The Golden Bear opened its specialty Vail jewelry store back in 1975, courtesy of founder Lee Kirch. Located in the heart of Vail Village, the Colorado jewelry shop’s distinctive bruin figure became an enduring symbol of the Vail Valley over the years — for locals and visitors alike. And it’s one that can be taken home, and gifted, as a special reminder of that once-in-a-lifetime trip to the mountains.
Discover Vail caught up with Susan Ferrari, The Golden Bear’s longtime store manager, to learn about the beloved Vail jewelry store and its most iconic gifts year-round.
Learn About The Golden Bear With Expert Susan Ferrari
Discover Vail: Visitors have been taking home The Golden Bear jewelry — a symbol of Vail in jewelry form — for decades. How has The Golden Bear evolved over the years? In what ways has it stayed the same?
Ferrari: The first Golden Bear ever created was the Mama Bear necklace made in 14-karat yellow gold. This continues to be one of the most popular items in the collection. We make our bears with the same technique we have used since the beginning. Each Golden Bear is created through the ancient process of lost-wax casting. A wax model is covered with a plaster mold. The wax is melted and the space that is created is filled with molten gold or silver. When the mold is removed, a Golden Bear cast in precious metal is revealed and then hand polished. Over the years we’ve added many different designs as well as fine metals and precious stones. Our jewelry is now available in yellow, white, rose gold and sterling silver. We’ve incorporated diamonds, rubies, emeralds and sapphires in a variety of our styles. We also have jewelry for men.
Discover Vail: What does the tradition of The Golden Bear mean to you as a Vail resident?
Ferrari: I moved to Vail in 1996 and became aware of The Golden Bear that same year. I knew it to be something authentic to Vail and that I had to have a Golden Bear. I’ve now come to understand that the bear is a symbol of time spent in Vail and a love of these mountains. Generations of families continue to gift The Golden Bear to one another. Visitors take home a Golden Bear as a memory of their trip.
The Golden Bear’s Top Gifts, According to Ferrari
Discover Vail: What should you gift to the extrovert or risk-taker in your life?
Ferrari: Any of our oxidized sterling silver jewelry is perfect for the person in your life who likes their jewelry with a little edge. The studded oxidized sterling silver cuff with a 14-karat-gold bear and silver bears and studs is just different enough that this extrovert will love the attention it attracts.
Discover Vail: What about for a nature lover?
Ferrari: No matter your favorite season, we can all agree that we love the mountains in Vail. There’s no better gift for the nature lover in your life than a pendant showcasing the mountains with our favorite tiny bear. It’s available in 14-karat yellow gold or sterling silver with a 14-karat-gold bear.
Discover Vail: What’s the best Golden Bear gift for that someone in your life who’s already dripping in jewels?
Ferrari: It’s such a treat to help find the perfect gift for the person that already has it all. Maybe there’s a special piece from The Golden Bear collection that they have always coveted but haven’t acquired yet, like the 18k Pave Diamond Mama Bear necklace in yellow gold. A brand-new design, such as the Pave Bear Charm necklace, will also surprise the person that thinks they already have all of the bears.
Discover Vail: Which Golden Bear gift is perfect for the minimalist at heart or someone who doesn’t wear a lot of jewelry?
Ferrari: For the person in your life who doesn’t like to wear a lot of jewelry, I think the Braided Cord Bracelet made for us by Scocha is the perfect gift. It’s made to fit snuggly and can be worn daily. You can shower in it, exercise in it and wear it everywhere. It makes a fantastic friend gift.
Discover Vail: Is there a particular Golden Bear gift that can be recommended for someone who leans heavily toward the classics, like single-strand pearls and diamond studs?
Ferrari: What could be more classic than a strand of pearls and diamond studs? Our Trudy pearls, named after our most famous and longest employee, Trudy W., are a must-have. The handmade clasp is available in 14-karat white or yellow gold. The pearls are hand-knotted and available in two different lengths. Give the necklace along with a pair of Pave Diamond Baby Bear earrings and you have a gift that’s unforgettable.
Discover Vail: What is The Golden Bear piece that everyone needs?
Ferrari: If a customer is looking to purchase their first bear, I always point them toward the classic designs. A Baby Bear or Mama Bear necklace or Baby Bear earrings are a great foundation to build your collection around. Whether you prefer gold or silver, these are the must-have items.
Looking for More Vail Tips from a Longtime Local?
Ferrari, a longtime Vail local, definitely has her favorite spots around the valley when she’s not working at The Golden Bear.
“I also like to keep them a little bit of a secret so that I can still get a reservation in my favorite restaurant and still find fresh tracks the day after a powder day,” she said. “Stop by the store and I’ll be happy to chat about all of this — and give you some insider tips!”
Vail Shopping Information
- Explore Vail’s one-of-a-kind gift shops.
- Find a full list of shops, including more Vail jewelry stores.
- Check out this winter gear guide for your winter vacation to Vail.
Jewelry photos courtesy of The Golden Bear