Alexandria, VA – Can’t find the right jewelry to suit your tastes? Try making your own! On Dec. 7, the ribbon was officially cut at Praha Beads and Jewelry at 215 S. Union Street, providing beaders and jewelry enthusiasts with a chance to put themselves to work making beautiful conversation starters. Need to find your local spot for Swarovski crystal beads, London blue topaz, and fresh water pearls? Look no further.
Owner Tracey Navratil became obsessed with the hobby 15 years ago, and has traveled all over collecting beads. For real! She’s got beads and gemstones from the Czech Republic, Italy, England, and more! We guarantee that if you show her a box full of vintage beads she’ll pour over them with the devotion of a pirate who just discovered buried treasure.
“It’s not just slapping beads on a string,” Navratil said. “There’s other things to it. You’ve got to have a little bit of forethought and ask yourself, what’s this going to be for? What’s going to look good with this? How can I really showcase the gemstones I need?”
Praha is Czech for Prague, the capital of the Czech Republic, from which both Navratil and her husband, Del. Paul Krizek (D-44), are descended. Navratil decided to open the shop after their daughter, Khloe, went off to college. In fact, Navratil started beading after the couple adopted Khloe 15 years ago in China. After a lifetime of working jobs as a graphic designer, human resources manager, and writer, she got a little bored and needed an outlet.
“I started just making things. I had a necklace that my mom had that needed to be repaired, so I just went to Michaels and I just bought stuff. I had no idea what I was doing and I realized I was doing it all wrong and started taking classes,” she said. “I’ve always liked to be around pretty things. I’ve tried different hobbies that were fun for a while, but I just didn’t didn’t really catch on to them. Jewelry was the only thing that made me think, ‘Oh my gosh, this is crazy. I love this. This is me.’”
Navratil will travel with her family to Europe next summer to pick up more beads.
“I travel to Prague and other European cities as often as I can to find glass beads that can not be found online or at gem shows in the states. I take special pride that each piece in the boutique is hand-selected by myself and is something I would wear,” she said. “All beaders are like BFFs waiting to happen, and all of these beads came from around the world. Someone sold them to me and that person has a story.”
The shop hosts beading classes every Sunday from 4 to 6 p.m. The classes, which fill up quickly, can accommodate six students and cost $50 apiece. Students will go home with two sets of sterling silver earrings and a new bracelet.
“They can choose the beads, they can choose the pearls, and so it’s a reflection of what they want their jewelry to look like,” Navratil said. “Everything that pertains to this business is a joy for me. That’s why I knew when I was sitting down in my little office this summer by myself pricing things and I liked it, that it was for me. And in less than two minutes I can walk out the door and be right there on the Potomac River, and it’s just inspirational. It calms me.”
Praha Beads and Jewelry is open from 11 a.m. to 4 p.m. on Tuesday and Sunday, and from 11 a.m. to 5 p.m. Wednesday, Thursday, Friday, and Saturday. The shop is closed on Monday.