CLEARWATER - A charm depicting the original front entry of the Belleview Biltmore Hotel is being offered by KK Smith Jewelers, 1204 Rogers Street, Clearwater, and Save the Biltmore preservationists. KK SMITH jewelers have been located in Clearwater for over 50 years. They are generously donating a portion of each charm sale to Save the Biltmore's preservation efforts.
This is not the first attempt at capturing the charm of the Biltmore and rendering it in fine jewelry. The charm was originally created by the hotel's jewelers, Lennon's of Utica, New York in the 1960s. Lennons have given Smith and the preservation group permission to replicate the charm.
The charm measures 1 and 1/8 inches and can be worn on a bracelet or as a pendant. The charm is available in sterling silver, gold over sterling vermeil, or solid 14 karat gold. Charms created in gold weigh 1/4 ounce.
"The charm is a round silhouette of the hotel. It's created through the lost wax process," says goldsmith Ken Smith, Pinellas county's only hand engraver. "The charm can be personalized with hand engraving, or with a diamond rondelle added to depict a light in a window," says Smith.
Smith's father opened the first KK Smith jewelry store in 1955 located in Cleveland Plaza. Smith says he has fond memories of the Biltmore and would like to see it preserved.
"We had our 20th Clearwater High School reunion at the Belleview Biltmore. It was wonderful. Anyone who has spent any length of time in the area has some fond memory of a time enjoyed at the hotel."
The idea to resurrect the charm of the Biltmore came from Save the Biltmore preservationist Barbara Walters Arnold. Her mother's charm from Lennon's was used to make Smith's wax mold.
"The idea began with my mom’s gold charm bracelet – it’s the traditional “jingle-jangle” kind that contains silhouettes representing her children and grandchildren and golden shapes, each with their own story of cherished memories," says Arnold. "One such memento, depicts in fine detail a garden path leading to a beautiful turn of the century building, with its finely detailed gabled roof and numerous chimneystacks – all encased within a circle. Many years ago Dad had surprised mom with this gift from the fine jewelry shop then located in the Belleview Biltmore Hotel. Times spent and shared at the hotel over the next 4 decades are now intrinsically part of mom’s charm."
Arnold explains her devotion to the hotel, "Of course, the last year or two has been a cause of serious concern for the hotel’s future. Last year a combination of factors prompted me to lend what time and effort I could to prevent the hotel from being removed from our landscape. Personal memories dating back to 1959, an overall appreciation for its significance, and admittedly the feeling that even though Dad had passed away he was expecting me to, were the final catalysts."
The charm and Smith were recently featured on channel 10's 11 pm news. The 19th century Belleview Biltmore Resort & Spa was recently featured in the July 2006 issue of Men's Journal. The publication encouraged Clearwater area visitors to visit the hotel as it is a place to stay to embrace old Florida.
Prices set for the hand crafted charms are $75.00 for sterling; $100 for gold over sterling vermeil; and $400 for 14kt gold. Charms may be viewed and ordered online at www.savethebiltmore.com. Since all charms are custom made to order, a time period of 4 to 6 weeks must be allowed for creation and delivery.
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