BY LEE ANN SANDWEISS
If Argentum Jewelry were to make a ring to celebrate its 40th anniversary, it would be a ruby—the stone traditionally associated with 40 years—and it would be set in a silver band, for argentum in Latin means silver.
Argentum’s founder, Gene Foltzer, began his career in 1971 selling a wholesale line of silver jewelry to stores including Georg Jensen in New York and Marshall Field’s in Chicago. Three years later he opened a retail store in Colstone Square at East 3rd and South Dunn streets. Argentum’s present owner, Sally Walker, came into the business that same year and married Foltzer four years later.
“Back then we were next to a Shane Co. jewelry store, and it was a stipulation that we not carry diamonds, emeralds, rubies, and sapphires,” Walker says.
In 1979, Argentum moved to the south side of the downtown Square, but after two years, the couple had to start looking for another location.
“The entire block was being remodeled into what is now Fountain Square,” Walker recalls. “We heard about CFC renovating the old hotel building at the corner of West 6th Street and North College and signed a lease for the corner. We opened there in May 1981. The space next door became available in October 2001, so we knocked down some walls and doubled our space.” Foltzer passed away in 2002 and Walker has been running the business on her own ever since.
Although not a jewelry designer herself, Walker knows talent when she sees it. “Lisa Perantoni, our designer, has won numerous design awards. We specialize in alteration of existing jewelry and can use the customer’s metal and stones to create an entirely new design,” she says. “I attend national trade shows and I’ve attended some overseas shows, including one in Basel, Switzerland, which hosts one of the world’s largest jewelry shows.”
Over four decades, Walker has seen trends come and go, but some things have stayed the same at Argentum. “I would say that alternative metals such as titanium, tungsten, and cobalt have become more popular due to the higher prices for gold and silver,” she says. “But sterling silver has always been the store’s mainstay, with an emphasis on good quality and good design.”
Argentum will have a gem and trunk show November 7-8 to commemorate its 40th anniversary.