Larry Seiger hears the whispers when someone peeks in the door of his tiny shop and quickly backs out.
“Now that’s a real jeweler,” he hears them say.
Tucked in a corner above an antique store, Virtuoso Jewels is packed with more tools of the trade than showcases. Seiger, a second-generation jeweler, specializes in custom pieces as well as in-house repair and restoration.
Seiger said he has passed the rigorous Jewelers of America Certified Master Bench Jeweler exam, and he has won international awards for his work.
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Following in his father’s footsteps was not what he had in mind when he was a young man in Oklahoma.
“My earliest memory is of Dad at a work bench. But the last thing I wanted was to be in the jewelry business, especially retail,” Seiger said.
He tested the waters as an engineering student at the University of Oklahoma, but found the work confining.
“I loved making things with my hands,” he said. “I loved art. I wanted something I could do from start to finish.”
With encouragement from his parents, he began working in another jewelry store and was surprised by how different it was from his father’s, which specialized in watches.
“I had been in the business so long,” he said. “I decided that’s the direction I wanted to take.”
Seiger honed his craft in a series of shops before striking out on his own. When he and his wife, Jennifer, an opera singer, moved to the Triangle, he operated out of his house, and his custom work took off.
Working from home was ideal as the family expanded.
“The kids could be with Dad when Mom was teaching,” he said. “The only rule was that they couldn’t come in the shop without shoes on.”
As the children got older and needed less supervision, it was time for a change.
“I looked for a year and a half for the right spot,” he said. “I didn’t have enough for a full-time assistant, so I needed retail traffic, but not so much that it was overwhelming.”
He opened Virtuoso on North Salem Street in Apex last July.
“I’m a traditionalist when it comes to techniques,” Seiger said. “My niche has been with people who want things done the old-fashioned way. They don’t mind if I use electricity, but I stay away from lasers.”
He’s not shy about his skepticism when it comes to white gold sold in big-box stores.
“I take my knowledge of how metal works and get people the right pieces,” he said.
Seiger is excited to introduce local artists to his customers. He is currently featuring the work of Sheila Stillman of Chapel Hill, who specializes in an ancient technique called granulation.
“Jewelers form a pyramid,” he said. “At the top are the ones no one has ever heard of. I’m focusing on getting these pieces into the area.”
He knows not everyone appreciates fine work.
“It’s about getting the right eyes,” he said.
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