My Biz: North Liberty jeweler started career at young age

Business owner migrated to U.S. for fresh start; brought hobby, passion for jewelry-making

George Ford
Published: January 30 2014 | 2:50 pm - Updated: 29 March 2014 | 2:53 am in

At the age of 21, Harold van Beek was the youngest self-employed jeweler and goldsmith in the Netherlands.

Several decades after getting his start, van Beek owns and operates Jewelry by Harold in North Liberty. He spends his days making custom jewelry creations for customers in the Corridor and all over the world.

Van Beek got his start making clock repairs when he was 14. His interest in jewelry grew from there and he decided to attend jewelry school to learn the goldsmith trade.

After van Beek started work as a jeweler, his is reputation grew quickly in the Netherlands and he had a very successful career for many years.

In 2006, van Beek and his wife, Astrid, decided to move to the states for a fresh start.

They landed in Iowa City, which was not an accidental choice as van Beek’s family has maintained a long distance friendship with a local family since World War II. That's a fairy tale all it’s own and van Beek is happy to share it with customers.

After several years of working for other jewelers, van Beek had the opportunity to again have his own shop. Jewelry by Harold opened in April 2011 and van Beek was glad to be the man behind the name of the store again.

Van Beek handles the design work and all repairs, noting that his customers appreciate that the repair work is not shipped out.

“We do everything in house,” he said. “We are a full stop shop.”

On any given day, van Beek is handling custom designs, milling, casting, stone setting, repairs, restorations and finishing. Van Beek’s work station and computer are set up in a booth where customers can talk with him and see him work on his designs on the computer.

“The shop’s atmosphere is meant to be relaxed,” van Beek said. “This is who I am. And if they open up to me and I open up to them, then it is way easier to communicate and create what they want.”

Customers at Jewelry by Harold also will find a full line of Pandora charms, officially licensed Iowa Hawkeye jewelry and the option to create personalized charms from pictures.

Over the last few years, Jewelry by Harold has become known for creating not only stunning custom jewelry, but also some imaginative promotions.

Van Beek said customers really took to the “Shot Gun” wedding promotion a while back, where you received a free shotgun if you purchased an engagement ring.

“We always try to do things that are a little bit crazy,” he said.

Van Beek also can be very traditional. The van Beeks, who can often be heard speaking to each other in Dutch, honor their European heritage with fresh Dutch coffee and cookies for every customer that walks in the door.

"Our studio is an extension of our living room, which means that we welcome you to sit down and relax,” van Beek said. “Read a good book on art or design and watch us work on the 3D CAD-CAM programs displayed on the big screens.”

And van Beek will be giving a nod to another European culture when he launches his own jewelry line later this year. Adriano Milano will be an Italian style line of rings, bracelets and more that will pay homage to his father.

“This is my hobby,” van Beek said. “I’ve never worked a day in my life.”

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