By Julie Butterfield

Amber Gustafson of Amber's Designs can size up customers based on the rings on their fingers. She can tell if they are happily married and what year a customer's grandmother got married. She can even tell how old someone's grandmother is. Gustafson's sharpened sense of perception is one of the talents she has acquired in her more than 30 years in the jewelry industry.

Gustafson said she has had a passion for jewelry since she was a young girl. She remembers wearing tiaras and high heels when she was 5 and marching around in her grandmother's fancy dresses. Gustafson's love of jewelry is what made her want to open her own jewelry store.

"I like the bling," she said.

Customers come into Amber's Designs for everything from engagement rings to refashioning a piece of jewelry, and some just to browse.

"Believe it or not we've had a lot of men come in for 'just because' gifts," she said.

Gustafson said she likes to get the pulse of what fashions are trending and believes the way to do it is to travel around the world. She has been to China, Brazil and Antwerp, Belgium, to get a sense of what is new, something she said is impossible to discover sitting behind a computer.

From Ascopa Roman Glass jewelry to real eggs that have been jeweled and crafted to make gift packages, Amber's Designs Jewelry carries a vast array of distinctive craftsmanship.

"If I don't make it unusual, I buy it unusual," Gustafson said.

Amber's Designs employs seven bench jewelers—artisans who have been trained around the world. In the store's polishing and casting area, these artisans use modern equipment and tools, but the techniques they use for crafting and repairing jewelry are the same timeless methods, she said.

"There's no difference between what we do here and what was done thousands of years ago," she said. "It's the exact same process."

Because Amber's Designs is independently owned, Gustafson said she is able to use discretion to do what is right for her customers and is not bound by any corporate regulations.

Gustafson said customers appreciate her dedication to customer service and those who have moved out of town will make a special trip to her store for their jewelry needs.

"It's because [my customers] trust me," she said.

Gemstones 101

Gemstones are pieces of mineral, which are cut and polished to make jewelry.

Some gemstones are soft but most are hard.

Precious stones include diamond, ruby, sapphire, opal and emerald.

All other stones are classified as semi-precious.

The four Cs to determine the grade of a diamond are: color (how close to white or colorless), cut (quality of the cut), clarity (how free it is of trapped materials) and carats (weight).

The more rare a gemstone is, the more valuable it is.

Amber's Designs, 722 Pin Oak Road, Katy, 281-391-6333,, Hours: Mon.–Fri. 10 a.m.–6 p.m., Sat. 10 a.m.–1 p.m., Closed Sunday