Alexandria, VA – For 32 years, David Martin has made jewelry sparkle in his Alexandria shop, Gold Works, but his iconic charms aren’t all he has done to beautify our city. Take a walk up King Street at this festive time of year and you’ll see firsthand how Martin has beautified Alexandria.
David Martin grew up in Wilmington, Delaware, the son of a World War II naval aviator who lived to be 101. “My father was an immovable object,” David says. “He was always either a source of praise or a source of discipline.”
Before focusing on jewelry design, Martin had a diverse professional background ranging from medical illustration to sculpture to the Washington D.C. Post Office.
Martin served in the Air Force during the Vietnam War, stationed first at Andrews AFB and then Homestead Air Reserve Base in Florida. While there, he worked as a clinical laboratory technologist at Miami University and studied invertebrate anatomy to earn a degree. He observed dancers and practiced sculpture to aid both his studies and his love of design.
Martin had wanted to become a dental technologist but after Florida, he diverged from that path to attend the Gemological Institute of America. “All the tools for jewelry are the same for a lab tech,” says David. Carving wax, casting, and molding is still the work David enjoys today.
Out of the Air Force, Martin opened a shop in Lewes, Delaware. His father’s response? “My God, David, what are you doing here?” Martin, who had poured his heart and soul into his shop, his designs, and the city, responded, “I’m selling myself.”
Martin became close with the Zwaanendael Heritage Committee and designed the host parade float on the 350th anniversary of the founding of Lewes. This was an honor and a big step for his career. “I desired to create something impressive,” he says. “And then I wondered what I would do next.”
What to do next
Next was a move in the early ‘80s to Alexandria, which David’s father applauded, “I think you’ve got yourself a city.” Captain Martin was right.
When David moved to Alexandria, he immediately joined the Chamber of Commerce. Then Chamber President Barton Middleton convinced David to exhibit his work. His sculptures won awards from the Washington Jewelry Guild of Goldsmiths and were displayed at Woodward and Lothrop. “Reputation is really important,” he says, “and my reputation didn’t happen just because of jewelry.”
After visiting a Virginia town lined with banners, David decided this was what King Street needed. When his first proposal to the city council was rejected (the council claimed a first amendment violation), Martin said, “I’m not going to argue with you, but I won’t go away.”
He didn’t and his persistence won out. Today there are two banners per block on King Street from the waterfront to the Metro station.
David was determined to decorate King Street further and proposed strings of holiday lights. Rejected again, Martin offered a compromise: He would raise half of the money needed and the City would match it.
With help from Mayor Euille and Vice Mayor Del Pepper, that is exactly what happened. “All I had to do was argue every year to get (the lights) put up again. Now they go up every year and it’s in the budget,” David explains.
Adorned with decorative banners and festive lighting, King Street’s glamour is credited to David Martin’s hard work and his relationship with Pepper and Euille. For this beautification, tenacity, and gift of connection, David was named an Alexandria Living Legend in 2013.
In 32 years, Gold Works USA has grown from a one-man establishment on upper King Street to a renowned small business. But Alexandria is a town composed of small businesses. “The people I know in the city, either they are store owners or workers,” says David. “Everyone can relate to everyone else concerning the hardships of this year.
Faced with the trials of a pandemic no one could have foreseen, David has endless gratitude for the support of the city council. “They are all still behind me, even the city manager,” David says. “Without them, I wouldn’t have gotten here. They made it delightful.”
Small things often carry the most meaning. That is what David wants to convey with his charms. GoldWorks USA carries the history of Alexandria; with his charms, Alexandrians can carry that history as well.
The Charming Alexandria Bracelet: A Treasure for the Future
For a delicate charm to represent such a robust history is representative of Alexandria itself, a charming town that embodies centuries of stories, trials, and triumphs.
David has captured that in this Charming Alexandria bracelet, which features the Alexandria Cat, representing all cats roaming Alexandria; the Washington Monument; the Old Town Crier; the Alexandria Scottie Dog; the George Washington Masonic Memorial; Gadsby’s Tavern; the Alexandria Moon; St. Mary’s Church; an Alexandria townhouse; and the Ghost Lantern that tour guides still use today.
You can buy individual charms to enhance a bracelet you already own, or buy a chain and create your own Charming Alexandria charm bracelet. Charms are available in-store and on the website. Each charm is available in gold or silver.
See more at GoldWorksUSA.com or visit David Martin’s Shop, GoldWorks by David Martin, 1400 King Street, Alexandria, 703 683 0333.