Hi #BeautifulAndCapable! Today I want to share with you my vision for Anna Balkan Designer Jewelry Gallery and why I want you to feel when shopping at my store the same way you’d feel shopping in your girlfriend’s closet.
My vision for Anna Balkan Designer Jewelry Gallery turned into reality
Being an American jewelry designer who’s originally from Ukraine, I often get asked whether or not I use amber. Because I grew up with way too much of it all around me in traditional jewelry, I have never considered to use that gem.
Only recently have I realized the deeper meaning of amber. It’s not just a gem. It’s a symbol to me. The thoughts poured out of me during one of my late-evening conversations with a friend about adversity and overcoming life’s challenges.
When I was talking about the fruit of our trials in life, amber came to mind.
According to the Webster Dictionary, amber is produced from a marrow discharged by trees belonging to the pine genus, like gum from the cherry, and resin from the ordinary pine; it is a liquid at first, which issues forth in considerable quantities, and is gradually hardened.
How beautiful is that notion?
Our struggles and challenges in life propel us to grow, just like a tree pushes up high toward the sun, against adversities of wind, overcoming other trees that block it from the sun.
Similarly, in life, we push through adversity, growing in the process.
Our internal lifeforce flows through us, filling up to the brims with life’s lessons that we eventually get to express through various means: some in a form of art and some in other written or spoken forms.
But just like amber is filled with earth's wisdom and pressured by the weathering of trees, the expressions of our inner learning and inspiration become timeless. They keep benefiting and blessing everyone who gets to experience them.
Maybe in a way my jewelry store is that amber in my life…
My life’s journey and its lessons of empowerment and inspiration manifested as a safe and beautiful space I call home. My Anna Balkan Designer Jewelry Gallery is the beautiful amber produced by my life’s adversity and everything I had to overcome.
Here, you can be beautiful, be you.
I’ve been through many years of growth, both physically and spiritually.
At a young age, I lived through the trials and adversity of discrimination. Later in life, I survived violence and other challenging circumstances mentioned in my previous blogs [link phrase].
Those were tests of my resolve and strength. I was propelled to the new level of growth in the new land of America where anyone’s dream can become a reality.
The corporate world taught me discipline, as well as how to set the vision and execute upon it. Yet, the true fruit of all my effort only fully manifested once my jewelry was able to find its true home - the store.
My jewelry gallery is a place where I get to invest in each piece of my ideas of how a woman can be helped by a piece of jewelry made perfect just for her.
Anna Balkan Designer Jewelry Gallery in Historic Norcross is a place where you can walk in and feel the energy of love and acceptance, making you feel unique and beautiful.
So, I can say that yes, my gallery is the amber of my life’s adversity, and it is blessed with love and hope which resulted from my own personal growth as a woman.
Buying jewelry is never transactional, it’s a relational experience
If you want to feed a man, teach him to fish.
Or something like that… :-)
That idea is the very philosophy upon which I built the experience you have in my store.
If we help you better understand and see for yourself what looks good on you and why you will be empowered to make better choices and find pieces that will be your power source and your secret weapon.
We always want to build a relationship with you, not to sell you stuff. We want to get to know you as a person, to understand your heart, your story, and your dreams. We want to be friends. A relationship with you is what helps us help you.
Now, are you ready to talk about the secret weapons mentioned above?
Let’s start with necklaces.
I have noticed that so many women love wearing that one perfect piece they never take off. Can you relate? I have one for sure, and it’s like your identity depends on it.
Most of the time it’s rather a simple piece with maybe a diamond in it. I’ve noticed that typically it’s an inconspicuous piece that just hangs around the neck, not adding much and not taking away much either.
It’s never removed, not even at night or shower…
It’s always there as a checklist item: “Jewelry on?” “CHECK!”
I call it “Safe and lazy jewelry.”
Jewelry is meant to bring joy to you and to be worn with pride. It must be selected based on your identity, mood, occasion, outfit, etc.
A necklace is like that pretty scarf you see in romantic French movies, which beautiful smiling heroin drapes swiftly around her neck with a whisper of class and sophistication as she exits her flat for a morning of adventure and l’amor!
Effortless! The jewelry around your neck must feel effortless.
Effortless to pick and step out into a world with.
The cliff notes here: if you don’t wear your jewelry, it’s not because you have too much or it takes too much effort to coordinate your jewelry with your outfit and you are in a hurry…
You most likely don’t wear jewelry because you do not have the right jewelry and jewelry you own does not bring you joy.
So let’s say you wanted to try and go beyond your norm, and open yourself up to experiencing jewelry again, like a wide-eyed child seeing colorful glimmering magical treasures.
I’m convinced that shopping for jewelry should truly feel like that moment in your childhood, the moment of awe and joy.
Let me share with you 10 points we discuss with our clients when providing personal jewelry styling in our gallery located in Historic Norcross.
A little disclaimer before we get started.
I truly believe that everyone should own at least one piece of handmade jewelry.
The experience of handmade jewelry adorning your neck is indescribable. You feel the difference! You feel the energy in it, unlike any other pieces you have ever worn.
You feel happy and connected to others, especially your designer and her community. Why? Because handmade jewelry is magical and it holds the energy and the story of its creator. As you may have guessed it already, it’s always crafted out of pure love and joy here in our store.
Handmade jewelry is an expression of the inner pure soul in all of us.
It’s a gift to the world from within. It’s sculpted by the hands and seen through the eyes of the artist.
I feel the worth of the treasured piece should not be based on just its monetary value. Rather, the worth of handmade jewelry must be based on the level of joy it adds to your life.
Now, back to the 10 suggestions, I have for you today.
10 Things To Look For When Shopping For Handmade Jewelry
- Find the right metal finish for your skin tone and your personal style
- Discover your best colors that will go with everything in your wardrobe
- Explore the right style of the piece – contemporary, classic, etc
- Search for the right shape for your neckline and your face
- Examine the size of the pieces to get the right fit
- Choose the right length for your style and body shape
- Test the right layering pieces to be able to create desired looks in an instant
- Try the pieces that could work with your other jewelry
- Determine the pieces that may give you joy and make you smile
- Favor the pieces made by hand, with love, so you can feel proud to own them
I hope that this 10-part checklist for purchasing handmade jewelry will help you make great decisions. I want you to be really happy with your collection and feel inspired and empowered as you wear unique pieces made with love.
Feeling love, friendship, understanding, and safety at my store
Love… We all dream of being loved for who we are, and for that love to last for eternity.
Growing up, at a very early age I had an idea that I was unlovable and unworthy.
The idea took roots, and over the years of validation, it blossomed into a deeper longing for and simultaneous fear of love.
Fast forward into the year 2000.
This was the year our web and IT industry being tested. Many of us had our fingers crossed that there would not be a global blackout and the end of civilization as we knew it.
If you don’t recall it, it had to do with programming languages only assuming years up to 1999… If you’re reading this and you’re very young, ok, enjoy a good laugh, I don’t mind at all :-)
Now, back to some serious business.
I worked in IT Technology Consulting at the time, and vividly recall the panic and fears of the unknown.
As we all held our breath on that New Year’s Eve 1999 and waited for the clock to strike 12:00, I whispered the prayer, as if that could have been my last dying wish: “I want to experience real love.”
We all survived the turn of the clocks, and moved on with our lives, laughing at the silly predictions and forgetting all about it shortly thereafter.
But my prayer was answered in June of that same year.
I met a great guy, Erik, and we swiftly fell in love and experienced that perfect euphoria of newlyweds just shy of our 2-year anniversary.
Was it exactly as I imagined it in my prayer? No.
But it was good, and all that goodness resulted in a beautiful child being born - our daughter Ally.
Our life had changed with the new baby. As I embarked on the journey of starting off my Anna Balkan Jewelry business, our daily lives had transformed even more. At first, the changes were ever so noticeable. But eventually, we had become transactional, running a rat race and being more of administrative business partners than two people in love.
Our daughter was the button we passed on to each other as we ran our most independent daily lives and took care of the joint home.
This is not a unique story. Many new parents go through the changes in relational and household dynamics. Some make it, and others evolve but in different directions.
Over the next year, with the economy crashing and Erik’s job loss, the pressure of handling it all was creating cracks in our marriage.
After a year of seeking help and working on making things work again, we peacefully agreed that our lives must continue separately.
I moved out and became a 50% on and 50% off single mom.
At the time, I had just opened the doors of my store. After the separation, the gallery felt like the only home I had.
When you go through a divorce, you feel shame. You feel like a failure. You’re judged and talked about. Your story keeps evolving into a tale as people pass it from one to another. You want to hide and yet you want people to reach out to you and ask if you’re even ok.
That did not happen to me.
My phone was silent. Loneliness and despair filled my every pore.
The only place I could go and see the people who were not judging me was my store. I spent long hours there, staying open until 1am at times because I did not want to be alone and face my failure on my own.
I became friends with owners of Mojitos, Louis and Yannin, and spent many long evenings talking to them over a dish or a glass of wine, seeking some hope and validation.
The biggest gift to me during that first very difficult year was the gift of my customers and my employees.
I felt at home in the walls of my store, surrounded by kind and understanding women of all ages who had either been there themselves or had deep compassion for my pain. They helped ease it.
I would not have made it if it weren’t for all the people who walked into my doors. I owe deep gratitude to them for all the love that I was showered with, all the grace that was given to me. And those people mostly barely knew me.
Today, as I’m writing this, it is March of 2019, and I am in love with an amazing man who accepts me for who I am. We just bought a new home together, and we are building a strong new blended unit, based on love and compassion.
My heart cracked open during those 8 years of healing. I know that the big part of that was a community of women whom I met personally or who came through the doors of my jewelry gallery in Historic Norcross, leaving just a bit more of that open-heart love behind.
My store has all that magic in its walls and in its very foundation.
It was built on love, hope, tears, and sweat. You just can’t be there and feel untouched by all the love and compassion inside my gallery.
Within these walls, you will find friendships and kind ears.
If you ever came to my events, you understand who our customers really are. We are all so very similar. How? Our hearts are open. We are real.
In my store, we open our hearts to YOU.
Have you ever wondered what energy flows through the pieces on handmade jewelry that you’re wearing?
Have you ever thought about what someone was imagining while creating this necklace design you feel so connected to?
Why do we sometimes feel so drawn to a piece of custom-made jewelry that we want to touch it or feel it, mesmerized by its design?
At that moment, we feel a true connection to the energy of the creator of the handmade jewelry.
Gemstones do that - they keep the energy of their creator, the person who infused life into it. They tell the true story! All you have to do is listen and let it in.
What’s my story?
I’m Anna Balkan, and I am a jewelry designer.
For the last 15 years, I have been creating gemstone handmade jewelry that reflects my sense of color balance and infuse each of my pieces with love and hope, which I feel in my heart.
I live a life of gratitude for every moment I’m alive and all the amazing gifts this life has to offer. I view every situation as a gift, an opportunity to grow and experience the entire spectrum of emotions.
Life is not all about just happy and “good,” it is meant to show us every shade of color it has in store for us.
Like a diamond, forged by earth’s pressure and heat, our souls are forged by life’s journey. To shine bright, you must embrace it all with a smile on your face.You must endure, persevere, survive, and thrive. You must follow your heart and pursue your dreams.
And I am a dreamer.
In so many ways it fits me perfectly.
I am a first-generation immigrant, a political refugee unwanted and persecuted by my homeland. I have dreamed up the life in this amazing land of freedom and opportunities.
I have dreamed up my world of jewelry design, colorful gemstones, balance and texture, genuine joy, and unconditional love.
Did you know, that just like many other jewelry designers, this was not my first love, not even second? Surprised?
Not as much as I would have been if 15 years ago someone would have told me that I would leave the comfort of the corporate high-paying IT job for anything, especially jewelry-making…
Why would I ever do such a thing?
I lived my American Dream every day, and savings were nicely accounted for with an admiration for the growth and visions of future spending.
Why would someone at the top of her career make such a decision? Why would I trade the comfort of knowing how each day would unfold in the corporate settings for the uncertainty of an entrepreneurial journey?
Because I was asleep and did not even know it. Really!
It was time to wake up and be who I knew I was meant to be in this world.
It’s funny how in the midst of your most comfortable moments, you begin to feel the unrest of your soul.
You can ignore it, but only for so long.
It will begin to manifest itself in many external situations.
You will be pushed to your life’s purpose one way or another, but trust me – one day you will open your eyes and your ears for the very first time and feel your soul sing through your heart a song of freedom and hope.
So, who am I, the awakened soul that is designing colorful gemstone handmade jewelry?
That’s the most amazing part of anyone’s journey.
Discovering your true life’s purpose must be the most amazing adventure and you shall feel excited to embark on it.
No need to rush it, no need to set goals and timelines, just let it unfold in its full potential and embrace every moment of it with love and awe.
I feel my purpose, my inner WHY, deep inside my soul, and it is expressing itself now through the colors and shapes of my custom-made jewelry designs.
I design from a place of love, friendship, understanding, and safety.
But I jumped too far ahead. Let me rewind back 15 years…
“Where am I?...Am I flying?...Where am I flying?...”
I felt groggy and confused, with a very distinct feeling of Déjà vu.
I recalled that exact moment, those exact questions, and yet the answers were very different and were in another language…
And then it all flooded in all at once.
I was once again at the fork on a road of my life, and I had to make a jump into the unknown and hope my wings would not betray me.
It was my return flight from San Francisco, where I exhibited at a slow and not-so-profitable trade show for 3 days.
It was Wednesday morning, at 7 am, and I only had 3 days to make a life-changing decision: to stay in corporate America or to pursue my dream of being a jewelry designer.
Before my flight boarded, I took a deep breath and reflected on the 3 months of leave of absence from my job. It was my attempt to search for that inner purpose I mentioned to you earlier.
Those were 3 months of living the words of The Alchemist book that fell into my hands on day 1 of 90. I longed for the answer to come to me and for reassurances of the rightness of it.
I tightly closed my eyes and asked the Universe to give me a sign.
I was going to leap into the unknown fork of my life’s road.
I just needed a sign, any kind of sign that would tell me “YES!”…
But the gate agent’s announcement broke the spell of that moment, and we slowly began boarding our flight.
“If only my company would offer me $100 to leave, I would be ok with that…Even that I would accept as a sign.”
And on that note, exhausted, I fell asleep.
Little did I know, at that exact moment, which was 10 am in Atlanta, the answers were being left on my voicemail, while my phone was safely resting in the airplane mode.
“Anna, this is Todd. Please call me back as soon as you get this message. If you cannot reach me on this number, please contact me on my cell or feel free to call me at home this evening. Thank you.”
I stared into slow emptying rows far ahead of my seat and decided I had some time to dial the number… I called Todd.
What I learned during the 2-minute conversation was that the Universe did listen and did answer my question. I also learned that when you get your answer, you will go into a state of “Oh SHIT!!” and all the fears will flood your mind like a disturbed beehive.
I learned that when that happens, you will go both numb and cold all at once, and you most likely won’t have the complete comprehension of the words you hear...
Somehow, that moment would stretch in time like in a dream, like a soap bubble blown into an abnormal shape that is just about to pop.
That was what I learned from my conversation with Todd.
During those 2 minutes, my path was forged.
I was to leave the safety of my corporate IT job. I was given a rare gift of 6 months of severance, of all stock options vesting at once at top cash value, and I could be rehired at any point for any position in the company.
I discovered from Todd that while I was on my leave of absence, my mighty and “safe” company was acquired and transitioned way ahead of the estimated timeline.
I found out that my new shiny role which I accepted just a few months prior to taking the leave, was a duplicate function and was no longer needed.
I spend 8 years in the safest, most desired role prior to that move, and it was that move that created this situation I was now in.
This opportunity I was facing was the very answer I needed from the Universe.
I remained silent and in awe of the reality’s gravity.
And then I smiled!
From the depth of my being, a flood of warmth and peace came over me.
This is what The Alchemist book was talking about! This was my moment, my sign.
I knew the path to take. I was confident that I could not fail. I discovered that the Universe had my back.
Why am I sharing this story here?
We all have that moment in our lives, that amazing fork on the road that breaks our path into two. We can either go right or left.
If you’re there, it truly does not matter which path beacons you. The one you pick is the one perfect for you.
Only from the distance of time will you have realized later why the fork in the road was so important to your life’s story.
Rarely our choices are just black and white and can be clearly understood by others. My story wasn’t easy to understand, but now I see the path clearly. I trusted the journey. I followed my heart from terror to safety. I was propelled from heartbreaks to love. And I know what it’s like to go through the fork on the road and make really hard decisions for your life.
My store is the result of my commitment to following the journey of love, friendship, compassion, and understanding.
My story is a story of perseverance and survival but also genuine thriving.
Whatever your personal story, I want you to know that there’s a place of love, friendship, understanding, and safety for you. It’s my gallery. Here, you can find support, encouragement, acceptance, and empowerment.
Shopping at Anna Balkan Design Jewelry Gallery is like shopping in your girlfriend’s closet
We call it the Anna Balkan Experience – a Big Experience in an Intimate Setting
With a farm-to-table mentality. Each visit to my store is truly an experience worth savoring.
From the moment you walk through the door, you can’t help but smile as you’re greeted by both a rainbow of colorful cases overflowing with hand-sculpted wearable works of art made just for your own individual complexion, and by our enthusiastic seasoned stylists who gently guide you in creating a look that is uniquely suited for you.
Think of our stylists as your personal tour-guides. But also you can think of them as your sisters, because they are so kind, loving, and understanding.
We are a beautiful European Style Gallery tucked into the heart of inspiring Historic Downtown Norcross.
All jewelry here is made locally; we hire locally, and we give back to the local community as well.
And you know what the best part of the experience is?
Shopping with us feels just like shopping in your girlfriend's’ closet!
It’s an experience that’s free from judgments. It is fun, exciting, and almost childlike playtime!
We genuinely love playing with jewelry, and that love is clear as soon as you step foot into our gallery! You get to try jewelry on and play with layering ideas while talking about life with amazing women just like you. They understand you and they care about you.
We all come from different walks of life, but in my store, in that moment of togetherness, we are all girlfriends, united by the love of beauty and the childlike joy of being a princess.
“A girl should be two things: classy and fabulous.” – Coco Chanel
I can’t help but be inspired by this quote from Coco Chanel, one of the most influential women and fashion designers of all time.
In the bustle of everyday life and routine, we women sometimes forget just how fabulous we really are.
Take a moment each day to remind yourself of everything that makes you special, beautiful, and powerful. You are awesome, never forget it. Love yourself every day, you deserve it.
Be beautiful. Be you.