In the late 1970s, Shellie Antel walked into a department store and fell in love with a single-strand coral bead necklace. At least until she learned it was $600.
Antel was not about to pay that much for a necklace she thought she could make. With the help of an elderly friend and a little effort, Antel began making jewelry almost 30 years ago, and she’s never tired of it.
Antel started on her first necklace when she was living in Bethesda, Md. She planned to keep it for herself. But a laborer who was remodeling her home spotted the necklace and insisted he buy it for his wife.
“He said, ‘I don’t care how much it is. I want it for my wife,’” Antel said.
After selling her first piece, Antel’s excitement in making and selling jewelry only grew. She began hosting jewelry parties at her home, often for brides and their bridal parties, but after a while she tired of how hard her patrons were to please.
“People don’t appreciate what you do,” Antel said. Groups of brides, their bridesmaids and the mothers of brides had different designs in mind, and Antel said trying to satisfy partygoers made the gatherings “just wild.”
After moving to Columbia in 2002, Antel hosted a few parties to gain customers. Interest in her necklaces, specifically those made out of pearls, stemmed largely from Poppy in downtown Columbia. Antel had made an appointment to show her jewelry to Poppy’s owner Barbara McCormick. McCormick later decided to carry Antel’s pearls as her main supply of high-quality, “classy” pearl jewelry.
“We were fascinated by the variety of pearls that she worked with as well as the variety of styles,” McCormick said. “Since we’ve been carrying Shellie’s pearls, she has done a number of special orders for brides and bridesmaids as well.”
Although Antel says she is winding down her jewelry business, she takes pride in the quality of the materials she hand-picks from a selection of suppliers, as well as her attention to detail when assembling the pieces.
“These (pearls) are natural, not dyed, and that’s what makes a difference,” Antel said. When assembling the pearl strands, Antel almost always uses a knotting technique that is popular and common among jewelry artists and amateurs alike. The technique involves stringing the beads onto some type of wire or thread and tying a knot very tightly around each bead to hold them in place while, at the same time, keeping the pearls from rubbing against each other.
Despite the many years under her belt, Antel still says the best part of making and selling her jewelry is making people happy.
“They’re thrilled, and my pearls are unusual,” Antel said. “I have things that no other store carries.”