“Talking story” is the best part of almost any interaction on this island. Wendy Greenfiled, owner of Simple Elegance Gems, says it’s also one of the joys of having a shop at Ali‘i Gardens Marketplace. The marketplace and its shopkkeepers are laid-back and enjoy mingling with one another and with their visitors. It’s a perfect venue to relax, wander around, and to fall in love with both this part of our island, and the merchandise available.
Wendy says “at Simple Elegance we sell ‘rocks’ in both their natural state and as finished pieces of jewelry. It sounds strange—even to us. Both Joe and I skipped the rock-collecting phase that most kids go through when they’re quite young. We grew up in cities—where you are not supposed to (or allowed to) pick up anything off the street. Good stones aren’t just lying around on big city streets, in any case. We didn’t get interested in rocks until we were middle-aged. Now, we’re hooked. We purchase stones one at a time, once a year, at the gem and mineral shows in Tucson, Arizona. Even odder, we also go “rock-looking” whenever we’re anywhere there might be rocks. We’ve found that we actually enjoy being 26 miles northeast of Nowhere, Arizona, which is a real place! We’re not very good at “rock-finding” yet, but we’ll keep learning and trying.”
When Wendy and Joe began their business, they had a lot of catching up to do. They read everything available. Wendy learned gemstone identification at the Gemstone Institute of America in New York. Joe taught himself how to cut cabochon gemstones from the rough material they buy or, less often, find. They still value learning from anyone who might know more about the stones than they do. “Talking story” with geologists, miners or road-builders who come through the shop is always a learning opportunity.
“Talking story” is also a teaching opportunity. Wendy and Joe really enjoy the chance to show folks, especially kids, what stones look like when magnified or how to see inside a crystal to find what makes each one unique. When someone can focus on the imperfections in a particular quartz crystal or understand what causes the true sparkle of a druzy piece the “WOW!” is priceless to them. They’re perhaps the only jewelry shop where a jeweler’s loupe is part of the décor.
Although the couple began making gemstone jewelry on the East Coast more than 20 years ago, Simple Elegance truly developed when they moved to Kona. The beginning was their appreciation and respect for the stones. They believe stones speak to people. Wendy reflects, “each stone has already spoken to us since we brought it home and created a piece of jewelry around it. We show it off in the knowledge that each stone will speak eventually to one of our visitors and they will take it to its new home.”
Their design is organic and inherent, both in the way Joe will cut, shape and polish a new stone and in Wendyʻs role as she fashions the unique settings and wraps to allow the stone itself to shine with joy and confidence. They are passionate that their work never involves damaging the stone with holes, glue or in any other way. The stones they choose deserve the respect of only using sterling, fine silver or gold to showcase them. Wendy assures “when you fall in love with one of our pieces, we want that love to be forever. It is really Nature that “creates” a stone—we can only add emphasis.”
The stones are what this couple loves, what they search for, what they showcase, and what they sell. Each stone is unique and gets a unique treatment. Some of the stones even acquire their own names. Their wire-wrap is designed to show off each stone at its brilliant best. They see their job as making sure the stone is secure, and then getting out of its way. Their stones, chosen one by one, are the stars of the show. They are what speak to the creators, and what people fall in love with and take home with them. ❖