News & Politics

Not Your Typical Jewelry Store: A New Home for Mia Gemma

A new jewelry store in DC’s Penn Quarter brings all the glam of traditional fine-jewelry stores—without the typical glitz.

Irene Barbieri, owner of Mia Gemma, points out some of the unique jewelry that her store carries.

“I pick things that are different enough or beautiful enough that they appeal to everyone,” says Irene Barbieri, owner of Mia Gemma, which relocated a month ago from Alexandria.

Barbieri says most fine jewelry stores carry pieces that don’t vary much, save for a few differences in metal types and styling. Wandering into the velvet-curtained Mia Gemma, a shopper would have trouble finding more than two pieces that look similar.

An intricate spiral-springed cuff of oxidized silver sits in one princess-style jewelry case in the back corner. In another corner, a matching case displays a bold, chunky necklace under a suspended, turning mirror.

The variety of booty at Mia Gemma is the result of Barbieri’s constant search for jewelry designers who aren’t represented at any other shops in the area. French-born Ziio (Elizabeth Paradon) creates some of Barbieri’s most popular pieces. A lighted display of squares behind Mia Gemma’s main counter frames a $450 Ziio beaded, tribal-themed necklace.

“You could put this necklace on over a black dress and that’s all you need to wear,” Barbieri says.

A display case in the front of the shop holds stones of elaborate pinks and reds in the spirit of Valentine’s Day. A sparkling, pink drusy agate stone is popular right now, Barbieri says, because it’s not too expensive but still eye-catching.

Across the room from a Venetian glass chandelier, Barbieri unlocks a case holding a silver crocheted cuff and leaflike crocheted necklace by Randi Chervitz, an artist in Missouri. The cuff, which goes for $350, is in the midrange of prices at Mia Gemma. Five strands of 18-karat cable hold a pendant bejeweled with peridots, phrenite, pink tourmalines, and grossulan garnets for a price close to $8,000. Barbieri also carries crocheted ball earrings for $55.

Barbieri, who spent 20 years in marketing and business development for a medical-research company, carries engagement- and wedding-ring settings that customers can match with their own diamonds. Her Web site lets shoppers create a jewelry profile; Barbieri will send a personal e-mail suggesting items based on a customer’s tastes.

Barbieri says she wants the Mia Gemma experience “to be one that’s so inviting and so comfortable and not intimidating.”

Mia Gemma, 933 F St., NW; 202-393-4367;