Dan Levinson, owner of Concord’s Ellis Jewelers, has a business card that identifies his position as smile maker.
True to that billing, Levinson made some students smile when he presented winners of the Ellis Jewelers Future Designer Contest with the jewelry creations they designed and submitted through their art teachers.
Levinson had 137 jewelry-design entries from Cabarrus students. Three winners were selected: one from elementary school, one from middle school and one from high school. Designs were judged on such factors as uniqueness, creativity and personality. The business created the designs and presented the winning children with the pieces to keep in late May.
An addition this year was the Inspiration Award, which Levinson created to honor the art teachers – Benjamin Mirabelli, Meredith Farrell and Jessica Lizarazo.
The high school winner, senior Anissa Thaddeus of Concord High School, 18, created a ring with a story behind it. The ring symbolizes the Earth with a turquoise stone and the moon with a smaller opal, as a reminder that many “problems are insignificant” and to “keep grounded,” she said, adding that, “It’s exciting to see something you worked hard on and designed come to life.”
Anissa is in advanced-placement art and is president of the National Art Honor Society.
She designed her ring using Photoshop, in a class taught by Mirabelli. She said the Photoshop class has been one of the most constructive classes she has taken.
Middle school winner Alexa Smith of J.N. Fries Magnet School, 14, designed a detailed locket with a dove and lettering on the outside and silhouettes of birds in flight on the inside. Alexa wore a big smile as she showed the crowd her locket. Despite her intricate design, she said she was not expecting to win.
“This year I really showed my artistic abilities and tried new things,” Alexa said.
Elementary school winner Foster Nelson of Cox Mill Elementary School, 10, designed a dragon ring with a tail that wraps around the finger. He said the piece was inspired by movie “The Sorcerer’s Apprentice.”
His mother said he was excited when he received the news he won the contest.
“I’m going to put it on every day,” Nelson said of his dragon ring.
The contest, entering its sixth year during the 2015-2016 school year, was created as a way for Ellis Jewelers to give back to the community. The shop has been locally owned and operated for decades, first by Dan Levinson’s father. Creating students’ custom designs into jewelry makes sense for the store because custom-design jewelry is a huge part of its business, Levinson said.
“We have been here for 62 years in July,” he said. “When you look at all the people who have come through here over the years…it was a way to thank the community…The gist of it is you can’t be a community business and work and breathe in a community 60 years and not give back.”
Levinson said because so many of the store’s customers have children and grandchildren in Cabarrus County Schools, this was a way to do something above and beyond for them.
Levinson, father of a college and a high school student, also loves the confidence boost kids feel when they win the contest.
“They need to be patted on the back and told that they can do this. We’re trying to instill confidence in these children,” he said.
Marjorie Dana is a freelance writer. Have a story idea for Marjorie? Email her at firstname.lastname@example.org.