Jewelry lovers who visit Sterling Silvia (41 French Market Place, 504-299-9225; 3110 Magazine St., 504-267-5000; www.sterlingsilvia.com) may find themselves feeling like kids in a candy store. The bright shop is filled with silver earrings, bracelets, necklaces, pins, cuff links and more.
Originally from Guatemala, Juan and Silvia Asturias opened Sterling Silvia in 1988, not long after making New Orleans their permanent home. Silvia had been traveling back and forth from New York for her job in the diamond business while Juan earned his degree in Hotel, Restaurant and Tourism Administration at the University of New Orleans. When Silvia grew tired of the cross-country commute, she invested $1,200 in silver jewelry to launch her business.
"I just decided to give it a try," Silvia says.
The business took off, and the pair soon added a second location. What originally was a part-time vendor's stand in the French Market has grown into two brick-and-mortar locations.
On most days, Silvia works at the Uptown location while Juan works at the French Quarter shop. Juan handles the administrative end and Silvia heads the creative side. In the beginning Silvia bought most of her pieces from Mexico, but now she designs much of the jewelry.
"I started creating my own designs when I couldn't find what I wanted to sell," Silvia says. "Our New Orleans jewelry is very popular, and soon I'm going to create something different, something more striking and representative of New Orleans."
Silvia's process is simple: she draws a rough sketch of a piece and works with her jewelry makers to perfect it.
"It's trial and error, but I've gotten much better at the process," Silvia says.
In September, Silvia will travel to Thailand, where she and her team will develop new designs that will be available in the store in four to six months.
For Juan and Silvia, Sterling Silvia is more than just a business.
"We've had the blessing of having Sterling Silvia for over 28 years," Silvia says. "I love working in the store because I get to see the happiness on people's faces when they choose something they love. There's sentimental value in the jewelry and that's what makes it so special."