‘Tiny special things’: Jeweler Ananda Khalsa nurtures a love of nature in her handmade creations

  • Leverett native Ananda Khalsa works with customer Alden Cox, right, at her jewelry shop, Ananda Khalsa, on Strong Avenue in Northampton. All the jewelry is designed by Khalsa and created in the on-site studio, but she also sells other items like the vetiver grass nest in the foreground, hand made in South Africa. STAFF PHOTO/KEVIN GUTTING

  • Gemstone rings designed by jeweler Ananda Khalsa at her eponymous shop on Strong Avenue in Northampton. STAFF PHOTO/KEVIN GUTTING

  • A gold and tourmaline necklace designed by jeweler Ananda Khalsa at her eponymous shop on Strong Avenue in Northampton. STAFF PHOTO/KEVIN GUTTING

  • Customer Alden Cox, left, consults with jeweler Ananda Khalsa in her shop on Strong Avenue in Northampton. STAFF PHOTO/KEVIN GUTTING

  • Ananda Khalsa employee Andrea Davenport works on a jewelry design from detailed plans by Khalsa in the studio of the shop in Northampton. STAFF PHOTO/KEVIN GUTTING

  • Ananda Khalsa employee Andrea Davenport pulls a bezel she has just soldered for a design by Khalsa. Photographed in the studio of the Northampton shop on Tuesday, July 30, 2019. STAFF PHOTO/KEVIN GUTTING

  • Ananda Khalsa employee Andrea Davenport solders a bezel for a jewelry design by Khalsa in the studio of the open floor plan shop in Northampton. STAFF PHOTO/KEVIN GUTTING

  • Ananda Khalsa employee Hannah Donner collects tiny drops of gold she just cut from a bezel strip and melted with a torch. She’ll then hammer the pieces and incorporate them into a jewelry design by Khalsa. STAFF PHOTO/KEVIN GUTTING

Staff Writer
Published: 8/4/2019 7:30:22 AM

NORTHAMPTON – When Ananda Khalsa was growing up in Leverett, she used to hang out in Northampton. Now the Pioneer Valley jeweler has a shop on Strong Avenue that bears her name: At Ananda Khalsa Jewelry, which opened in December, she designs, makes and sells her creations to the public.

“I always kind of had a plan to open a store in Northampton someday,” said Khalsa, who makes her jewelry in the attached workshop, which can be seen from the shop floor when the sliding doors that divide the two are left open.

“My collection is very large and broad,” she said. “I feel like it covers a lot of bases.”

The pieces sold at Ananda Khalsa include a gold and tourmaline necklace — one of the shop’s more expensive pieces at $17,900 — and stacking bracelets that start at $30. Some of Khalsa’s favorite pieces are her gemstone rings, including opal and moonstone. 

While Khalsa doesn’t make every piece in the store, she is still involved with the physical production of her pieces.

“It’s part of things for me,” Khalsa said, noting that the handmade nature of her pieces shows. For instance, her hand-painted jewelry features images ranging from cardinal to koi fish to magnolia and persimmon. The depictions are painted on watercolor paper set under crystal, in silver or gold.

“That was really how I got my start,” said Khalsa. “I just had the idea to make a tiny little painting into a necklace.”

“Other people loved them, too, and I continued to make them,” she continued.

The two other craftspeople who work in the workshop are Hannah Donner, who has worked for Khalsa for six months, and Andrea Davenport, who has worked for her for five years.

As for what it’s like working in the shop, Donner said, “It’s always different.”

“We’re always working on something new,” said Davenport. “I love Ananda’s style. It’s very clean, but it looks very natural.” 

Khalsa said she takes inspiration from nature, pointing to the presence of abstract leaf and flower forms in some of her designs. Another signature that Khalsa noted was the presence of “little dots” of diamonds on her work, as well as the fact that she uses a matte finish on the gold and silver that she uses. She especially enjoys working with 22-karat gold, she said: “I love the warmth of it.”

Khalsa said all of the metal that she uses is recycled and that many of the stones she gets come from small, family businesses. And when it comes to diamonds, they are either recycled or are mined from Canada.

“I try to be as responsible as possible with the materials that we use,” she said.

Khalsa, 42, began making jewelry full time when she was 29, after she and her husband, Nathan Schiel, moved to Providence, Rhode Island from Boulder, Colorado so that he could attend the Rhode Island School of Design. There, Khalsa began her career as a full-time jewelry designer, before they moved to the Pioneer Valley, where Khalsa’s parents still live, and where Khalsa and Schiel are raising their son.

As to why she got into making jewelry in the first place, Khalsa said it was out of a “true love of jewelry “ and “tiny special things.”

Ananda Khalsa is a family affair, with Khalsa’s mother, Susan Handlen, serving as one of the shop’s two salespeople.

“I love it – it’s the only thing I wear,” Handlen said of her daughter’s jewelry, adding that her friends are jealous of the gifts of jewelry her daughter gives her.

Before moving into the Strong Avenue space, Khalsa worked for four years out of the  Brushworks Art & Industry Building in Florence. But there was something missing from that previous location, she said: “We didn’t have a retail space.”

She said the meaning that people ascribe to jewelry is an important part of it, and with the retail space, “I get to hear what the jewelry means to people when they buy it.”

The retail space is filled with jewelry and features paintings, including a piece from Khalsa’s husband. There are also images of Buddha. Khalsa’s father is a practicing Sikh, and she said that she grew up with images from Indian culture around her.

Someone who has become a collector of Khalsa’s jewlery is Alden Cox, who stopped into the shop Tuesday to see about getting a pair of carnelian earrings made. The stones Khalsa showed her were a bright, rich orange.

Cox, who lives in Amherst, said that she first saw Khalsa’s work in the Sundance Catalog.

“They suit the intersection of really fine craftsmanship and this easy kind of playful grace,” said Cox. 

“It’s a little bit like Hermione’s purse, in ‘Harry Potter,’” Cox continued. “When you really check it out, there’s so much.”

Cox said that she would take a class in jewelry-making if Khalsa offered one, and while Khalsa said that others have mentioned an interest in her teaching as well, she noted the large amount of time that would be involved.

“It’s nice to inspire people to want to make jewelry,” Khalsa said. “That’s really an honor.”

Bera Dunau can be reached at bdunau@gazettenet.com.
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