Timeless Treasures

BY BRIGITTE SURETTE | PHOTOGRAPHY BY HOLGER OBENAUS

Glenn and Vicki Wolfe were high school sweethearts from Augusta, Georgia, in the 1970s. After graduation, they hit the open road, traveling in a VW Bug headed west toward New Mexico.

Sharing the same entrepreneurial spirit and passion for adventure, they had no idea that buying up pieces of Native American jewelry on that trip would lead them to establish one of Charleston’s most distinctive jewelry stores.

“We’d always taken these adventures,” Vicki Wolfe says. “But when we saw this particular jewelry, we knew it was the right time. The demand for these designs hadn’t hit the East Coast yet, and we wanted to be among the first to sell them. We spent every penny we had.”

Their investment paid off, and they grew their collection rapidly, becoming wholesalers to large department stores in Georgia. Wolfe had family living in Charleston, and an aunt told her about the historic downtown market. The two packed up the VW, their collection jostling in homemade cases, and secured a spot on an early Saturday morning.

“We paid three dollars for a table, and we made a few hundred that first weekend. We were thrilled. After that, we’d travel every weekend from Augusta to Charleston,” Wolfe states. “If we made enough, we’d splurge and stay in a hotel.”

Soon, the two made their home in Charleston and weekends weren’t enough to keep up with the demand. Sprucing up a small wooden structure in the market used for storage, brooms and cleaning supplies, they transformed the small space.

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By the late ’70s, the popularity of Native American jewelry was waning. Glenn Wolfe bought a casting business and began creating his own unique pieces, many of which are still produced today.

“Glenn would sketch on napkins,” Wolfe says. “I still have his first napkin. It’s a sketch of our first Charleston charm, the Charleston Single House.”

The numerous sketches that followed became one-of-a-kind gold and silver jewelry. Customers from all over the world collect them.

“We use Glenn’s original molds to this day. So many of our customers have the Charleston charms—the palmetto tree, sweetgrass baskets, churches and more, with Glenn’s initials carved on the back,” Wolfe says proudly.

These charms, along with their custom monogrammed slides and dome rings are among the most popular. The pioneers of Charleston charms, Wolfe takes pride in the fact that while others have tried to copy what they began, they were one of the first jewelers in the area to create these signature pieces.

Gold Creations grew rapidly during Charleston’s own growing years. As more and more people discovered Charleston, the same was true for their business.

“Mayor Riley began a campaign in the mid-’70s to put our city on the map with Spoleto and other world-class attractions. We feel so much a part of that growth,” she says.

Gold Creations is a family affair. Wolfe, known affectionately as “Miss Vicki,” is the matriarch and you’ll find her there most days throughout the week. The Wolfes’ four children and son-in-law all man the counters at times and actively participate in other parts of the business.

The late Glenn Wolfe’s legacy continues, his pieces reflecting not only his artistic vision, but also his love for the city in which he thrived and raised his family.

Forty years later, the store is in the same small space. It’s alive with Southern charm and stunning jewelry, which brims out of velvet-lined cases. Prices for the creations, which can be engraved and/or personalized, range from $20 to more than $2,000.

“We make our customers feel welcome,” Wolfe says. “We tell stories with the jewelry we sell. We make them happy and our jewelry makes them happy. It’s like a beautiful dance.”

Brigitte Surette is a freelance writer who lives in Mount Pleasant. For more information, visit brigittesurette.com.