By Jane Bartnett
Artists are naturally drawn to the shimmering blue-green translucent water that caresses the soft, white quartz sands of Siesta Key. Jeweler Monica Galfre, owner of the Silver City Sarasota jewelry store on Midnight Pass, is one of those artists.
When Galfre and her husband George Rysko, a Swiss-trained watch specialist, decided to make a cross-country move to Sarasota, Florida, from Alberta, in Western Canada, the couple found Siesta Key to be the perfect location for their new jewelry store. Having owned and operated their own high-end jewelry store in Alberta for 25 years, Siesta Key became a place where they could put down roots and create their own jewelry brand that celebrates the beauty of Siesta Key.
October 2020 marks Silver City Sarasota’s 15th anniversary. A landmark year for any small business, Galfre says that they are continuing to grow and thrive. “Many local residents and visitors come to us for our custom-made pieces,” she said. Local residents and visitors from around the world are also drawn to the shop’s Siesta Key Watercolor Gemstone™ collection that celebrates the beautiful colors that Siesta Key is known for.
Available exclusively at Silver City Sarasota, Galfre’s contemporary Siesta Key Watercolor Gemstone designs showcase the collection’s blue-green quartz stones set in silver or gold as rings, pendants, bracelets and earrings. Created by infusing quartz with tropical colors that represent the waters of the Key, the stones are polished and faceted before being set. Sterling silver pieces begin at $89. Gold jewelry items begin at $145. From Tampa to Naples, Silver City Sarasota also serves as the sole dealer and watchmaker of Philip Stein Swiss movement watches that retail from $200 – $2,000. Premium watch and jewelry repair are also available on location.
Looking back on her successful career in the jewelry business that includes the last 15 years on Siesta Key, Galfre recalled that she first discovered her love for gems, gold, silver and jewelry design as a teenager. “My first job was during the holiday season at Henri Birks & Son, in Alberta,” she said. The store, now known as Maison Birks is a well-known, fine jewelry store similar to Tiffany’s. “Ever since my first job at Birks, I’ve never stopped working in jewelry,” she said with a smile.
Siesta Key’s tropical beauty became her inspiration. All the jewelry found in the Silver City Sarasota store, including Galfre’s own designs, pay tribute to the natural beauty of the beach and the island creatures who make their home here. The Siesta Key Sand Jewelry Collection by Holly Daniels Christensen is also popular. Featured on the television show “Entertainment Tonight,” each handmade decorative pendant, bracelet, pair of earrings, as well as other accessories are made in sterling silver or silver plate and contain authentic Siesta Key sand. Prices begin at $45.
Preserving Siesta Key’s natural habitat is something that Galfre and Rysko are passionate about. Following the 2018 red tide outbreak, they decided to create a line of jewelry to increase awareness of the region’s fragile ecosystem and support the work of Mote Marine Laboratory and Red Tide Research. Working closely with marketing director Debra Lewis and store manager, Suzanne Muschinisky, Galfre created a circular keychain that depicts a dolphin, sea turtle and manatee in the water. The animals are surrounded by the words “Tide Away, Save Our Beaches.”
In the past two years, Galfre and her team trademarked the “Tide Away, Save Our Beaches” name. They also created 10 additional items for the line that include a bracelet, earrings, a pendant, and charms for Pandora, Trollbeads, Chamilla and Brighton Bracelets. A full 25% of every “Tide Away” sale benefits Mote Marine. Key chains sell for $20. A sterling silver necklace retailing for $69 is the most expensive item. To date, Silver City Sarasota has donated more than $5,000 from the sale of these products to Mote Marine. Looking ahead, Galfre hopes to expand the line. “I’d like to sell the products wholesale, and make more people aware of Mote’s work,” she told the Siesta Sand.
Another area of the business that Galfre hopes to increase is her custom design work. “So many people inherit jewelry that they don’t like or know what to do with. Breathing new life into sentimental pieces and creating something new that can be enjoyed for many years is something that I really enjoy,” she said.
During the month of October, in celebration of Silver City Sarasota’s 15th anniversary, all regularly priced merchandise, with the exception of the “Tide Away, Save our Beaches”™ brand, will be 15% off, and shipping within the US will be waived. Silver City Sarasota is located at 6539 Midnight Pass Road, and open Monday – Saturday, 10 a.m. to 5 p.m. www.silvercitysarasota.com. Telephone: 941-349-5030.