Photo by David Uhrin
At the end of September, the Neptune Festival brings hundreds of thousands of visitors to the Virginia Beach Oceanfront for a seaside celebration. Neptune is a nexus for coastal culture and benevolent beach life where the region shows its devotion for the ocean. Its Grand Parade on Atlantic Avenue is a passionate procession of marvelous marching bands playing before colorful crowds and flamboyant floats led by King Neptune reigning over his Royal Court of Tritons and Princesses. He’s enshrined in an elaborate robe, regal regalia and a renowned crown made of sterling silver and precious stones designed by Theresa Parsons of Virginia Beach’s Goldworks jewelry shop.
Parsons has created two stunning crowns for King Neptune; the first from 1984 is made of sterling silver as a base metal and engraved in 14-karat gold with the City of Virginia Beach’s crest and Neptune’s trident up top. The second crown was made last decade and consists of sterling silver, mabe pearls and quartz beads and is adorned with designs of seahorses and seashells as though the crown surfaced from the seabed. Each year the Neptune Festival selects their King that’s been a local community leader that will serve as a ceremonial goodwill ambassador throughout the year. The King grows a beard for several months prior to wearing the heralded headpiece. Both crowns have Parsons’ name engraved on the inside.
Parsons is originally from Richmond and was introduced to the craft of jewelry making prior to earning a degree in elementary education at Virginia Commonwealth University, working for a third-generation jeweler and attending Bowman Technical School in Lancaster, Pa. from 1976-78. The oldest jewelry and watchmaking repair school in the country with only 90 students at the time, Parsons was one of only 10 women attending and shined as a student while receiving excellent training. When she finished school, she decided to move back to her home state. “Growing up in Richmond, Virginia Beach was the place everybody always wanted to be,” says Parsons.
She set up a workshop at her apartment and created jewelry that she would sell at the Boardwalk Art Show, Stockley Gardens Arts Festival, Seawall Art Show and won a Best in Show recognition at a Hilltop art show. In 1978 she opened her own shop, Goldworks, where she focuses mainly on jewelry fabrication—taking sheet and wire and melting, soldering, bending and engraving precious pieces.
Photo by David Uhrin
Parsons’ flair for jewelry has continued for decades, working with precious metals and stones while reaching a 40-year milestone at Goldworks. “I still have the passion for making jewelry and I love my clients,” Parsons explains. “Many of them are like family to me.” Though if it wasn’t for her craft, she’d likely be preoccupied by her other passion—her standard poodles that accompany her at the shop every day. Parsons adds, “For right now I’m really happy doing what I’m doing.”
Goldworks is located at 513 N Birdneck Road, Virginia Beach. See King Neptune wear his crown at the Neptune Festival, held Sept. 27–29 at the Virginia Beach Oceanfront.