By Emily Glory Peters
“Lover of all colored stones—and listens like your bartender” is how Tracy Wilke is described on the website for G.H. Wilke and Co., her family-run jewelry business in San Gabriel. And like the work of an expert jeweler, she considers listening an art form.
“I get called a bartender because I listen to people and don’t blab. I enjoy people’s quirks and personalities—and I love to use that knowledge in adapting their jewelry to be extra special,” says Wilke. Her philosophy is simple: it’s all about you.
“I want to hear how you’ll wear it, if you want to pass it on to future generations, what styles speak to you. This is a piece that expresses you and you alone—so we want you to smile whenever you look at it.”
Reaching that level of perfection is what Wilke describes as “the gasp effect”—the result of careful research, CAD (computer aided design) sketches and an intense devotion to crafting pieces that reflect the wearer’s personality. Whatever you’re looking for, “from the classic to the fantastic” G.H. Wilke and Co. can likely create it.
With roots in Chicago (founder Gilbert Wilke bartered his horology skills for chickens or eggs around Illinois during the Great Depression), today the G.H. Wilke and Co. team consists of Wilke, goldsmith Dario Pirozko and Mila Banez.
“Dario Pirozko is one of the best goldsmiths around, translating my enthusiastic non sequiturs into jewelry that’s clean and gorgeous that customers love to wear. If you want something very well-made and stunning, he’s the one you need to see.” Banez, who’s been with G.H. Wilke and Co. for more than 25 years, is Wilke’s “milagro.”
“Mila is the nicest, most patient person ever. She’s smart, great at problem solving and wonderful with young couples working out what they want in an engagement ring. If you need help, she can and will help you.”
It’s not just custom jewelry at the shop. Here you’ll find a glittering treasure box of the new and antique, including Wilke’s favorite Victorian pieces—“I’m drawn to the era’s hidden personal symbolism,” she notes. Yet when it comes to making something from scratch, the shop emphasizes quality over fast fashion.
“Custom work takes time to do right, and we spend a lot of that time explaining to customers why their unique piece is not a ‘click’ away,” she laughs. As for engagement rings, nothing quite beats having an actual ring on your actual finger.
“Online doesn’t tell you what your eyes can determine. You need to see and handle this jewelry. It’ll sound strange, but I believe 100 percent that there are probably five or more different rings that would be ‘the perfect ring.’ Don’t panic and fret over finding the one. Get her heart and we’ve got this for you!”
Wilke’s heart, for one, is truly in her work—and what precious metals and stones can convey.
“My husband asked me once if I don’t get tired of looking at jewelry and I said, ‘are you nuts?’” she says. “Even when I’m exhausted, I get a second wind because it energizes me to look at jewelry and think about what can be made.” Above all, the people behind this “bartender’s” counter make the biggest impact.
“I get to work with such wonderful people,” says Wilke. “It makes me a better person to be around them.”
G.H. Wilke and Co. is located at 612 W. Las Tunas Drive in San Gabriel. To learn more, contact Tracy and the team at ghwilkejewelry.com | (626) 284-9444 | firstname.lastname@example.org and follow along on Facebook @g.h.wilkeandco and Instagram @gh_wilkejewelry.