Silver Eagle Gallery: Native American Jewelry, Arts and Crafts
Dec 04, 2013 12:21PM
By Linda Sechrist
Today’s U.S. economy owes its great entrepreneurial spirit to Colonial-era family farmers and small, localized industries that recognized the value of family members working together. For the Nelson family, owners of Silver Eagle Gallery, in Naples, Florida and Highlands, North Carolina, working together in a family business provides the perfect venue for channeling their entrepreneurial spirit, as well as combining their talents, and interests.
In 1974, Craig and Deborah Nelson, who have backgrounds in botany and art, decided to combine their love of nature and the Earth with their interests in Native American art, culture, spirituality and history to create a business. “Our small retail store in Wisconsin initially sold live plants, local art, handmade pottery and Native American jewelry. It wasn’t long before we evolved into a Native American gallery simply because Craig and I loved the connection between the silver jewelry, spirituality and the customs of Native Americans, who use symbolism in their art to represent their beliefs, honor their families and bring beauty to the world,” says Deborah.
In 1996, the Nelsons opened a Silver Eagle Gallery in Naples. Its success required the couple to travel more in order to keep the store filled with an impressive collection and represent as many artists as possible. As a result of numerous trips to the Dakotas for Plains art, travels along the Rio Grande River for Pueblo pottery and visits to the reservations in New Mexico and Arizona for jewelry, the Nelsons now represent more than 200 talented artists from more than 20 tribes.
“Our son, Ben, who is a silversmith, potter and glassblower, began managing our Silver Eagle gallery that opened in Highlands, North Carolina, in 2004,” recounts Deborah. “We sold the Wisconsin store, which is still operating, to its employees. A few years later, daughter Heather, a professional fashion photographer and producer, joined the family on buying trips to the West. In 2010, she moved her photography business to Naples and developed the company’s website. Today, she is not only the manager of the Naples gallery, but also its creative director. Daughter-in-law Mia assists with buying and display,” explains Deborah.
“Our children have grown up in this business and their artistic talents and vision help to keep our business current and fresh,” adds Craig, noting that both galleries now have a gem and mineral department, which attracts customers interested in geology, science and metaphysics. “Treasures from the earth and metaphysical items work so well with indigenous art.”
Locations: 850 Fifth Ave. S., Naples (239-403-3033) and 370 Main St., Highlands, NC (828-526-5190). For more information, visit SilverEagleGallery.com.