Cynthia Olson always knew she wanted to open her own jewelry shop.
At age 7, she went to church bazaars to buy costume jewelry. Once she got home, she would pry out the stones, examine them and keep the classified "gems" in small bottles.
In 1982, she realized her goal of making and selling jewelry when she sold her 1976 Audi for $1,500, took the proceeds to buy a supply of gold and opened Cynthia Olson Jewelry. Without a car, she walked or took a bus to her shop for the next year or so.
Ms. Olson, 47, a well-known local jewelry designer and creator, died Friday (Dec. 17, 1999) in Millard Fillmore Hospital after a seven-year battle with cancer.
"Cynthia was a gifted artist who found great joy in her work," said Sally S. Lenahan, a close friend who also worked with her. "As a friend, she was an inspiration for me, if not for all of us."
A native of Scotia, Ms. Olson came to Buffalo to attend Buffalo State College, where she earned a bachelor's degree in art education with a concentration in jewelry design.
After college, she worked briefly at Gamler's Jewelers downtown and then apprenticed with Aurum and the Village Goldsmith before renting a space above Mabel Danahy on Delaware Avenue in 1982.
Two years ago, she moved her shop to Main Street in Williamsville, a space that was totally renovated in an elegant 1930s art deco style. This year, she donated a 14-karat gold Omega necklace to the Community Music School as part of its 75th anniversary gala.
A certified gemologist with a degree from the Gemological Institute of America, Ms. Olson enjoyed 20 years of experience in creating and selling fine jewelry. She also pursued a five-year apprenticeship under a German master craftsman to hone her craft.
Ms. Olson prided herself on maintaining a personal relationship with her customers.
"Her attention to detail and training has created a perfect balance between aesthetics and practicality, because her wearable art must be functional as well as attractive," a magazine story on her career stated several years ago.
Ms. Olson also was an accomplished viola player, who studied under Marylouise Nanna and played with the Cheektowaga Symphony for 15 years and with various chamber groups.
"Cynthia was a talented and wonderful person with a lively interest in music, and a great patron of the arts," Ms. Nanna said.
Ms. Olson was a Girl Scout during high school. In her junior year, she and 24 other girls raised the money for a six-week trip to Europe.
She was an avid downhill skier who took an annual skiing trip to Aspen with her friends for the past 10 years. At their vintage home in East Aurora, Ms. Olson and her companion, Orrin L. Becker, took great pride in landscaping their yard and planting perennial gardens.
Surviving, besides Becker, are her mother, Huldah B. Olson of East Aurora; a brother, Douglas of Sedona, Ariz.; and a sister, Barbara of Morgantown, W.Va.
A memorial service will be held at 10:30 a.m. Tuesday in Baker Memorial United Methodist Church, Main and Center streets, East Aurora.