JEWELRY FIT FOR CLEOPATRA

BY AMANDA BLACK | PHOTOGRAPHY BY HOLGER OBENAUS

Odds are, if you’ve spent any time in the Holy City, you’ve strolled through the Charleston City Market. It’s one of our nation’s oldest public markets and home to more than 300 vendors. Amidst the hustle and bustle, one store stands out for its unique jewelry that you won’t find anywhere else in the city: A Corner On The Market.

This small but exquisite jewelry store (only 140 square feet!) was established more than 25 years ago. Today, it carries everything from baby gifts to jewelry—both traditional and modern—for men and women of all ages. At its helm is the boisterous and incredibly knowledgeable Martha Kent. “I take pride in offering people jewelry that catches their eye at a price they can’t refuse. After all, jewelry is a luxury that makes us feel and look good,” she says.

It’s a challenge to be a successful businesswoman in a marketplace where tantalizing distractions, like high-end shoes and local artists, are just a few steps away, but Martha holds her customers’ attention. During my visit she engages in light conversation with one then turns to another to discuss a pair of earrings she sold her a year ago.

Martha stresses that she likes to take time with her customers, to share her knowledge and understand their needs. “I don’t want to force-feed anyone,” she says. “Jewelry is personal and unique to its wearer; it’s not a rush decision.”

What really distinguishes A Corner On The Market, however, is its talented designers. Thanks to Martha’s longstanding presence in the industry, she has assembled a roster of designers who, in Charleston, sell only through her.

On a recent visit, I took one look at the sparkling display cases and found that each artist offers something special. Marahlago, a high-fashion line, was the first to catch my eye. The pieces feature larimar, a dreamy light-blue stone that reminds me of a blue sky with a few wispy clouds mixed in. According to Martha, this gem is mined by hand in the Dominican Republic. Martha lights up as she points out her favorites. “Every day I’m mesmerized by the beauty of the jewelry we sell and the wonder and mystery it evokes,” she says. “Cleopatra adorned herself, and we’re still adorning ourselves today—it’s a beautiful thing.”

If Cleopatra were alive today, she would surely choose something from Galatea’s collection. Galatea’s master artist does things with gems and precious metals that few could imagine; numerous pendants feature hand-carved designs etched into natural pearls. Galatea’s DavinChi Cut collection features a main stone that looks like it’s been mounted upside down. Lying beneath are emeralds and rubies, making the main stone appear to change colors—all are nothing short of breathtaking.

Martha leads me from Galatea to Kabana, a jewelry company that specializes in Australian opal inlay. Pointing to an especially vibrant pendant, she says, “If you don’t see an ocean and sunrise or sunset in that, you’re just not trying.” Then comes Belle Étoile, known for enameled bangles, earrings, 66 CSD pendants and rings. Handcrafted in Italy, each bold piece features stunning detail that’s a testament to the time that went into creating it. “When they apply the enamel they use very fine brushes—even the tip of a toothpick—to place the color,” Martha says.

Martha Kent calls A Corner On The Market “140 square feet of Charleston you can’t afford to miss.” After exploring every square inch of the store, I wholeheartedly agree. If jewelry is art—and the pieces Martha sells most definitely are—she’s managed to fit an entire museum into her shop. Thankfully, we can all take home a one-ofa- kind masterpiece for our own collections.

Amanda Black is a full-time editor and part-time freelance writer living in Charleston.