She was a woman of talent, taste, and humor; an original character who added new color and beauty to Santa Fe’s unique retail jewelery landscape. Norah Pierson was one of the first female jewelers in Santa Fe to work in high carat gold and rare exotic gemstones. And yet there remains an air of mystery around this creative figure whose legacy lives on in The Golden Eye at 115 Don Gaspar Street, just steps from the historic plaza. I wanted to know more about this Santa Fean who named her store after the symbol of the ancient Egyptian sky god Horus, which represents protection, royal power and good health.
In 1984, Norah opened her “dream store” in Santa Fe, and hired Amy Bertelli as manager. This would prove to be the beginning of a lifelong, dynamic partnership. Over the course of the next 23 years, they trained a talented crew of jewelers, and built a worldwide, loyal clientele for their designs.
I love descending the steps into the tiny store to be surrounded by such opulent ores and gems. It stirs childhood memories of classic tales of caves, grottos, and pirates stumbling upon a hidden lode.
Norah drew inspiration for her designs from a variety of cultures across the globe. This Ashanti Cross of high carat gold, silver, aquamarine and blue zircon was inspired by the Ashanti tribe of Central Ghana. It is surrounded by a beautiful chain intricately woven in 24k gold.
Other rare and earthy gems and jewels Norah favored include hematite, quartz, zircon, cognac diamonds, turquoise and so many more. “She had an amazing ability to spot remarkable jewels,” says Paula Cho, Galllery Director. “She was the type of person who could go for a hike and spot arrowheads and pottery sherds like no one else. She taught Amy to do the same.”
Norah loved the clever contrast of old, found, decaying metals with lush, rare jewels and high carat gold – a theme that remains in the displays today. Here, the rusting metal of an old hand rake flatters the simplicity of rose and yellow gold rings displayed on its finger-like prongs.
Since 1971, Norah had run a successful business in Laguna Beach, but the increasing bustle and popularity of the area sent her in search of quieter surroundings. She found her ideal in Santa Fe. She liked privacy, and disliked notoriety. She preferred the isolated lifestyle befitting a Santa Fe artist, and chose to live surrounded by nature about 30 miles outside of town. She designed, and pitched in to build, an extraordinary “Rock House” on her land. Its organic-shaped foam exterior was painstakingly formed to blend and reflect its natural sandstone surroundings. It stands as testament to how much Norah loved rock in all its forms, and her desire to live surrounded by it.
She may have shied from the limelight in her private life, but Norah’s creations have captured the attention and admiration of buyers and collectors around the world for decades. But there is one creation that’s not for sale. It sits proudly in its display like a totem to Norah and perhaps to all women. Inspired by a Star Wars toy, this pendant named Warrior Woman holds within its futuristic design 18k gold, moonstone, tourmalines, turned rose quartz, Mexican fire opal, pearls, black onyx, red spinel, cat’s-eye, emerald, garnet, peridot, amethyst, and diamonds!
I like to think it represents Norah, and her multifaceted, hard-working, creative and original character, who loved intricately blending the ordinary with the extraordinary, with grace and humor.
In 2007, Norah passed away peacefully in her sleep. Amy and her expert staff and jewelers carry on her legacy today.
The Santa Fe jewelers who proudly carry the torch of Norah Pierson’s legacy also render their own special designs in unexpected metals and extraordinary gems. These jewelers are some of the best in their field. Among them is Santa Fe local Susan Bell, who specializes in the delicate filigre designs of the late16th century Ecuadorian and Spanish cultures. And Robin Waynee, originally of the Saginaw Chippewa Indian tribe of Michigan, whose designs have won numerous prestigious awards, and Falk Burger, who mines many of his own gemstones for his one-of-a-kind creations, and whose work has been shown in galleries and museums all over the country. Here’s a fascinating piece of Falk’s with aging metal,18k gold, sterling silver, hematite and clear quartz – a one-of-a-kind treasure.
A visit to The Golden Eye is a must if you want to gain access to a true Santa Fe character. The store, its people and its story are all beautifully original.
For more information on The Golden Eye, please go to: http://santafeselection.com/unique-shops/the-golden-eye