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Jewelrymaker toils at his booth, dreams of a store

Creating jewelry at a flea market booth is hot work in summer, Alfonso Sierra, formerly of Colombia, says.

By EILEEN SCHULTE

© St. Petersburg Times, published June 25, 2000


OLDSMAR -- The jewelry Alfonso Sierra designed in Massachusetts and the jewelry he makes here are as different as apples and oranges.

Actually, the intricate pieces are apples and oranges.

Regional fruit is Sierra's inspiration. For residents of his new East Lake area home, he has fashioned jewelry in the image of the orange.

The East Lake resident's creative juices began to flow in Fitchburg, Mass., where he owned a jewelry store called Sierra Jewelry Design & Repair.

He had moved to Fitchburg from Bucaramanga, Colombia, in 1990 and put down roots there. During the fall, everywhere he traveled in Massachusetts he saw apple orchardsspread out before him, with ripe red fruit hanging from the trees. Then he learned the story of Johnny Appleseed and was enchanted.

So, to draw attention to his store and his talents, he created a sketch of an apple, and eventually gold and silver apple pieces hung from chains, encircled wrists and dangled from ears.

The public was charmed. Sierra's apple jewelry sold like pies.

While he said his business was profitable, his personal life fell apart and he decided about three months ago to accept his sister Ana Sanchez's offer to move to her East Lake home and start a new life.

There he spends time creating pieces of a new line of jewelry designed especially for Floridians including pins, bracelets, necklaces, earrings and tie tacks fashioned to look like oranges.

To help him make the orange jewelry look authentic, Ana Sanchez had sent him a postcard depicting oranges that he used as a model.

And while Floridians may eat up the oranges, he knows that Oldsmar residents may want something a little different. So he plans to design Armadillo jewelry in honor of Oldsmar's signature animal. He hopes one day to present his jewelry to Mayor Jeffrey Sandler as a gift.

He hopes the designs will help him get back on his feet, because right now, he is a jeweler with no store, just a booth at the Oldsmar Flea Market, a step down from his old life.

In April, Sierra arranged to rent a $250-a-month booth at the flea market. Each Saturday and Sunday he works for eight hours building his business.

"At the flea market, people trust me," Sierra said. "My small booth is beautiful. I have lights and display cases."

He is comfortable there. There is only one problem: "May, June and July are hard because it is very hot," he said.

His dream is to own his own full-service store in the Oldsmar area. Until then, he will sell jewelry from the flea market and from his sister's home.

"Making jewelry is my joy," Sierra said.

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