Forest of Jewels offers select brands and one-of-a-kind, hand-crafted creations
When Lawrence Brendel was young, he was fascinated by coins, but not just with coins as a measure of value; he was curious about the metals they were made from, the gold, silver, copper and more. He pursued that interest through apprenticeships as a goldsmith with several jewellers in Edmonton, learning the art and craft of cutting, filing, hammering, turning, spinning, bending and casting gold. In 1990, he joined Forest of Jewels, which at the time was in Heritage Mall and, not long after, he and his wife Janet bought the business.
When Heritage Mall closed in 2001 (the property is now part of the Century Park LRT station), Lawrence moved the business to Riverbend Square, which has made for a welcome home. “It’s a very supportive neighbourhood,” he says. “We love the community.”
Lawrence runs Forest of Jewels with his son, Mason, who is gradually taking over the operation. Mason didn’t always have designs on jewellery. He first went to the University of Alberta, where he earned a degree in Earth sciences (“I got to see all the ugly rocks first and now I get to work with the nice ones,” he says.) But he started working at Forest of Jewels during his last year of university and came onboard full time in 2016. He took a computer-assisted design (CAD) course in Toronto and earned his graduate jeweller’s diploma from the Canadian Jewellers Association. Now, he’s hooked on the beauty and meaning of jewellery. “It’s a luxury thing, but it’s emotional too,” he says, “especially repairing pieces like family heirlooms. It means a lot to people.”
The store has a small footprint. In the front are the display cases, featuring one-of-a-kind, uniquely coloured stones and a small selection of brands, including Swarovski crystal, Tissot watches, Keith Jack silver and Anna Zuckerman jewellery. In the back are three goldsmith stations, casting equipment, a laser welder and a 3D printer. “We don’t have a high traffic area, so we pick more unique items,” says Lawrence. “We’re kind of a destination for quality and uniqueness.”
Bridal jewellery remains a mainstay, but not your typical, off-the-shelf styles. “If someone wants a unique engagement ring they come here and we work together from the idea stage to a CAD image to a printed model to a finished product,” says Lawrence. “They’re involved in every step of the creative process.” Diamonds – both natural and lab grown – are featured, but Forest of Jewels also works with a variety of coloured stones, including sapphires, rubies and emeralds. “Almost always someone comes in and leaves happy,” says Mason. “That’s what’s unique about our business.”
Forest of Jewels is open Monday to Friday, 10 am–5 pm and Saturdays 10 am – 4 pm.
Mason Brendel, left, and his father Lawrence own and operate Forest of Jewels, a staple of Riverbend Square since 2001.