40 years of custom creations: Donnelly Jewelers Inc. serves LaPlace

Published 10:29 am Saturday, January 25, 2020

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LAPLACE — For the past 40 years, Mike Donnelly has been blessed to operate a business that satisfies his mind, his hands and his pocketbook. Donnelly Jewelers Inc. is known throughout the River Parishes for its eclectic selection of handcrafted jewelry at 3013 Highway 51 in LaPlace.
Having a small, independently owned business means less overhead and better discounts for customers, according to Donnelly.
His journey to opening a business began when he was in high school. His father, Robert A. Donnelly, was a businessman who incorporated jewelry sales into his line of work. After working with his father, the younger Donnelly took on a part time job at Boudreaux’s Jewelers in 1967 and learned the art of jewelry repairs.
“That’s how you learn; you apprentice somebody,” Donnelly said.
In the years that followed, Donnelly worked at several New Orleans area stores, including Zales, Adler’s Jewelry, Rings & Things and Gordon’s Jewelers.

Donnelly Jewelers Inc. is known for creating unique, custom made jewelry that can’t be found anywhere else.

After coming to St. John the Baptist Parish in the 1970s, Donnelly began designing pendants for members of the LaPlace Jaycees in the Krewe Du Monde Carnival organization.
Donnelly Jewelers Inc. opened in 1979 on Hemlock Street in LaPlace. In the beginning, Donnelly worked at local industries full time and operated the store part time. That changed in Oct. 1981, when he went into business full time and relocated the store to the LaPlace Center behind Popeyes. It remained there for 19 years before moving once again to its current location on Highway 51 in 2000.
“I’m not going anywhere,” Donnelly said. “I like what I do. You sit down and start working, and all of a sudden, three or four hours goes by.”

Mike Donnelly is pictured working on a piece of jewelry in the 1970s. The picture hangs in his store to this day.

The job is versatile and ranges from repairs on existing jewelry to the development of new pieces. He can easily assist in sizing rings, replacing watch batteries and fixing broken chains.
Sometimes jewelry is made from scratch. A sheet of material can become a three-dimensional dice necklace hanging on a chain or a custom made LSU Tigers belt buckle. All it takes is a little imagination and a lot of precision.
Donnelly breathes new life into old pieces of gold and silver customers bring to the store. Broken pieces of jewelry or old, unwanted rings are reborn as entirely new pieces, and Donnelly said the look of amazement on customers’ faces makes all the hard work worth it.
Hand-engravings and monogrammed pieces are also popular among customers, according to Donnelly. The store also offers unique second line and fleur-de-lis jewelry that can’t be found anywhere else.
“It’s fun. You’ve got to figure things out and work with it,” Donnelly said. “I do all of my work in my own shop. What sets me apart is I have the ability to melt it, pour it and make it here. I can take it from broken pieces of metal and bring it to a ring. I do cuff links, tie tacks and earrings. It can be anything you want.”
Mixing gold with various proportions with silver and copper allows Donnelly to make yellow, white, rose and green gold jewelry.
Donnelly isn’t afraid to get creative with his craftsmanship. Last year, he gifted his son an engraved sasquatch pendant after he claimed to have seen Bigfoot on a camping trip. In a more traditional commission, Donnelly created custom rings for the emergency response team at the Valero refinery.

Mike Donnelly works on a custom piece of jewelry in his workshop.

With a variety of diamond pendants, earrings, rings and precious stones including rubies, sapphires and emeralds, Donnelly has something for everybody. The pieces that aren’t created by him are specially selected for quality from various jewelry manufacturers.
Orders have been called in from Texas, Florida, Washington, Ohio and other locations across the country. Being in business for so long, Donnelly has seen customers walk through his door wearing jewelry he made more than 20 years ago.
“I’ve always treated everybody fairly,” Donnelly said. “I’m honest. That’s who I am. I wouldn’t be out here after 40 years if I weren’t.”
There have been changes in the jewelry industries in the four decades since Donnelly Jewelers Inc. opened its doors.
“Now you have the CAD/CAM jewelry design on the computer,” Donnelly said. “You can take a picture of what you want. I can send the exact sizes of the diamonds, and it will cut it perfectly because it’s a computer. Before, we used to make it out of wax and then cast it.”
Donnelly Jewelers, Inc. is open from 10 a.m. to 4 p.m. Tuesday through Friday and from 10 a.m. to 2 p.m. on Saturday.