John Von Bargen was traveling the United States when he first visited and fell in love with the beauty of Vermont. Shortly thereafter, he met and married his wife, Leslie Bibens, a native Vermonter, and realized that he needed to find a way to make a living in Vermont.
With only $400 to his name and a desire to work creatively with his hands, John chose to follow the improbable dream of opening a jewelry store. He invested $300 in tools and $100 in silver, and began as a self-taught silversmith, creating simple, hand-wrought silver jewelry.
John opened his first store, The Silver Mine, with a friend at the ski resort on Killington Mountain. As he learned the craft, John began to dream of creating a truly fine jewelry store; in 1978, he and Leslie accepted the risk and opened the first Von Bargen’s Jewelry in the bustling mill town of Springfield, Vermont. He transitioned from silver to 18k gold, platinum, and ideal cut diamonds. From its inception, Von Bargen’s would not compromise on quality.
Less than a decade later, John opened two additional locations in Vermont: the first, on Stratton Mountain, in 1986, and the second, in Burlington, in 1987. While John continued to evolve his selection of the finest quality jewelry, hiring another jeweler, and supplementing their work with other jewelry artisans’ collections, Leslie joined him in the business and kept it on course from a financial perspective.
In 2002, John and Leslie were joined in the business by their daughter, Julie, and their son-in-law, Jason Thom. Jason had extensive experience in retail consulting as a Manager at Accenture in Minneapolis; Julie had a passion for jewelry and experience in retail. As a Dartmouth College graduate, she had ties to the affluent and growing community of Hanover, New Hampshire, so when she and Jason found an open storefront on Main Street, they opened the fourth Von Bargen’s location. Since then, the Springfield and Burlington stores have both been relocated and updated, including the creation of a state of the art jewelry studio in Springfield.
Now under the ownership of the second generation, Jason and Julie, Von Bargen’s has evolved immensely. Still a destination for the finest diamonds and custom jewelry, Von Bargen’s has become an artisan jewelry store, representing the collections of extraordinary jewelry designers from across the globe. Having gained knowledge of diamonds from John, Jason has become the lead diamond purchaser for the company, while Julie has become the lead purchaser of artisan jewelry and manager of retail operations.
John’s knowledge of jewelry making and the finest quality diamonds, joined with Jason’s business and technology background, and Julie’s retail instincts and purchasing taste, have made Von Bargen’s into a local, family-owned success story.