FAIRBANKS — Brothers Glenn and Joe Taylor, along with their father, decided to take a summer vacation in 1979. Inspired by Alaska Magazine, they decided to fish and prospect for gold on the Fortymile River. Six ounces of gold and many grayling later, the brothers decided to close their wholesale jewelry business in Arizona and run to the hills of Alaska.
The two spent years working in other industries around Fairbanks; Joe at the downtown coal bunkers and Glenn at OK Lumber/Ace Hardware. But by 1992, they were ready to return to jewelry and opened Taylor’s Gold-n-Stones.
Twenty-five years later, the jewelry shop just celebrated its best year ever, a success Glenn credits to “having excitement, being tenacious and always striving to learn about best practices.”
Bridal jewelry is the shop’s biggest market — selections include a ring in almost every price range, from a couple hundred dollars to more than $10,000. But engagement rings and wedding bands are just the tip of the gem. Their vast and varied offerings include jewelry and eyeglasses repair, clocks, engraving, custom jewelry, appraisals and gemstones cutting and polishing.
Recently, Taylor’s Gold-n-Stones has offered a uniquely Alaska product: a wide selection of Alaska gems. For the past 15 years, the Taylor brothers have struck claims and prospected with picks and shovels to find gem-quality stones around the state, such as smoky quartz from Northway, clear crystal quartz from the Brooks Range and rose quartz from the Alaska Range.
In keeping with Alaska themes, the clear crystal quartz is cut into “Arctic Ice Cubes,” or treated with a coating of titanium and oxygen to give it the shimmering technicolor of the aurora for their “Borealis Quartz.” Many of the rose quartz gems are set into rose gold mountings, providing complementary pink hues throughout the piece.
“We love to get out and look at what we can find in nature,” Glenn said. And the brothers think they might have a big find: The first gem-quality pink and green tourmaline in the state, found on a moving glacier. They hope it’s in quantities large enough to offer a national line of gems.
Back at the shop, those Alaska gems are turned into jewelry by a skilled staff of master stonecutters, setters and jewelers. The business also sends gems to a stonecutting outfit in Sri Lanka that they’ve used for two decades.
On a busy Friday afternoon in early January, the staff fields questions from a seemingly constant stream of customers. Meanwhile, in the shop, Joe’s fingertips turned black from polishing a pair of rings his crafting. In an adjacent room, Ed Rouleau, a master faceter and the shop’s fix-it guru, teaches an employee how to use the laser welder. Rouleau said the equipment “will weld anything” and is used to repair two or three pairs of eyeglasses daily. Saleswoman Jyllyen Ballard quickly pops into the shop to polish a customer’s bracelet.
The nine-person staff taking turns at work stations, walking past each other and completing tasks, resembles a bustling kitchen. “We know how to dance,” Glenn said with a smile. “We pretty much try to present all of us as a unit, instead of Joe or I,” he added.
“We’re all trained to know as much as possible,” Ballard said.
The brothers take the same approach to Alaska gems as they do their staff. “It’s their (Alaskans’) stones, it’s not our stones. We’re bringing it to them,” Glenn said.
Around the shop are pictures of their first Alaska adventure — prospecting and fishing on the Fortymile River. In the business office, maps of mountains indicate where the brothers prospect for gems. The pair even took mountain climbing classes at the University of Alaska Fairbanks to access mountains more safely.
Glenn, 65, usually keeps the books running smoothly, while Joe, 60, oversees the shop. “My love is setting stone; if that’s all I could do, I’d be happy,” Joe said.
Joe, who made his first ring in seventh grade, said the key to business success is, “Desire of, and love of what you’re doing.”
And the brothers have been following their own advice for decades. “We knew jewelry, and we enjoyed it, and we knew we could sell it,” Glenn said.
Contact staff writer Robin Wood at 459-7510. Follow him on Twitter: @FDNMcity.