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Demystifying the jewelry business

When customers come into Stucki Jewelers Inc. in Grass Valley, they often ask for a particular colored gem or a type of birthstone ” but rarely about where their new jewelry came from or how it was produced, Stucki’s owner James Arbaugh said.

So Arbaugh educates his customers ” and selects vendors whose own practices hold up to scrutiny ” as a way of separating Stucki Jewelers from mall jewelry stores down the hill.

“The typical mall jewelry store employee doesn’t know what (the gem) is or where it came from,” Arbaugh said.



The demonstrations he hosts on gem preparation, informational trips to the Original Sixteen to One Mine and an upcoming seminar on fair trade gems also help demystify a business few people know much about, Arbaugh said.

“There’s not a lot of information out there,” Arbaugh said. “We want to expose all aspects of the business to our clients. … I don’t know if anybody else is doing this.”




For the past few years, the 103-year-old jewelry store ” at 148 Mill Street downtown

” has held these unique seminars and informational trips.

When customers visit the Original Sixteen to One Mine in nearby Allegheny, they see how the mining company extracts the gold-bearing quartz Stucki uses in its jewelry, Arbaugh said.

Strict scrutiny

Stucki works only with venders focused on fair trade, Arbaugh said.

Fair trade gems refer to stones whose provenance is closely tracked from mine to market. Protocols include environmental protections, fair labor practices at the cutting and jewelry factories, and strict oversight of the chain of custody protecting buyers from the possibility of getting synthetic gems.

Stucki Jewelers works with businesses such as Columbia Gem House Inc., a gemstone mining, cutting and marketing company that set the international fair trade gem standard.

Last year’s film “Blood Diamond” gave a critical though fictitious account of known real-life exploitation of people working in diamond mines. Yet only a handful of customers asked more questions after they said they saw the movie, Arbaugh said.

“It didn’t keep anybody from purchasing,” Arbaugh said. But such practices do

concern him.

“We know what we’re selling, and that’s all really important to us,” Arbaugh said. “If there’s anything in question, we bring it up with the vender and send it back.”

Arbaugh’s Aug. 16 fair trade gem seminar has room for as many as 200 people; 20 people had signed up as of last week, Arbaugh said. It starts at 6:30 p.m., and it will feature Eric Braunwart, president of Columbia Gem House. Arbaugh declined to name the seminar’s location because of security concerns.

For more information or to RSVP, contact the store at 272-1266.

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To contact Staff Writer Greg Moberly, e-mail gregm@theunion.com or call 477-4234.


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