Dorothy and Fred Burke, Sr. didn’t realize they were establishing a Northern Neck tradition back in August of 1969. They had a vision for their new company. They wanted to offer quality items and service to their friends and neighbors. They did just that when they opened the doors of Burkes Jewelers 45 years ago.
The jewelry industry was an unlikely career choice for the couple. Fred was a meat cutter at Safeway Stores for 25 years and Dorothy was a secretary at the local insurance company for more than 20 years. They made the decision to buy Finney’s Quality Jewelers from Mr. and Mrs. Forrest Finney and on August 25th Burkes Jewelers was born. Of course Mr. and Mrs. Burke knew the decision to buy the company would have an impact on their family but they had no idea that
45 years later Burkes Fine Jewelers would be three generations deep and growing faster than ever.
The premise the company was built on is exactly why Burkes Fine Jewelers is thriving. They value good old fashioned service, superior craftsmanship and lasting friendships with their clients.
Fred Jr. became a jeweler 36 years ago and joined the family business to help expand the services Burkes Jewelers offered. In 1987, Fred Jr. met Karen, got married and took over the business shortly after. “Not only did I fall head-over-heels in love with Fred, but I also fell in love with his family, their business and the laid-back lifestyle of the Northern Neck” said Karen Burke, owner and designer of Burkes Fine Jewelers.
It’s that lifestyle that Karen joined with her love of jewelry to create the famous River Collection - an assemblage of Northern Neck inspired jewelry that is admired and adorned by locals and visitors alike. “I brought my love of fine jewelry and all it has meant to my life, and my deep love for the land and the waters of the Northern Neck” said Karen. “The amazing variety of birds and waterfowl. The blue crab. The oysters and rockfish. Truly, this is God’s country and I stand in awe and amazement at its boldness and beauty.”
You’re probably familiar with the Northern Neck Knot, a particularly special collection to the Burke family. Karen and Fred tied a knot on their wedding day symbolizing strength of love that will never waiver. It hangs next to their front door and is a constant reminder of their steadfast love. Years later, their son, Justin, and his wife, Melissa, tied their own knot to serve as a token from their wedding day. To the Burke family, the knot is a symbol that reminds them that, even in the toughest of times, the strength of their love will never waiver. They even named the variations after all of the Burke women; Dorothy, Karen, Melissa and Courtney.
If you have visited Burkes Fine Jewelers you’ve seen the Lady of the Bay. To Karen, the Lady of the Bay Collection celebrates her most beloved aquatic creature – imaginary of course – the Mermaid. The mystical Mermaid. She’s feminine, romantic and mysterious. “I’m fascinated by Mermaids because they remind me of the power of our imagination. I often draw inspiration for my designs from the Mermaid. They’re beautiful, colorful and magical!” said Karen.
There is something Karen loves more than Mermaids… Diamonds! There is nothing she enjoys more than helping a customer choose or design the perfect ring for their soon to be wife. “There are countless settings in our River Rocks Collection and if you don’t find one that reflects her perfectly, well, then we create it!” said Karen. That’s Karen’s favorite thing to do: dream up a new piece of jewelry and turn it into reality. “It is exciting to finally place the finished product in the case. I know that someone special will be wearing my design and it fills my heart with joy.”
“Last July, our son, Justin, and his wife, Melissa, joined the company.” said Fred. Justin is a 3rd generation salesman but he wears many other hats. He is the creator of the stunning advertisements for the company and he loves to design custom pieces of jewelry for customers. Melissa is a bench jeweler, working alongside Fred and learning the profession from the best. “Family is the foundation of our company. We value faith and family above everything else; not only our Burke family but our wonderful team and their families.
Sarah, Whitney, Sharon and Libbie are like family to us. This is truly a family owned and operated small town business.” said Fred.
“In our neck of the woods, owning and operating a small business isn’t easy but it’s what keeps our area alive.” said Fred Burke, Jr., owner and Master Jeweler. “There is something very encouraging about looking down Main Street at our neighbor businesses. I’m proud to run our company alongside all of the great locally owned and operated businesses, not only here in Kilmarnock but in all of our surrounding small towns. It’s the businesses like ours that help draw folks to our area and keep the Northern Neck alive.”
To celebrate their 45th anniversary, Burkes Fine Jewelers will be kicking off the day on Friday, August 22nd with 45% off for 45 minutes from 9:00am-9:45am. They’re having hourly drawings to give away beautiful jewelry to lucky customers who shop with them in the month of August. Melissa, Justin, Karen and Fred designed a beautiful Bay Bangle topper to honor their 45th anniversary with 45 points of blue sapphire (the gemstone that represents 45th anniversaries) and three gold bars representing the three generations. On Saturday, August 23rd they will be hosting a customer appreciation day
to thank their customers for making them a true Northern Neck tradition.