You could say silver is in Dakota Cate’s blood.
His great-grandmother Jessie Kimball was a professional silversmith and the skill of being able to manipulate silver was passed down through the generations.
A year ago, Cate decided he wanted to work on a craft, and asked his mother Megan for a book about jewelry making.
He’s since turned it into a business – selling his unique creations in Warrenton at Local 35 and Warrenton Jewelers.
“I’m self taught,” Dakota, 12, a seventh grader at Wakefield Country Day School said. “Last summer I started. I just had a natural knack for it.”
He also makes silver sculptures but it’s his necklaces, earrings and rings that have caught people’s eyes at stores.
“I’ve had a lot of sales and I’ve been surprised,” Dakota said. “It was really neat that people were buying all my stuff. I had customers come and talk to me about and say they really liked the personality in the jewelry.”
He employs different types of wire designs and incorporates real stone – including turquoise and amethyst. He also sometimes uses 14-karat plated wire.
“I thought it was neat I could do that,” Dakota said simply. “So in October I started selling it.”
His necklaces go for between $12-20 and his earrings for between $8-16. So far, he’s raised about $1,000 for his college fund.
His parents, Joe and Megan Cate, of Culpeper, have been blown away by the response to their son’s jewelry.
“I’m absolutely thrilled and very impressed in his ability to think ahead,” Megan said. “I’m amazed at his ability at such a young age.”
His silver work also tied in nicely with his first year racing in the Piedmont Area Soap Box Derby. Has working with silver given him an edge?
“A lot actually,” Dakota said. “A lot of the wiring with steering has to be done in similar ways. It’s very similar to wire working.”
Dakota isn’t the only skilled business person in his family.
His sister Valeen, 10, a fifth-grader at WCDS, saw her brother making money and decided to start her own efforts. She sews purses and stuffed animals and sells them at Local 35 in Warrenton for about $10 each.
“She saw he was making money and she decided she wanted to make money too,” Megan said with a laugh. “She realized she had a knack for it.”
She started taking sewing classes at Tagaloo in Warrenton and it only took about four classes for her to pick it up.
“It’s just calming and you can make whatever you want,” Valeen said. “ It’s really fun.”
Her purses are creations of her own and she uses a template for the teddy bears.
“You buy a pattern for a teddy bear and then you just pick whatever fabric you want,” Valeen said.
She likes fleece, for the extra cuddly effect.
She too, is racing in her first year at the derby, in a car sponsored by Dairy Queen of Culpeper.
Jessica Lindstrom, Head of School at Wakefield Country Day School, said that the Cates’ business acumen is a testament to the creative ideas that students at the school have.
“We have a number of students who do projects like that,” Lindstrom said. “We have a magician. We have the Cate kids. We have a couple others who make jewelry. The initiative comes from themselves. It makes them stand out, they’re the excellent students they need to be, but in a school with all A and B students, when they do something like this it shows an entrepreneurial spirit.”
WCDS has had a driver in the derby for years, and Lindstrom said that it’s important to tie Science, Education, Technology and Math together with the racing for the students.
“I’ve been head of school for five years and in those five years I’ve been here helping support them,” Lindstrom said. “The parents always tell me this is so much better than playing games online. This is wholesome fun.”