By Meda Kessler
Photos by Ron Jenkins
Joanna — Jo for short — Latham has a passion for pearls and pink opals. She’s a connoisseur of rubies and sapphires. And she can rattle off facts about her stable of jewelry designers as easily as she can discuss the cut and clarity of diamonds.
A Houston native who now lives in Fort Worth, Latham is the creative behind Jo Latham Fine Jewelry Boutique. A communications graduate of the University of Texas at Austin, she moved with her husband to Amarillo and started a family. She began taking online gemology classes, immersing herself in the science of pretty, sparkly things and earning certifications from the Gemology Institute of America (GIA). “It satisfied the nerd in me, plus I liked being a student again.”
A move to Brooklyn in 2012 led to a chance meeting with Alp Sagnak, whose unique pieces feature modern twists on traditional designs from his native Turkey.
“I talked him into going to Amarillo for a trunk show,” Latham says. She found that she enjoyed connecting jewelry lovers with designers in intimate settings, such as private homes.
Latham partnered with a friend in Amarillo to create a boutique within her boutique — pop-ups and trunk shows also filled Latham’s calendar — and began expanding her lineup of jewelry designers. “It’s their authenticity, their passion and artistry that make this business exciting,” says Latham. She fell for the work of Leslie Paige, a pastry chef turned jeweler, and the organic designs of Kavant & Sharart, a husband-wife team based in Thailand. Latham is the first to introduce the couple’s line to Texas.
Last August, the Latham family moved back to Texas. “Our oldest is in college, and we decided it was time to come home with two high-schoolers. We visited Fort Worth and fell in love with the city.”
Mutual friends introduced her to You Are Here, a Fort Worth women’s clothing and accessories shop. Co-owners Joanna Bennett and Anne Walker Miller had been looking for ways to expand their jewelry offerings, and Latham gave them that opportunity.
“It’s a good fit,” says Latham. “I’ve found that Fort Worth women are interested in branching out stylewise and are eager to show their personality. Jewelry is the perfect way to do just that.”