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Sharing his passion

New location allows Jewelry by Harold to offer classes, and keep the craft alive in NL
Harold Van Beek, owner of Jewelry by Harold, makes a repair on a ring using computer-assisted magnification. Van Beek handcrafts his jewelry and offers repair services as well.

NORTH LIBERTY– The making of fine jewelry is both a time-honored craft and an exacting art form.
For Harold Van Beek, owner of Jewelry by Harold in North Liberty, it is also a passion he wishes to share with others.
Van Beek, a native of The Netherlands, came to the United States in 2005 after visiting Iowa City since the late 1970s to spend time with friends of his family. “I’m ‘Harold,’ I’m named for someone in Iowa City, and so are my siblings. My son (Laurens) is named after someone in Iowa. So yeah, it’s been quite an adventure.”
Van Beek, opened his first store in 1984 at the age of 21 in The Netherlands, and was the youngest Dutch jeweler to have done so. Here, he’s been a winning soccer coach for Kirkwood Community College, a jeweler for longtime Iowa City fixture M.C. Ginsberg Jewelers, and an instructor at the University of Iowa.
In 2011, Van Beek opened his own store in North Liberty in 2011 in Beaver Kreek Centre, and approximately five years later moved to 465 Hwy. 965. In June, Jewelry by Harold moved again, this time just a few stores away to 555 Hwy. 965, Ste. D (next to We Run). The ongoing COVID-19 pandemic wiped out plans for a grand opening celebration.
Van Beek is experienced in jewelry design, manufacturing, hand fabrication, setting, engraving, Computer Assisted Drafting (CAD) and Computer Assisted Manufacturing (CAM), CNC (Computer Numerical Control) and Rapid Prototyping (RP). Everything is designed and created in-house, unlike many “big box” jewelers.
Jewelry school in The Netherlands consisted of four years spent learning the trade. He double-majored (in American terms) in management and goldsmithing (a “bench jeweler” in America). “In Europe you have a goldsmith who makes jewelry, and a silversmith who makes flatware. Then, you have engraving, which is part of goldsmithing, and watchmaking,” he explained.
Van Beek started as a clock maker while apprenticing with a jeweler at the age of 14. “That’s what got me into making jewelry. I was very lucky. I think I had the best master to teach me jewelry making. He more or less adopted me (Van Beek’s father died when he was still a teenager), his family opened their arms to me, and they are like my family too.”
Van Beek has made a life for himself and his wife Astrid, and now he’s looking to the future of his craft.
“I love what I do, otherwise I wouldn’t do it for almost 45 years. At some point you come to an age that you also think, what I’m doing, maybe I should share that with the next generation, or with other people and see if you can put a seed in them that grows out to the passion that I feel for what I am doing.”
Sharing his passion, and having roughly twice the space available now, led Van Beek to begin offering small jewelry making classes in his store, “just to enjoy making jewelry.” The first class started Wednesday, Aug. 26, with a second group embarking on the journey a day later.
Both classes are an introduction to jewelry making.
“We will have higher level classes coming up, but the first thing I need to do is figure out what is their skill level, so we have some simple projects that we’ll work on, and gradually we’ll build on the first project, the second project, until we have a couple products done,” he said.
The students, who receive a box stocked with tools such as jeweler’s files, pliers, a mini-hacksaw and an apron, work under Van Beek’s tutelage as they learn how to cut and shape metal pieces carefully, and with an eye for detail and precision.
“Some of our saw blades are as thin as a hair,” he said, “And it’s the feel… you have to let the blades do the work.” Often, first-timers end up “pushing” the blade, which leads to breaking it (and needing to replace it) as they learn the feel of it. “It becomes really interesting.”
After starting with cutting out a 45mm wide cross, the students will make a puzzle in a frame, with metal pieces and the goal of having no gaps between the pieces. They’ll craft a piece they can wear, and even attempt a “spinner” ring made of silver.
“That’s a lot of things,” Van Beek said. “You can easily make them, you just need to know how, and I always say when you are making jewelries, 70 percent is (answering to yourself) where to start, what’s your plan for making it? And 30 percent is how fine-tuned are you on how to finish it.” Later, in the second-level class, they’ll make a chain and earrings while working with three types of solder, ranging from easy (low melting temperature), middle and hard (higher melting temperature). Planning is key when using multiple types on one project as a piece soldered with the easy solder may come unattached while heating it for the hard solder. Setting gemstones and engraving is planned for the third level of classes, he said. “We’ve always had the idea we wanted to involve the community more in what we do,” Van Beek said.
Jewelry by Harold is located at 555 Hwy. 965 Ste. D and is open Monday through Friday from 10 a.m. until 6 p.m., Saturday 10 a.m. to 4 p.m., and by appointment only on Sunday. Phone 319-665-2213 or email design@jewelrybyharold.com or visit www.jewelrybyharold.com.