If you’re lucky, you might get a glimpse of real makers’ magic when you walk past the windows of J Albrecht Designs on the west end of the Pearl Street Mall.
This high-end shop, at 951 Pearl St., isn’t your ordinary, modern jewelry store with sales associates standing behind cases of trendy rings and necklaces.
This is so Boulder, in all the best ways.
It’s family run by Colorado natives. Jay Albrecht himself is a fourth-generation Coloradan, whose family dates back to the Civil War era around here.
“We’re Colorado, through and through,” he says.
When you walk into the shop, you’ll talk to the actual jewelry designers and makers. While you can buy some pieces out of the case, the most popular (and growing) niche is custom jewelry. That’s J Albrecht’s specialty.
Got an idea or want help developing a completely original jewelry concept? Staff here can bring it to life (and if needed, make it structurally sound so it will last).
And perhaps most surprising to visitors, most jewelry is made right there, in house. If the curtains are open (sometimes they’re pulled shut for lighting reasons when setting stones) and you’re walking past, you can watch the jewelry being made.
While Albrecht calls his business’s unique style “elegant-casual” and “in tune with the modern Colorado lifestyle,” something about this jewelry store harks back to older times — when makers passed down their crafts to their children, and you could walk into your neighborhood jeweler with a wish and get it made just for you.
In fact, both of those ring true for Albrecht. He grew up in a family jewelry business and learned the trade that way. He, his wife Laina (who went to the University of Colorado in Boulder) and his brother-in-law, Kenny Reaves, started the business together.
Reaves is a goldsmith, along with Riley Huber and Chrissie Paris.
The Albrecht family opened the shop 15 years ago in east Boulder County and move to the Pearl Street Mall more than a decade ago. They’ve watched the mall evolve and grow, and with it, J Albrecht Designs has grown, too.
“We have solidified our reputation in town,” Albrecht says.
As the west end of the mall has filled out, he says he attracts increasingly more travelers, in addition to the long-time local customers.
Driven by internet shopping trends, he says his customers are typically looking for something unique and different. For that, J Albrecht’s characteristic design channels Boulder’s style, Albrecht says: heirloom-quality, beautiful, fine jewelry that’s wearable every day.
“We engineer them to be worn like that,” Albrecht says. “We understand where we live and what we’re doing, as far as the activities, and we tailor our designs to that.”
Don’t expect stones sitting high off the finger and delicate pieces you can’t wear with an active lifestyle.
“It’s the same materials — beautiful diamonds and gold — but more wearable, more in tune with the modern lifestyle,” he says. “We do that purposefully. That’s our lifestyle, as well. We’re not designing tiaras. This is jewelry meant to be worn and enjoyed.”
While J Albrecht does not offer tours of its workroom (there’s some expensive stuff back there), every day of the week jewelry is made in the shop. The only step not completed on-site is the casting.
“People like coming in and speaking to the designers and makers face to face. Oftentimes with the internet, you can’t do that,” Albrecht says. “It’s a very valuable thing a lot of people want, including young people.”
Solidifying its Boulder vibe, the environment here is casual, complete with a shop dog, an English bulldog named Frida. As the website explains, “Forget the snob quality.”
While the shop does carry a few other carefully curated jewelry lines (that they’ve been carrying since the beginning), the family doesn’t commission out the work, all the way down to the website. Laina Albrecht wrote and designed it herself.
Big stores dominate the market, Jay Albrecht says, but there’s still a market for people who want to shop local and value hand-crafted, personal work.
“People are so used to walking into a jewelry store speaking to salespeople, which is fine; there are all sorts of ways to run shops,” Albrecht says. “But there’s a pride in dealing directly with the people who are responsible for everything. In a city like Boulder that’s more cosmopolitan than it ever has been, to still have that local, home flavor is really valuable.”