By CT Liotta
Artisan jeweler Joseph Sermania, wearing magnifying glasses flipped to his forehead, turns to his wife, Janice. They stand in their small jewelry store at 1719 E. Passyunk Avenue and try to complete an impossible task: recalling the most memorable experience they’ve had since setting up shop 14 years ago.
“I’ll give you one,” Joe grins. “There was a guy who was shopping at the men’s clothing store next door. His wedding was that day, and he was finally buying his suit. When he finished, he came to me and asked, ‘do you sell wedding bands?’”
“Wasn’t he a size 13?” Janice added.
One gets the impression that Joe and Janice could tell a story for every week they’ve been in business, bouncing memories off one another as they recall names and projects and dates.
The storefront is intimate. Small cabinets house curated collections of rings, necklaces and bracelets. Behind the sales counter is Joe’s bench, where customers can watch him fire his torch and perform delicate, precise work.
In 1981, when Joe was 24, he opened his first business on Jewelers Row. He had watched, worked with, and learned from master jewelers—including his older brother Sal—since age 11. He already had 13 years of experience to his name. “I don’t think I ever told my kids, but when I was a student at St. John Neumann, I’d arrange my schedule so I could finish class early and go work in the afternoon.”
Janice Sermania, a self-declared “Goretti Girl”, married Joe a year earlier, in 1980. While their children were in school, Janice would string beads and pearls and show jewelry at home. “In those days, we’d bring jewelry to people’s houses and do shows,” she added. “They’d cold call us, and we’d show up with gold at their dining room tables.” Continue Reading →