Cleveland Business Connects

For immediate release (October 6, 2017) Media Contact: Judy Abelman Email: Phone: 440.725.8861...

Laura Bosse and Cat Zurchin go the retail route with their homemade jewelry shop in the historic Arcade

By Lauren Sable Freiman | Photo by Gery Petrof

One year ago Laura Bosse and Cat Zurchin opened Prosperity Jewelry in the historic Grand Old Arcade at E. 4th Street and Euclid Avenue. There they are doing something for the first time in their 30-year jewelry-making careers — selling their jewelry collection directly to the consumer.

“This is the first time I can make something and put it on the table as a one-of-a-kind piece, and it is such a refreshing opportunity for us,” Bosse says. “In the wholesale business, where we focused for much of our careers, you have to design and put a number on every piece and crunch numbers so it can be resold. You can’t make half the things you want anymore, because you can’t price it low enough to make a profit.”

Their glass!wear collection includes 80 different pieces, including necklaces, bracelets and earrings, in a color palette that spans 40 colors. Out of a 3,000-square-foot studio on E. 40th Street in Midtown, which Bosse describes as one of the most beautiful studios in the city, they are happily creating designs that were too expensive for wholesale, but are perfectly suited for their retail store. While they are still selling their vintage ceramic jewelry created during their wholesale heyday, they are now able to focus their efforts on creating one-of-a-kind pieces like never before.

“There are some limitations to what we do because there are just two of us, and we have a store and a studio so we have to divide forces,” Bosse says. “But we spend time trying to create new things. Product development is one of the hardest things we do.”

In addition to a line of more elaborate pieces made from copper and glass, Bosse says she and Zurchin have created a jewelry collection in the colors of Cleveland sports teams and have created some souvenir items for the many tourists who wander into their shop.

“These out-of-towners need places to shop,” Bosse says. “They need to see local, hand-crafted goods and need to see beautiful things they can’t find elsewhere. At a mid-price point, our jewelry is perfect and beautiful.”

When they met waiting tables at The Greenhouse in Little Italy in 1981, Laura Bosse and Cat Zurchin were fast friends. They were both young, budding artists with aspirations of making a living doing what they loved – creating beautiful, meaningful works of art.

“We both had experienced acclaim as sculptors, we had shows and were published, but making money wasn’t part of it,” Bosse says. “It was Cat’s idea to make jewelry. We thought we could at least make money doing that.”

Inspired by the intense desire to fulfill their dream of making a living as young artists, Bosse and Zurchin formed Prosperity Jewelry and started handcrafting jewelry from the vibrantly colored glass with which they loved to work.

“We would go out and do craft fairs and would take our friends out and eat and drink everything we made that day,” Bosse says. “Our inspiration was to make a living, and we worked really, really hard.”

Then, the pair met a man named Harry Cornelius. Bankrolled by a wealthy investor, Zurchin says Cornelius set them up in a studio, bought equipment and supplies and paid for the labor to create elaborate ceramic jewelry. Within a year, Bosse and Zurchin had 50 employees and sold 100,000 pieces to Cornelius, who showcased the whimsical creations in a showroom on New York City’s 5th Avenue. Though they were sculptors at heart, the two were excited about their big break.

“From there we went forward making jewelry as a sculpture, a small piece of art,” Bosse says.

From their Midtown studio, the two young artists became immersed in the world of wholesale jewelry-making, conceptualizing and creating pieces that were painstakingly crafted.

“It was 100 percent handmade and no one will ever do this kind of work again,” Bosse says. “It was fired five times and trimmed in 22 carat gold. It was a lot of work to do then, and more than a lot of work to do now.”

Their diligence paid off. At the height of their careers, their ceramic jewelry could be found in every department store across the country, museum stores, mom and pop stores, boutiques and at trade shows from New York to Los Angeles. Though Cornelius eventually ran out of money, Bosse and Zurchin were able to stay in the wholesale business by marketing themselves at gift shows around the country.

Though Prosperity Jewelry still services dozens of wholesale accounts, including the Cleveland Botanical Gardens, Smithsonian and stores in Japan and the Caribbean, at this point in their careers, Bosse and Zurchin are happy to cut back on business travel and stick closer to home to be part of what they hope is a revival of retail in downtown Cleveland.

“These out-of-towners need places to shop,” Bosse says. “They need to see local, hand-crafted goods and need to see beautiful things they can’t find elsewhere. At a mid-price point, our jewelry is perfect and beautiful.”

“We love being downtown in this space,” Bosse says. “This is a great time to be downtown and to be a store downtown.”

As she reflects on a more than 30-year career where she has successfully made a living as an artist, Bosse says she tells other young artists that they are never selling out by trying to make a living.
“I would never discourage anyone from doing their thing,” Bosse says. “I hope along the way someone says we did OK. We’ve always had a good time.”

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