Front Royal jeweler to move to Sperryville

Gina Sweatt, co-owner of Ridge Line Jewelry, displays examples of her Native American-inspired work. Sweatt said she sold out of her favorite pieces of work over the Christmas season. Photo by Henry Culvyhouse

FRONT ROYAL — Sitting at her work bench, Gina Sweatt, co-owner and jeweler at Ridge Line Designs Estate and Fine Jewelry, files a piece of silver as Pearl Jam plays in the background.

“I know my work space is cluttered and messy, but that’s okay because I heard somewhere a messy desk is a sign of a creative mind, or at least I hope so,” Sweatt said with a chuckle.

It’s Friday morning, but by Sunday morning, everything will be gone. But don’t worry, Sweatt said, Ridge Line is not going out of business, it’s just moving to Sperryville.

Born and raised in Front Royal, Sweatt has been in the jewelry business for nearly 30 years, starting as a silversmith’s apprentice in Winchester. Sweatt said she was “just at the right place at the right time.”

“I met the silversmith through a mutual friend and he said, ‘My wife and I just opened up and we need someone to help us,'” Sweatt said. “I interviewed and got the job.”

Sweatt said during her eight years with the silversmith, she learned how to shape silver, picking up a knack for Native American-inspired jewelry.

“He started me with the very basics, building from the wires and sheet to the finished product,” she said. “I’ve always been a hands-on kind of person, so I’d just watch then I’d do it. He told me to just make stuff and the creativity started to flow.”

Sweatt moved onto Goldman’s Jewelers in Front Royal, where she fell in love with vintage and estate jewelry. After 10 years, she went into business in 2005 with John Sweatt, where they sold her jewelry, paintings by local artists, fossils, minerals and antiques.

After two years in business, Sweatt said she got a ring of her own.

“John and I started as a business venture, but after we got married, it became a life venture,” she said.

Sweatt said she and John travel around to jewelers’ shows to find materials for her work, as well as estate jewelry, minerals and fossils.

“We prefer to go to shows and select gemstones that speak to us,” she said. “I’ll see a loose stone and say, ‘That’s beautiful.’ I like to pick the beads and the gems first, then build the jewelry around the selection.”

Sweatt said business in Front Royal could be difficult, but good.

“We started right at the cusp of the recession, but I feel blessed that we were a unique enough shop for people to still frequent us,” she said.

During her tenure on East Main Street, Sweatt said she mostly served locals, providing them with anniversary gifts, engagement rings and jewelry repair. She said she has helped a few husbands get out of the doghouse over the years.

“We even had one fellow who would come in and buy several items to hide in the sock drawer for when he got in trouble,” Sweatt said, with a laugh.

Sweatt said the move to Sperryville is spurred by the town’s development into an “artistic community,” with its offering of high end art galleries, the Copper Fox Distillery and Antique Shop and other attractions, as well as the option to buy the property of her new location.

Sweatt said she believes the location will appeal more to tourists.

“Routes 522, 55, 340, all the ways to get to Skyline Drive kind of go around Main Street,” Sweatt said. “We had one guy pop in last year and say he’d been going to Skyline Drive for 20 years and he just now stumbled on Main Street.”

When the Sweatts move out to Sperryville, they intend to keep the same business model with a different atmosphere. The new location, at 10 River Lane, is a two-story, four-room farmhouse built in 1920, she said.

“They added on a kitchen in the back, so that’s going to be my workshop and the rooms of the house will be different galleries, like maybe a vintage room, a Gina room, a Native American Room, a painting room,” Sweatt said.

She added, “Down the road, John will have rock shop out back, not separate from, but in addition to the jewelry store. Since it’s near the river, he’s even been toying with the idea of adding a sluice with running water so kids can sift for gems.”

Since Sperryville is approximately 25 miles away from Front Royal, Sweatt said she hopes the clientele she developed over the years will take a jaunt to visit the new shop now and again.

While Sweatt said she’s excited for the move, Front Royal will always be her town.

“I grew up on Blue Ridge Avenue, so downtown has always been be my stomping grounds since I was 5 or 6,” she said. “It’s a little bittersweet moving on, but I look at it as a new adventure.”

Ridge Line Designs is located at 120 E. Main St. in Front Royal and will be open today from 10 a.m. to 7 p.m. A grand re-opening in Sperryville will be sometime in the spring.

Contact staff writer Henry Culvyhouse at 540-465-5137 ext. 184, or hculvyhouse@nvdaily.com