When Elements Ltd. opened in the Shops at Roosevelt retail center, it was the new store on a block already inhabited by legends that included clothier Bill “I own the store” Reichardt.  

Twenty years later, only the Roosevelt Barber Shop remains from that earlier era, making Elements the second oldest of the 13 stores in Des Moines’ original strip mall.

Elements describes itself as a retailer of “designer jewelry, fine metal art and other treasures” created by an ever-evolving group of 50 or so artists from all over the world.  The three women who own Elements are all experienced goldsmiths and silversmiths who also create and sell their own work, and handle repairs.

The main difference between Elements and a more traditional jeweler, such as Josephs, said co-owner Marta Jones-Couch, “is more one-of-a-kind pieces.”

“Our pieces tend to be more contemporary,” she said, pointing to a collection of oversized cloth and metal brooches. 

“If you want something you won’t see on everyone’s finger,” she added, “you can come here.”

Three examples include:
• An enormous green tourmaline set in a large gold base designed by co-owner Sheena Thomas.
• A dark-gray Tahitian pearl nestled in white gold sculpted by Jones-Couch. 
• A half-inch-wide, spinning “diamond disco ball” sphere covered with tiny diamonds atop a white gold setting created by co-owner Melanie Parks.

“We can get any size and kind of gemstone,” Thomas said. 

“This is a Mexican fire opal that we are hoping someone wants to make a ring with,” said Parks, holding an oval-shaped, brilliant orange stone that is nearly one inch long.

The store’s ability to create unique settings for unusual stones attracts many customers, but like all small businesses, a dedication to exceptional service is what drives success.

“Repair work has gleaned us a number of loyal customers,” Parks said. “Once people know they can bring something to us and we are going to take good, honest care of it, and do quality work for a reasonable price, then they are more comfortable moving on to larger custom pieces or buying more expensive works out of the case.”

When the women launched Elements in 1995, they joked that their partnership was inevitable because the alchemy symbols for their birth months are the elements water (Thomas), earth (Jones-Couch) and fire (Parks).

All three had worked at Jean Sampel Studio/Gallery on Ingersoll Avenue during the 1980s, and when Sampel retired, they decided to continue the synergy they had developed.

Jones-Couch is the only one whose first career choice was jewelry. She apprenticed with a local jeweler and worked in a number of trade shops before joining Sampel. Thomas and Parks were originally headed in other directions.  Thomas attended Grinnell College intending to become a sculptor until a professor suggested a jewelry course and she discovered “jewelry is just small sculpture.” 

Parks majored in arts at Iowa State University but was originally interested in the fiber arts, “but I took a couple metals classes and it just sort of clicked for me.” 

Customers can see elements of all of their early ambitions, either in their own works or in those of other artists they’ve recruited. Articles in the store range in price from about $25 to just under $10,000. Over the years, the mix of stores in the Shops at Roosevelt area has changed, giving the women owners a sense of what is most complementary to their own efforts.

Nearly any kind of retail works well with their gallery, they said, especially other galleries and food stores – La Mie restaurant is right next door. Today, the Roosevelt district, which is located on 42nd Street just south of Interstate 235, is as dynamic as at any time since the original strip mall was built in 1933.  

“The only thing we lack,” Parks said “is a bookstore.”