But a deeper dive into Becker’s background reveals a profound lineage in the jewelry industry that spans from Santa Cruz and the Carmel Valley to Italy and the Netherlands, as well as nearly two decades in Mill Valley.
Becker was raised in Santa Cruz and moved in with her father, a goldsmith from the Netherlands, at the age of 15 to apprentice with him for eight years, eschewing the traditional educational path. "I learned on the bench," she says.
In 2001, she took a jewelry making position at Kathleen Dughi Jewelry, the eponymous studio of the long-renowned Mill Valley jewelry maker. Becker maintained a studio workshop in Santa Cruz while doing so, making the Santa Cruz-to-Mill Valley commute a few times a week. When Dughi passed away in 2007 after battling breast cancer, Becker decided to move to San Francisco full-time to continue managing the business from nearby. Dughi’s family had placed the business in a trust for Dughi's son, and Becker continued to run the business from 2007 to 2018.
“Kathleen was such a force and her presence was so magnificent,” Becker says. “I feel so grateful that we were able to keep the business going after she left us.”
In May 2018, Becker took over the business, changing the name and formally opening as Moonstruck Fine Jewelry three months later.
“It’s been so wonderful to have this new beginning,” Becker says. “I was the constant for so many years, so in some ways much was the same, but it was great to make the space my own but also have so much continuity with the same beautiful, friendly atmosphere and lovely space. And I have been really lucky to have the clients to keep coming into the store."
“My favorite part of jewelry is the connection to people and my customers make my day and fill my cup," she adds. "And I have such a great team.”
Moonstruck boasts “a carefully curated collection of classics and fashion-forward pieces by local artists” and “a wide array of custom design and repair services.”
Becker is clearly proud of her family’s roots in jewelry-making and goldsmithing. She showcases the work of her Dutch father, Bouke Hollinga, in her studio, and points to her focus on “the art of fabrication,” fabricating the jewelry in the metal, what Becker calls “a lost art.
Becker and Hollinga drew that knowledge from the late Carmel Valley master goldsmith Orlando Feriozzi, who came to the U.S. in 1975 after 50 years in Roma, Italy, to teach jewelry makers who were hungry to learn this lost art of hand fabrication. Both Hollinga and Dughi apprenticed with Feriozzi.
“It’s essentially making jewelry like you do a house,” Becker says, “allowing for strength and beauty and light and all of those elements to impact the creation.”
That foundation has paid off, as Moonstruck garnered "best local jewelry store" in Marin Magazine's Best of 2019 issue. But Beck says all the awards in the world pale in comparison to hearing a jeweler's favorite five words: "That’s exactly what I wanted. I have been so lucky to hear those five words many times."
The 411: Johanna Becker's Moonstruck Fine Jewelry is at 11 Bernard Street In downtown Mill Valley. Moonstruck is hosting a pre-holiday “Thankful Party” at the studio on Thursday, Nov. 21, 3-8pm. See more of Moonstruck Fine Jewelry's creations on their Instagram. MORE INFO.
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