The Alternative Jewelry Shop: Crafting sentimental works for over three decades

Published 10:50 am Tuesday, November 16, 2021

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For more than 30 years, Danny and Libby Barnes have been crafting unique, custom jewelry through their store on Main Street: The Alternative Jewelry Shop.

The couple is familiar with the traditional means of creating jewelry such as wax carving, lost-wax casting, fabrication, soldering and finishing. They also provide in-house services that are the latest in technology like CAD/CAM solutions, CNC machining and 3D printing.

Moreover, the shop offers jewelry repair, jewelry fashioned by other local artisans and jewelry created by artists from around the world.

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“We study jewelry design and metal smithing, and we started this business right out of graduate school,” Danny said. “This is the only job we’ve ever had since. I like the creative process, getting to work diamonds and melt down gold.”

Libby added, “I think being a part of making a piece that’s very import to a client. We may make something a part of a wedding, part of an anniversary and sad things like memento pieces. We often work with people’s ashes.”

The Alternative Jewelry Shop was founded on May 1, 1991. It opened on 118 1/2 North Main Street in Nicholasville where it remains to this day.

Danny Barnes was born in Sylva, North Carolina in 1963. He graduated from Eastern Kentucky University in 1988 earning a Bachelor of Arts with an emphasis in jewelry design and metalsmithing. Danny received his Master of Fine Arts in jewelry design and metalsmithing from East Tennessee State University in 1990. Danny is a 2003 graduate from the Gemological Institute of America in Diamonds and Diamond Grading.

Libby Williamson Barnes was born in 1966 in Hazard, Kentucky. In 1988 she obtained a Bachelor of Fine Arts degree with a major in painting and a minor in jewelry design and metalsmithing from Eastern Kentucky University. Libby attended East Tennessee State University as a graduate student from August 1989 until 1990. Libby then received a Masters of Fine Arts in mixed media from the University of Kentucky in 1998.

“We used to craft jewelry by hand, that’s how we learned,” Danny said. “Now with 3D printing, we’re marrying the old school with the new school.”

Libby added, “Even though jewelry has new technology and new tools, you still have to have the basic knowledge about crafting, like stone-setting and casting.”

At The Alternative Jewelry Shop, the customer may choose from different colors and karats of gold, opt for wearable art which is made from recycled materials like the customer’s old metal and stones, and much more.

“Because our craft is custom, we can set unusual stone and gem shapes,” Libby explained. “Whereas normally if you can even have it done, you have to match the mounting with it.”

Danny interjected, “We’re kind of the flip-side to mass-production box stores. Nothing wrong with the Jareds and Helzbergs of the world. But if you go to one Jareds store, and then one in California, they’re selling the same merchandise. And we’re selling handmade wearable jewelry art for people like us. We don’t mass-produce.”

The couple is always cycling their inventory of custom pieces by themselves and other individual craftspeople to keep their selection fresh. The Alternative Jewelry Shop is also constantly crafting pieces custom-made to the schematics and with the materials provided by clients. Those materials in question may range from ashes, horse hair, fingerprints and so-on.

For more information on the Alternative Jewelry Shop, visit their website at They can be contacted via email at, and reached over the phone through (859) 885-4109.