I’m Old School. No Laser, no computer driven programs, no mass production. I create original designs of enduring quality with my hands. My intent is to create beauty. I hope to set emotionally significant artifacts in motion, creating heirlooms for your future.
I began stonecutting in 4th grade, inspired by a teacher, Mr. McKenzie, who told me that it was possible to “slice rocks like salami.” Mom provided me with books, Dad put together the machinery, and I never looked back.
I met Granville Wilson on my paper route. His front yard was full of interesting rocks like petrified wood, agates, and geodes. I was 15 years old when my apprenticeship with Granville began. Wilson Custom Jewelry opened in 1975. There I learned basic repair and to carve wax models for casting Granville was an expert. His gold castings were dense and heavy, and he was a stickler about finish.
It was at Wilson’s that I met the legendary Ray Die. A top Los Angeles stone setter, at 70 years old, Ray was setting some of the largest and most valuable stones to pass thru LA. If there was fancy stone setting to be done, we sent it to Ray. Granville’s prong work was second to none, and Ray was the master.
From 197984, I had the honor and privilege of being among the group of four young jewelers who spent Tuesday nights at Ray’s home shop. We brought jobs that we weren’t sure how to tackle, and Ray would walk us through it. I learned antique fabrication, clasps and hinge work, bead setting, bright cut and pave’, bezel, channel, baguettes, and became fluent in the use of an automatic hammer. I got a real taste for the finer expressions of jewelry craft from Ray. I still strive to make pieces that would make him proud.
In 1983 Granville retired. I took over operations for the final two years of the retail store and then began a trade shop in 1985, doing work on a wholesale basis for independent jewelry stores. I moved to Humboldt County in 1990, and set up the same kind of business, earning my living doing repair, rebuilding, and manufacturing for local stores.
I had been developing my own design sensibility and style doing work for friends, and in August 2001, I was given the opportunity to showcase my own designs at Allure Jewelers in Old Town Eureka, CA. I had the chance to meet with and show to a retail audience. It was empowering to connect with customers and see my work sell. It was a dark day in March 2007 when the store closed due to circumstances involving the owner’s health.
2010 was a banner year for me. I completed my Graduate Gemologist degree with Gemological Institute of America. I also co-chaired the annual Gem & Mineral Show for the Humboldt Gem and Mineral Society. To top if off, my friend and fellow jeweler, Kirk Davis, asked me to join him in the creation of a storefront in Old Town Eureka. We opened in November as Kirk’s Old Town Jewelry Repair and Steve Johnson, Original Design Goldsmith. Now we collectively refer to ourselves as Old Town Jewelers. We’re located at 311 F St. Eureka CA 95501. Our hours are 10-6, Tues thru Saturday. We’re open 7 days a week between Thanksgiving and Christmas Eve. Please feel free to call us at (707) 441-9244.
I’ve honed my craft bringing the ideas of others to form. Now I also get to make what inspires me. I’m fortunate these days to have the space to show the results of my creative impulses, to learn and grow alongside my craftsman friend, and show my work to you, face to face. Perhaps you’ll see something you like… or let’s create something new!