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Jewels of Inspiration

Elizabeth Karas started 24 Karas after attending a Brooklyn jewelry school. Photo by Steve Lawrence
TimesLedger Newspapers

Many artists have made Queens their home, enjoying its cultural attractions, interesting communities, close proximity to Manhattan and reasonable rents.

In tune with spring, Elizabeth Karas’ creative energy is in full bloom. A hopeless romantic, the jewelry designer and artisan dreams up delicate heirloom-style pieces, fashioned from silver, gold and antique brass, and occasionally accented with sapphires, garnets and diamonds. Her jewelry line, aptly named 24Karas, was born in her home studio, located in the Dutch Kills section of Long Island City.

“My jewelry has a natural, organic feel to it,” said 32-year-old Karas. “It’s soft and feminine, not over-complicated and heavy like a lot of jewelry out there. My goal is to make it appear softer — almost more of a textile feel; I try to make metal look like lace.”

Just starting another chapter in her career, the creative entrepreneur last week opened her new Long Island City jewelry studio and showroom — one of the few in the area. It’s located in an old building at 10-10 44th Ave., right near bustling, artsy Vernon Boulevard — not far from One Court Square (formerly the Citigroup Building) and close to The Foundry, a beautiful landmark building that serves as an event venue.

“One day, I would love to have a storefront studio here,” said Karas, whose business partner and significant other works closely with her on the graphic design for her website, 24karas.com.

Karas takes her inspiration from a surprising mix of sources. “When I’m in the city, I long for nature, and I think that comes out a lot in the jewelry I make.” Her design reflects her love of the beach and old, avant-garde French films — among other things. She even captures her Eastern European heritage: “I feel there’s an old-world inspiration in my jewelry — my grandparents came over here through Ellis Island, in the ’50s,” said Karas.

Some of the designer’s lovely pieces include antique flower and lace cuff bracelets, a Victoria chandelier’s lace fleur ring with emeralds and diamonds, hand-stamped pendants and floral earrings, La Fleur antique brass ring with gems, silver nautical-style men’s cuff links and the Queen of Hearts ring. Her popular lace 14-carat crown ring has sold as a wedding band for brides. “A lot of pieces we’re doing now are mostly metalwork,” said Karas.

Using her imagination, Karas sometimes sketches a new design, but explains that “many pieces just happen organically, on their own, while I’m working with metal or a piece of fabric — shaping it, designing it.” As she works on her new collection, which she expects to complete by August, Karas hopes to get her line into retail stores one day.

Realizing her dream

Growing up in Hartford, Conn., Karas said her dream was always to come to New York.

“You have so many resources here,” she said. “I don’t think I’d be doing this if I was still living in Connecticut.

“When I came to New York in 2005, I worked as associate art director for Victoria’s Secret. In my free time, I would walk around the jewelry district and get inspired by what I saw around me. So, I began making jewelry for friends and family, and was enjoying it. I wanted to learn how to design. I loved working with metal and the whole process of working with your hands.”

That led to a whole new chapter in her life. She decided to freelance, doing graphic design part-time while attending a jewelry school in Brooklyn. But it was at a jewelry manufacturing company on 47th Street, where Karas learned her craft hands-on sitting alongside seasoned jewelers, who shared their expertise with the budding designer, whose very first pieces were created here. “I learned how to make a collection and what it takes to put together a jewelry line. After that, I started my own business and website: 24Karas.”

Karas has been renting a bench and making her pieces at the jewelry company on 47th Street for several years. Her line is manufactured there.

Eventually, Karas said she would like to offer beginner jewelry classes in her new studio.

As a part-time poet, Karas said she would “like to think that the pieces have a story, a bit of mystery. I hope people see that when they look at them.”

Her pieces are available through 24karas.com. Shoppers are welcome to come in, browse and place an order at the studio. Custom designs can be ordered.

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