ROCKINGHAM — Helm’s Jewelers reopened Thursday with familiar face behind the counter, but with a few unfamiliar elements added to the generation-spanning store.
The new store will put a heavier focus on estate jewelry than in the previous years when it was run by Mayor Steve Morris, who was in tow to help Ellyn Brannick, the new manager and part owner, set up the merchandise in the cases.
“This is the thing that makes us decidedly different — there’s a couple things that make us different — that you can get vintage and antique jewelry where you can’t at somewhere like Kay (Jewelers),” Brannick said.
Brannick will also have the help of Mindy Schwartz, who will be a part-time salesperson.
Though there are some changes being made to the jewelry stock, crowd favorites like Phillip Gavriel will remain, according to Brannick.
She said that one of her best pieces of estate jewelry is a 10-karat gold antique bangle bracelet in an early 1900s Edwardian style. The oldest item of estate jewelry in the store is a hand-carved “cameo” pendant and pin combo from around 1850. The cameos are made out of a variety of materials such as conch shells and coral.
Morris said he carried some new cameos but no estate cameos in his store.
Brannick, who is only the third owner of the store outside of the Helms family since it opened in Rockingham in 1894, has her own purple glass prominently displayed in the store. To make the pieces, Brannick finds rare glass made with manganese, which is put in to act as a color stabilizer but when exposed to gamma rays creates a reaction that turns the glass itself purple. The gamma ray treatment is the same as the way that scientific and medical equipment is sterilized, according to Brannick.
Brannick started a new Facebook page about a week before the opening, which quickly gained 57 likes.
The store had more than a handful of visitors on its first day back. One of those who stopped in was Tery Davis, who was born and raised in Rockingham and is now back teaching at Richmond Community College. Davis has a long history with Helms dating back to when she bought her high school class ring in 1978.
“I was very happy for Steve and Cynthia because it’s a well-deserved retirement but very sad for the customers because this was just the premier jewelry store in the area,” Davis said on the store’s brief hiatus.
She said of Morris’ 42-year period as owner of Helms that he always knew her as a customer and always asked about family.
Davis’ wedding ring was also bought at Helms but she said when the store closed in late February ,she missed three opportunities to get new jewelry: Mother’s Day, her and her husband’s wedding anniversary, and her birthday. Davis said she didn’t let her husband go anywhere else to buy her a gift because she “only trusted Helms.”
“I didn’t even look at jewelry anywhere else,” Davis said.
Reach Gavin Stone at 910-817-2674.