Studio Notes: Behind the Story of Colorado Diamonds

Though they may sparkle and shimmer, most gemstones lose all trace to their roots when they go from mine to marketplace. We might know an opal is from Australia. But we don’t know exactly where, because the story is missing. Nobody can tell us what it was like to drag this gem out of the earth in 110-degree temperatures. We can’t brush away the dusty surface to feel the glow of discovery.

Same for factory made jewelry. Go to a retail store, and the clerk behind the counter is happy to burnish each brand as she shows you anonymous rings, necklaces, cufflinks, and stickpins.

Guess what?

All of this is great news for us.
Example: In the September/October issue of Lapidary Journal Jewelry Artist I wrote about a necklace I made out of Kelsey Lake diamonds from Colorado. After a disastrous start, I wound up etching a map of the mine onto sheet sterling silver. Then I bezel set 14 raw and faceted diamonds onto the roughened surfaces, creating a collar and matching earrings out of fat triangles.

A longtime Colorado resident, I had been to the mine around 2002. But by the time I was able to write about it, the site had been closed and reclaimed for a decade. This left me with the task of finding people who had worked there in 1995-1996. The prize was a man named Howard Coopersmith, and he told me a great story. It all began when a fellow geology student had a tough time cutting a piece of local rock with a diamond saw blade. The saw wouldn’t go through…

Good News Here

You don’t have to publish a magazine article to accomplish the same effect. As you work, you are creating your own story about each piece you build by hand. You may know where the beads came from, because you talked to the vendor. You may have cut the stone you collected and have pictures of the site. You may have saved your aunt’s costume jewelry from a dumpster or bought scraps of tooled leather from an old saddle maker.

When you mill all these materials through your own creative process, you add on more stories. You remember the challenges you took on, the failures that pushed you forward. And in the end, you don’t actually sell jewelry. You sell stories. You sell experiences that dazzle and shine.


Betsy Lehndorff has been writing for Lapidary Journal Jewelry Artist since 2010. Share your jewelry-making stories with her at betsylehndorff@gmail.com.


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