date published: December 18, 2006
by Marketa Hulpachova
John Lewis has been casting and forging distinctive jewelry in the basement of his brownstone at 97 Newbury St. since the 1970s. Revered as one of Boston’s most established and innovative jewelers, he reveals how he manages to stay on top in today’s shifting retail scene.
Q: Your first shops were based in East Gloucester and
Ogunquit, Maine. What brought you to Newbury Street?
A: I always thought that being on Newbury Street validated the fact that you exist. If we were located elsewhere, people would ask why we weren’t on Newbury Street.
Q: How has Newbury Street changed since you moved in 30 years ago?
A: The rents on the lower end of the street are rising, and independent retailers like Newbury Pizza and Simon’s Menswear are getting pushed out by chains. Owning our own building has helped us—we couldn’t keep things quite so casual if we rented.
Q: What makes your jewelry unique?
A: The trend with today’s large jewelry chains is to make everything precise and machine-cut. As a result, it all looks the same. Owning our own outfit allows us to take interesting aesthetic chances. For example, most of our platinum is forged—every time you beat on it, it comes out different.
Q: What are some of your latest creations?
A: One of our new earring sets is made from forged metal and crude tourmaline from the Coromoto mine in Peru, Maine. We’ve also started making casts of old Roman coins. It’s not very inventive, but it makes a statement.
Q: What trends have you noticed among the Boston market?
A: It’s hard to define local tastes, because people in Boston come from everywhere and their tastes are formed elsewhere. I have noticed that the tourists tend to be far more adventurous in their tastes than the locals.