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From silverware to 'Silver-Wear'

Do you have some mismatched pieces of old silverware collecting dust in a drawer somewhere?

To Lake Park resident Joanie Schiffner, such a collection would provide a wonderful trove of treasure.

When Schiffner looks at an old silver-plated teaspoon, knife or fork, she envisions a unique piece of jewelry.

The woman known by some as "The Spoon Lady" has gained local renown for being able to create pendants, bracelets, rings and letter openers from antique silverware.

"I started out with bracelets, and branched out from there," she said. "I've not made any earrings though."

One of Schiffner's more unique pendant designs involves taking two silver spoon handles and fashioning them into a heart, from which can be hung birthstones commemorating the birthdays of loved ones.

"It took a little trial and error before I got it figured out," Schiffner said of her designs.

She got the inspiration for her latest hobby about a year and a half ago, when one of her nieces made her a spoon bracelet and sent it to her.

"I thought, 'I want to try to do this,'" Schiffner said. Now, she's hooked.

Though she's never taken a class in jewelry making, Schiffner does have considerable crafting experience.

"I've always had hobbies," she said.

From sewing to doll making to clock making, she's done a little bit of everything. But it appears that she may have finally. found her true calling.

"It's been very good for me," Schiffner said. "It's fun finding the silverware, it's fun giving somebody something they enjoy having, and it's fun making the jewelry. It's something I plan on doing the rest of my life too."

So far, Schiffner has done no exhibiting of her work, content to rely on word of mouth to keep her busy.

"I love giving them as gifts," Schiffner said. "They're really a hit.

"I probably give away as many as I sell," she admitted.

Some of the silver pieces her friends and family have brought her come from as far back as the 1800s.

"I've got a book that tells me when every piece (of silverware) was issued," she said.

For the birthstones on her pendants, Schiffner uses Swarovski crystals.

"They're a little more expensive, but they stay nice," she said.

One tip that she's learned to give to her customers is that if they wear their jewelry regularly, no polishing will be necessary. But if they leave the pieces to gather dust in a drawer, they will tarnish just like the silverware from which they were made.

"I like the idea of people giving me their family silver," Schiffner said.

Rather than attempting to divide the silverware among family members, they can have special bracelets, letter openers, etc., made for each of them instead.

One special story Schiffner has involves a set of silver that she purchased on eBay from a woman in New York. During their correspondence regarding the sale, Schiffner told the seller what she intended to do with the pieces, and offered to make a bracelet for her.

The woman was so pleased with the bracelet Schiffner sent her that she requested more pieces to be made for family members. Eventually, she ended up buying back all of the silverware she had sold to Schiffner -- in the form of pendants, bracelets and letter openers. Everyone in her family ended up with a piece of their grandmother's silverware, though many had never known her personally (she had died at the age of 32).

It's stories like these that make Schiffner's hobby so unique and special.

Vicki Gerdes

Staff writer at Detroit Lakes Newspapers for the past 16 years, currently editor of the entertainment and community pages as well as covering city council and the Lake Park-Audubon School Board. Living in DL with my cat, Smokey.

(218) 844-1454