Charming the Finger Lakes

“I want people to relate to the jewelry I create for them in some way,” admits Micky Roof, who has been designing and creating jewelry since she was 16. What the veteran jeweler and owner of Ithaca’s The Jewelbox enjoys most about her pieces is how they help tell the story of the person wearing them.

“One time, a woman made the trip all the way up to my shop from State College, Pennsylvania,” remembers Micky. “I had done a postcard mailing across the U.S., and one went through a post office in State College. This woman was so intrigued she called me up. She had been in a motorcycle accident and was terribly scarred. She wanted to be able to wear a short-sleeved shirt without being embarrassed. So I designed this fabulous cuff to cover the skin graft on her arm.”

Micky’s love of the noble metals and precious gems began in high school. Her art teacher, a jeweler named Edward Hoops, introduced her to the art form. “I hadn’t known about jewelry as a career at all,” she admits. “What I did know, however, is that I loved working with tools in my hand and making three-dimensional objects more than painting and drawing.”

While attending Mansfield State College in Pennsylvania for art education, Micky sold jewelry locally and at craft shows to pay her tuition. By the time she graduated, she realized her passion for jewelry was stronger than anything else in her life, and decided to start a business. She opened her first retail store in an old train station in Sayre, Pennsylvania, in 1979. A year later, she had another location in Elmira, and then a third in Ithaca in 1983. “I realized I really loved Ithaca and wanted to make it my home. It was tricky managing three businesses in different locations, so I eventually transitioned to make one, full-time business in Ithaca.”

Once she made the official move to the Finger Lakes, and people became more aware of her services, Micky began to receive requests to create pieces of jewelry that represent the region. “So I sat down and looked at a map of the Finger Lakes,” she recalls, “and I realized that the roadway around them formed a heart. I had this ‘aha’ moment.”

The response to the charm of the Finger Lakes has been fantastic, says Micky. “People will tell me how they’ve been as far as Europe and have recognized the necklace,” she says.

In fact, Micky has created an entire collection that represents nature in the Finger Lakes. “Whenever I find lucky stones (stones perforated in their center) near the lake, I mold them, cast them and make necklaces from them,” she details. “People will bring me their own lucky stones, as well as other objects from the area that I can reproduce or somehow use them in my work.”

Just as Micky believes jewelry can narrate a person’s history, she also feels it can define an area. “When people have a special relationship with something like the Finger Lakes Region, they cherish it and want to immortalize it somehow,” she says. “I can help them do that. Jewelry is also about the place where we live.”

by Alyssa LaFaro

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