In the front are the diamond earrings, the gold rings, the custom-made pendants, all under glass. In the back is the machinery that creates so much of it.
William Phelps Custom Jeweler has been a mainstay at The Village Shops on Venetian Bay since 1988. John and Jennifer Phelps now run the shop, but its roots go back decades to when John’s father, William, started selling jewelry out of a tent in his yard in New Hampshire. He moved his business to Texas and then Florida, growing it each step of the way. John moved from Texas to join the family business (he actually met his wife Jennifer at his going-away party) and the couple have run it since 1998.
Most of what they create can be done in-house, sometimes in less than a day. The process often starts with a computer program that visualizes the piece if they’re coming up with it from scratch. That design then can be transferred to a 3D printer that produces a near-exact replica. Then, the final piece can be cast and set in their workshop.
They pour and mold custom seaside pieces, such as the popular sand dollars and sea life pendants that they’ve been selling for 30 years. They can redesign old jewelry; they get plenty of customers who come in with a piece that was stylish 30-40 years ago—but not so much today. They can duplicate pieces, such as for a customer who recently lost an earring. They simply made a mold of the existing one to create the pair.
“After all these years, it’s still really rewarding,” John Phelps says. “You start with an idea and finish with a gorgeous piece of jewelry.”