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Shop Talk: Mary Seramur
Owner of East Towne Jewelers


Feb. 2018

Armed with a teaching background (her credentials include a bachelor’s degree in art education from Mount Mary University, a Master of Fine Arts from UW-Milwaukee and years spent teaching at the collegiate level), Mary Seramur, owner of East Towne Jewelers, is not only an experienced jewelry designer, but a patient educator — and one who works closely with each client to ensure their desired vision is achieved. Here the Milwaukee native talks jewelry design, philanthropy and more.

You specialize in designing custom pieces as well as repurposing existing jewelry. Tell us a bit about your approach and process.

I’m intrigued by craftsmanship because I know how much it takes to do it right. Women will come in (to the store), and they’ll go, “Does this look like me?” And then we talk about it. You find that happening a lot. They get a bad taste in their mouth (from another experience), and I’ll say, “I will hold your hand through this process. Let’s do it right this time. Let’s take those beautiful stones and make it into exactly what you’re looking for.” Even if we just need to tweak what they already have to make them happier.

With repurposing, there’s such energy in the jewelry that, let’s say, grandma wore changing diapers, baking cookies and scrubbing floors. There are times when I pick up a ring and say, “Whoa, tell me her story.” You can feel the energy. People think I’m nuts when I say that, but I really believe that. It really makes it easier to repurpose the piece into something new  — to take all those good energies and put them into a new piece the next person can wear. 

What is your favorite gemstone to work with?

My favorite diamond is a traditional emerald cut. I also love really intense, blue sapphires. (Sapphire) is my birthstone.

East Towne Jewelers is located in Mequon. What are your go-to restaurants nearby?

If I really, really want a treat, I’ll go to Mr. B’s (— A Bartolotta Steakhouse). That place is fabulous. I also love The Cheel. That couple (owners and husband/wife duo Jesse and Barkha Daily) really knows what it’s all about. They are so gregarious and so talented.

You regularly work with Advocates of Ozaukee, a local nonprofit working to end domestic and sexual violence. How did that partnership come about?

Oftentimes, people will bring me costume jewelry (to donate). Sometimes I’ll get bags of it. I spend a lot of time cleaning up the pieces, making sure earrings have backs on them and such, and then bag and box them up. There were (more than) 170 bracelets in this last box. I called Barbara Fischer from Advocates of Ozaukee, and she came to pick up the box. … The pieces then go to a local shelter, where kids can go pick out a piece of jewelry, wrap it up, then give it to their mom for Christmas (or another holiday). It might be some goofy, flea market jewelry, but she’ll never forget it. They come (to the shelter) with nothing. … It’s an anonymous donation; I’m not looking for any credit for it. I just want this to be something that will make someone happy. … People like that (and in those situations) need a little joy in their lives.

This story ran in the Feb. 2018 issue of: