that she has recently received.

While she uses a state-of-the-art computer to create intricate designs for rings, pendants, bracelets and other pieces of fine jewelry, Dawkins begins the process by drawing sketches on a pad.

If the jewelry is a one-of-a-kind piece specially created for someone, Dawkins also spends time talking with the customer to get a clear idea of what he or she has in mind.

“Paula’s ability to do design work is amazing,” said her business partner Carol Schniedewind.

She has a strong intuitive sense of what a customer is envisioning and can create a piece of jewelry accordingly, Schniedewind said.

Dawkins and Schniedewind have been working together since the early 1980s when they met in Asheville and decided to go into business together.

Before that time, Dawkins had been making custom designed jewelry and showing her work at craft fairs.

While continuing to create and sell her work, Dawkins also honed her natural skills as a jewelry designer and goldsmith by training at the Penland School of Crafts and the Holland School for Jewelers. And she acquired certification in grading diamonds from the Gemological Institute of America.

After deciding to move to Asheville, Dawkins opened a jewelry design shop on Lexington Avenue in 1983. With help from Schniedewind who oversees managing and marketing, the enterprise flourished.

A few years later, Schniedewind and Dawkins moved to the present location on Haywood Street. The shop also changed its name from Jewelry Design to Jewels That Dance. Schniedewind said that after she used the phrase “jewels that dance” in an ad on the playbill for a dance performance, a marketing person suggested the name change as a positive alternative.

The biggest reward of working at Jewels That Dance is the interaction with customers and the relationships established with them, Schniedewind said.

“For me, it’s the conversations with people coming in the door,” she said with a smile.

Working in the jewelry business is joyful, Schniedewind added. People who buy custom designed jewelry are doing so for happy occasions.

A good portion of the orders received at the shop are for engagement and wedding rings.

And after years in the business, the shop is getting second-generation customers, Schniewind said.

“A bride recently came in to get her ring because her mom had gotten her ring here,” she said.

The shop has selections of gems from which to choose along with a variety of precious metals including white and yellow gold and silver. Dawkins and other jewelry designers at the shop also can work with gems and metals in an heirloom piece to create an updated or new one.

While there are trends in jewelry preferences such as using mixed metals, Schniedewind said that the focus is on classic design at the shop.

Along with creating custom-made jewelry for customers, Dawkins also makes limited edition designs that are on display in the showroom and available for purchase at the shop. In one display case is a collection of jewelry with a regional mountain theme, including rings with finely detailed images of mountains and sun.

“Sometimes people come in on a whim and find something that catches their fancy,” Schniedewind said.

The shop also offers jewelry repair services for customers.

Jewels That Dance is at 63 Haywood St. For more information, visit the website at or call 828-254-5088.


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