Lots of people wander into Sara Lenart’s North Center jewelry workshop and showroom, intrigued perhaps by what might be behind the tiny brick storefront tucked off Lincoln at 1924 W. Byron. Inside, in a tiny room with buttercup-yellow walls, Lenart works amid vintage display cases filled with sterling silver rings with sponge coral and green Arizona turquoise and plain pendants of freshwater pearls and jasper. Lenart, who studied at the Gemological Institute of America in California and has put in time on jewelers row in the Loop, started her own line about a decade ago, when she was having trouble finding the “simple things” she liked to wear. She says she still loves humbler stones– “I’m not into diamonds”–and holds up a pendant of striated agate, exclaiming, “Isn’t that amazing? It’s just Mother Nature.” But she does do some more ornate pieces: intricate tourmaline drop earrings, U-shaped rings with two stones (“Some people call them dumbbells”), and a sparkling ruby pendant of garnets, Swarovski crystal, and Czech glass. Her inspiration is hands-on–“I just throw a bunch of stones on a bench and start making things,” she says. Most items run between $40 and $60; some earrings go for $14 a pair, and the most expensive necklace is $235. No doubt the prices are a lure for her customers, many of whom return to buy another ring or bracelet and to chat with Lenart. “I think,” she says, “people like to be able to talk to the person who made it.”

Art accompanying story in printed newspaper (not available in this archive): photo/Stephen J. Serio.