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A gem on Balboa Island

February 02, 2003

Lolita Harper

William Keith drove 200 miles to visit the neighborhood in which

he and his late wife once enjoyed years of happiness and creativity.

He reminisces about his former jewelry store -- Keith's Jewelry --

once located in the heart of Balboa Island, and thinks of the

keepsake he created in tribute of the quaint community.

It was back in the day when smoking was the rage and men carried

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silver cigarette cases in the fold of their jacket. Keith and his

wife patented an original jeweled case, which showcased an engraved

map of the island with embedded jewels.

The street names lent themselves to a fine piece of original

jewelry because each cross street of Park Avenue was named after a

gem. The cigarette case touted this on its cover, with a respective

jewel on the corner of the street it was named for.

Keith's Jewelry stood on the main thoroughfare of the island in

the 1940s where it proudly displayed its authentic wares. Delicate

silver chains, beautifully engraved tea sets and candle sticks

adorned the window fronts, which were shielded by a striped awning.

Keith was also charged with forging yachting trophies for the Balboa

Bay Club and featured them prominently in his storefronts as well.

The interior was just as impressive, with beautiful flower

arrangements adding fragrant and decorative supplements to the

glimmering pieces.

But the store was built on more than silver or trophies or a

business. It was the partnership between Keith and his wife

Jacqueline. Her master engraving skills coupled with his business

savvy attracted the likes of Hollywood greats to the modest island

shop. Their synergy also created a lasting token of Balboa Island,

which sold in 1947 for $1,000.

* LOOKING BACK runs Sundays. Do you know of a person, place or

event that deserves a historical look back? Contact James Meier by

fax at (949) 646-4170; e-mail at james.meier@ latimes.com; or mail at

c/o Daily Pilot, 330 W. Bay St., Costa Mesa, CA 92627.

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