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Jewelry designed by South Fayette woman sold nationwide

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By Charlotte Smith

Published: Wednesday, Dec. 18, 2013, 9:00 p.m.

A love of art has still remained, despite several diverse career choices made by South Fayette Township resident Michelle Van Bibber.

Although she won many art awards in high school, she went on to graduate from Virginia Tech with a degree in animal science and worked with veterinary pathologists and pharmaceutical companies in the study of diseases and drug therapies while living in northern Virginia.

Once married, she moved to the Pittsburgh area where she worked in the gastroenterology department of medicine doing cancer research and dabbled in art by making drawings for the articles submitted by her department to various medical journals.

The hours were long in these positions and, once her second child was born, she decided to be a stay-at-home mother and began getting back into scrapbooking and jewelry-making for fun. Attendance at a few craft shows led to a boutique's request to sell her jewelry wholesale at the store. She set up a small company and started selling to more stores.

The first wholesale gift show she ever attended was the 2007 Virginia Gift Show in Virginia Beach, Va. From there she was asked by the Virginia State Parks to custom design jewelry for many of their gift shops. She is a member of the Museum Store Association, which holds its own trade show.

She researches each semi-precious and precious stone she works with, learning about their healing properties and role in history. This information goes on the displays in the stores and on the tags of all her stone jewelry.

She designs every piece and then contracts out the pieces to be made. Her husband Mike helps with website designs and building jewelry displays. Her mother, who lives in Virginia, helps by designing layouts for advertisements and promotional items.

She named her company Ciao Bella Jewelry in 2008, after a family trip to Italy in which Italian men were marveling at her young daughter's blonde hair, saying “Ciao Bella,” which means “Hello, Beautiful.” After returning from Europe, Helina suggested using her “Italian name” for the new company.

Locally, her jewelry is sold at MoZaic Boutique in Collier Town Square. If traveling, one could find her items in the gift shops of the National Marine Corps Museum in Triangle, Va.; the National Museum of the Pacific War in Fredricksburg, Texas; and the National World War II Museum in New Orleans, among others. Her jewelry is sold in stores in 15 states.

A limited selection of retail items is available through Artfire.com and Etsy.com. Recently her company won one of 25 small business grants awarded by Intuit Quickbooks.

For more information, visit www.ciaobellajewelry.us.

Charlotte Smith is a contributing writer for Trib Total Media and can be reached at 724-693-9441 or charlotte59@comcast.net.

 

 
 


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