All that might draw in a casual visitor are a few cases along one wall inside Light Up Brooklyn, a lighting retailer on N. 11th St., and a small sign at the base of a flight of stairs directing patrons to the rest of the gallery. Once upstairs, the first thing one notices is not even the cases of elegant, handcrafted jewelry, but the space itself.
Workbenches and tools fill the gorgeous, light-filled studio (an old button factory whose products, Fitzgerald says, can occasionally still be found hiding in the cracks in the floor). What began as a workspace and gallery morphed around 2002 (when it was still known by its former name, Studio 174) into a full-fledged jewelry-making classroom, and the equipment just took over. “Now, we teach everything from beginning silversmithing, to goldsmithing, to wax carving, and so on.”
But far from distracting customers from the work that is there for sale, letting customers see the craft in action seems to help. “The two things exist well together. [People] will come in to buy a wedding ring while the students are banging away. [They] like to see how the pieces are fabricated.”
The artisanal feel to the gallery extends to the Fitzgeralds’ work itself, which Michael Fitzgerald describes as having “a cleanness of design that appeals to people, especially for wedding and engagement rings…[while] definitely retain[ing] that handmade look.”
Fitzgerald Jewelry specializes in making custom pieces to fit any budget, and the handmade aesthetic that goes into the pieces has served them well, earning them a variety of accolades including selection in New York Magazine’s Best of New York 2007 for having the best wedding and engagement rings in the city.
But no amount of praise seems to distract Fitzgerald from what really matters. The business is humble, it’s true, but it suits him. “[We have] a personal way of dealing with people,” he says. “It’s about sitting down and almost creating a relationship. People approach me about selling stuff online and I just say, ‘No thanks.’”
174 North 11th Street