My favorite silver necklace gets a makeover with Lumina Gem

Old + New version of my silver statement necklace

One of my favorite pieces of costume jewelry I own is a large modern silver statement necklace I found at A Second Time Around about four years ago. It transforms any basic shift dress and adds a little edge to a look that may be a tad too demure.

People have stopped me on the street in New York City, Charleston and San Francisco to compliment this unique piece. One of my jewelry designer friends even toyed with the idea of re-creating it for her own line.

I thought of this necklace as one of my signature accessories that I loved to pull out to take any look “next level” – until recently. It had gradually started to tarnish over time, but it seemed the lasttime I pulled it out, its radiant silver hue had dulled to a grayish rust color practically overnight. A few days later, I took it in to Brad Bass, jewelry designer and owner of Lumina Gem (located inside Home Again furniture store). He tested it and reluctantly shared that since it was base metal, it couldn’t be successfully plated. I was crushed. Would this mean I was going to have to spraypaint my necklace or simply retire it? Brad suggested he could try recreating it using sterling silver and giving each of the main parts a more textured, hammered look. I of course said, “Let’s do it!”

I can’t tell you how excited I am to have my favorite silver statement necklace
back in rotation. See our makeover story and my interview with Brad below:


Brad Bass, jewlery designer + owner of Lumina Gem with the before + after custom design of one of my favorite necklaces


ff: Tell us a little about your background in starting out in the jewelry business.

“My career started in Greenville, NC while attending ECU as an Art major. At first, I focused on communication arts and quickly realized I had more of a passion for getting my hands dirty and creating 3-dimensional objects on a small scale. Jewelry fit that passion so I changed my major to metal design. Bam! That’s when my jewelry career ignited. ECU has a phenomenal Metals program for anyone looking to start a career.”

ff: How did your experience at Penland affect your career?

“Penland opened my eyes to design elements for metal that are taught all over the world and gave me options that ECU did not offer. It boosted my knowledge of metal applications to a new level. I learned how to build mechanisms, apply found objects to jewelry, granulation, texture, and hollow forms. I would recommend Penland to anyone who loves being creative in general. The vibe, the food, the view, and the people you meet there are all an added bonus.”

ff: Did you try to focus strictly on jewelry design before you entered into retail?

“I entered retail when I was in college, while I was learning design. Most designers don’t get retail experience when they focus solely on designing. I’ve tried to experience all facets of the business, no pun intended.”

ff: How did your experience at REEDS Jewelers prepare you for opening your own jewelry business?

“REEDS opened my eyes to the demographics of Wilmington. I always knew I wanted to start a business here and that it would boom someday. That’s where my appraisal experience also blossomed. It’s a great company and the perfect place to see how a more corporate jewelry company operates, but my sales position there didn’t allow time for designing. Corporate retail was just not for me.”

ff: What do you feel sets Lumina Gem apart from other local jewelers?

“Sometimes jewelry stores can be intimidating with sharklike sales associates. I try to give Lumina Gem a more relaxed, friendly and welcoming atmosphere. My staff is always smiling. We offer services other stores don’t offer at a much faster turnaround time and at a lower cost. We often do repairs “while you wait” or same day, especially engagement ring sizings or repairs. I keep my repair department busy by servicing eight Zales stores and another local jeweler on a wholesale level. We literally try to make you feel right at home with comfortable places to relax, thanks to our partnership with Home Again. Other than new and estate jewelry, our services include: repairs on jewelry, custom design, appraisals, diamond and gemstone brokerage, jewelry brokerage, jewelry and select watch consignment, watch batteries and service, engraving, pearl stringing, replating and refinishing of jewelry, and as you know, recreating jewelry.”


ff: How much of your business is custom design?

“Custom design makes up only about 10% of Lumina Gem’s revenue. It’s definitely an area I’d like to grow if I can find the time. Any jewelry designers out there need a job?”

ff: Can you share one of your favorite designs that you created?

This Shekel bracelet is silver and 14k yellow gold with diamonds. It’s probably my most meaningful creation and one of the largest pieces I’ve done that wasn’t a sculpture. I created it for a family member after her trip to Israel. It has 15 different parts, not including the diamonds.


ff: Tell us a little about the limitations in fixing or reworking costume jewelry.

“Some costume jewelry can’t be recreated in precious metals because of copyright issues especially if it has a recognizable logo on it. That doesn’t mean it can’t be closely duplicated if you change the shape slightly and add a different texture to it. I can’t recreate large hollow pieces or electroformed pieces. It’s possible but these are mostly mass-produced. I also try to avoid using glue in my designs. Sadly, a lot of costume jewelry out there is simply glued together.”

ff: What was your step by step process in creating my necklace?

“With your necklace I started with an 18 guage sterling silver sheet, tubing, and wire. It was a pretty basic piercing metal and assembling job. Lots of sawing. Quite a bit of texturing with a flex shaft and separating disc and many welds with the Arch Welder that we have on site at Lumina Gem. The final step – lots of polishing using different buffing compounds and polishing wheels.”

ff: How did you differeniate this piece from the original design?

“With this piece, I added a different hammered texture and actually welded all of the jump rings together rather than just closing them. I used tubing where there hollow forms and used prefabricated herringbone chain to try to match the costume herringbone sections as much as possible.”

Old + New version of my silver statement necklace


ff: How is the price (for the customer) determined when commissioning a custom design? Can you provide a price range?

“The price is the tricky part. It’s impossible to be exact. I try to figure out how long it will take me based on something else I did that was similar, then add the materials. I try to give an estimate that’s within 15%. I always say it could be 15% higher or 15% lower, unless my client wants me to change something drastically. Then it’s back to the drawing board.”

ff: Where do you find your inspiration in creating one of a kind pieces?

“My inspiration for design comes from everywhere, not one place in particular. Going to jewelry shows, clothing and patterns. I often look to Mother Nature for texture and form. My travels inspire me – especially driving across this beautiful country, seeing the landscape change so dramatically from place to place.”

ff: Is there any iconic piece of jewelry / style of jewelry you’d love to recreate?

“I’m hoping that one day I will find time to sit down and design, then create a masterpiece similar to the likes of Cartier or Van Cleef back in the Art Deco era. Can you imagine putting two years worth of work into one piece and how it must feel to complete that piece and present it?”

ff: How does it feel presenting the “After” piece of jewelry to your clients?

“Every custom project is different, but that Voila! moment with an impressive piece is always a thrill, especially when you know the piece has meaning and will be loved. It’s one of the most ecstatic feelings in the world to see a client light up when I’ve exceeded their expectations.”

Lumina Gem is fully stocked with beautiful pieces at great prices for the holidays. Everyone who spends $200 or more on any item through the rest of December will be entered to win $2,000 cash! Drawing will be held January 2nd and you don’t have to be present to win.




Photo: Lisa Brown / Bella Rose Photography


Vintage Holiday Soiree
@ 21 Market Street (2nd floor)

Style Girl Vintage hosted the first Vintage Holiday Soiree along with
21 Market Street tenants / neighbors Harry Taylor Photography
and Andrea of Wholesome Journey Massage & Reflexology

The Vintage Holiday Soiree featured vintage shopping with 10% of Style Girl Vintage sales ($50) going to Nourish NC to feed hungry children in New Hanover County, chair massages, craft cocktails by Joel Finsel of Astral Cocktails featuring Method + Standard vodka, Bakla-Vavoom by Kathy Rayle + plenty of holiday cheer!

L: Chef Lori Eaton in her mod holiday attire – looking RED hot!
R: Joel mixing up some Method + Standard cocktails with his taste tester by his side.


Kelly Hodges trying on a vintage-inspired Stop Staring dress.


L: David Hitchcock and Cindy Vach
R: Milliner Jan Wutkowski & her husband Michael


Joel’s Outfit of the Night
(styled by Jess James):
Fantastic Mr. Fox handmade tie
(if you are interested in one, I can order you one via SGV),
cocktail print Ben Sherman shirt, pinstriped navy vest and vintage pin –
Wes Anderson approved!

Photo: Lisa Brown / Bella Rose Photography


Taking in Harry Taylor’s photography with Carly Brooke Forman.
Photo: Lisa Brown / Bella Rose Photography


L: My Gemini twin elf Amy Hammond, who spent the day co-designing “Gem,” our first holiday Christmas dress tree creation.
R: Jewelry Designer Melissa Tyson with Andrea Townsend of Wholesome Journey Massage


Writer Taylor Brown with Photographer Harry Taylor


Kelly Oliver browsing while her mini-me shows her friend her favorite vintage dress.


Thank you to all our friends & customers who came out to toast a little holiday cheer!
Photo: Lisa Brown / Bella Rose Photography

To see more photos from
Vintage Holiday Soiree,
Click HERE!


VIDEO PREMIERE: Solving the Mystery –
Who is Jess James & What does she do?

It must have been about 2 years ago when my friends at Blueberry Creative came to me with a proposition – help us throw an amazing re-branding party (it ended up being Studio 54-inspired, remember? So. Much. Fun!) and we will help explain (via video) what it is you exactly do. Since the career I have created for myself is multi-tiered and with many layers, it can be a tad confusing and difficult for folks to understand what exactly my services for hire are (styling, imagine consulting, marketing/branding, event planning, writing, and the list goes on). It took Blueberry almost a year to film and create this video since they wanted to have their own footage from several of my events. And then I sat on it for another year waiting to finally re-brand and relaunch my website. My personal brand website ( is STILL awaiting her new look but I’ve finally – officially – made this video public to share it on my new website: (check out the ABOUT WHS page).

Hope it gives a little better idea of what it is “I do!” Thank you so much to Patricia Kusek, Joel Finsel, Steven Wayne Ward for taking part and Adam & Austin for doing such an incredible job, as always. And, without further ado, Click HERE. xo


SHOP New Style Girl Vintage
Holiday Listings on Etsy!

Photography: Harry Taylor (click below)



It’s that time of year again!
James + Dunne Styling are once again offering creative holiday portraits
styled by Jess James + Shannon Ricks Dunne and captured by Ethan Gaskill Photography.

The difference between regular holiday portraits and ours is that ours are fully styled and are typically vintage inspired (love to include family heirlooms with sentimental value – crests, a vintage handbag or hat from your grandmother, etc). We strive to capture the spirit & personality of your kiddos/family with genuine emotion, a dose of quirkiness, whimsy and an overall editorial feeling.

Weekend slots are filling up. Book yours by emailing
Click HERE for a look back at some of our favorites. Cheers! xo



Want to have Playboy’s Top 10 Mixologist
slinging drinks at your holiday party?
Mixologist Joel Finsel of Astral Cocktails is
booking holiday parties now!

* Mention seeing this in the FASHION FIX,
and receive 10% off!

Photo: Leslie Koehn




Save lasting memories from Wilmington’s 1st Gatsby Lawn Party by purchasing beautiful, high quality photographs (just like they did in the Jazz Age!) from the incredibly talented Lisa Brown of Bella Rose Photography. Photos will only be on sale for a limited time only so don’t delay!

All photos from the Gatsby Lawn Party
presented by Kusek Financial Group and hosted by Jess James
held October 17th can be found here:




+ Pound Fit (only available with Karson in Wilmington!)
Tuesday 6:35pm and Saturday 10:15am at BFAB Studio
Click above for more details.




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