Mia Gemma, Alexandria, Va.

Virginia jeweler crossed into D.C. with a warm and exciting new space.
Posted October 13, 2008

Mia Gemma was the brainchild of Irene Barbieri, who set out to sell one-of-a kind and limited edition pieces in old town Alexandria, Va. Since the product line has a range of price points and an extremely eclectic selection, there’s always been a need to segment the merchandise without sacrificing an elegance of presentation. As Barbieri says, “My passion for fine jewelry began with the desire to create a shopping experience unlike any other.”

When Barbieri chose to relocate across the river to Washington, D.C. – on F Street in the revitalized Penn Quarter area – she didn’t want to lose the warm space of her former digs. As she says about her space, “it envelops you and tickles your senses. The jewelry sparkles and shimmers from every corner and you find yourself captivated by the possibilities to find and express your personal style. This is a place where men too are utterly comfortable exploring the chance to please the women in their lives.”

The new space is not a simple, square floor plan, but rather a challenging configuration with two alcove window areas that would flank the entrance way. “This limited how we could fit fixtures that would appropriately provide good visibility and maintain aesthetics,” says Richard Russo, president and creative director of Hybridia Design (Clifton, Va.). “The window areas had a ceiling height that dropped from over 12 feet high to less than 9 feet. Concealing pipes and ducts into these window’s ceiling would be an eyesoore if we simply boxed them in. So we beveled this boxed-in enclosure on all sides, making the transition from the window front into the interior space a graceful one.”


A 12-foot-high cubby feature wall centered on the rear wall faces the entrance to the store. Each cubby is lit, featuring items as if they were artifacts. In front of the wall sits a 7-foot-long oval case line featuring the store’s trademark detail, three green, gem-shaped, translucent lenses. Fixtures are all fabricated from cherry wood and finished either in an aubergine red or pale pistachio green clear stain.

Eliminating legs or bases on all of the merchandising wall units and wall-mounting them instead allowed them to hover about 18 inches from the floor, providing an airy feel to these tight alcove areas. Hybridia also added a green lens on the under portion of each unit, allowing light to escape from the bottom, making the store stay alive even after daylight is gone.

Curator tables with inset of aubergine velvet are tucked into two corners and flank a wall-mounted showcase. Above each table are murano glass sconces and digital picture frames featuring the latest artist’s collections of jewelry. Pulley-driven circular mirrors are positioned above these curator tables.

Oval vitrines are tucked up against the interior of each window alcove, allowing not only a presentation area but also a lockup area at night.

Walls were lacquered out in a pearlized pale pistachio paint. Hybridia also created a bit of textural tension by adding a Nantucket-influenced flooring laid in very specific pattern. The floor pattern defined the larger space in a framed-out formation and inset with a chevron pattern leading the eye into the feature wall.


The register was draped with cascading 9-foot aubergine velvet curtains on an oversized bamboo pole. Walls all around the total space carried Mia Gemma’s initials MG in a script font. Finishing off the space, a pale green and clear glass Bohemian murano glass chandelier sparkles above the store, along with cut crystal pendants.

 Photography: Courtesy of Richard Russo, Hybridia Design (Clifton, Va.)