Feature Designer

When I select a feature designer for my blog, I am looking not just for inspirational jewelry but for something truly unique in both the design and in the designer. One has to see the passion for the craft and the person behind the creation.

Jimmy Pearce is the perfect example of the kind of artisan I seek. His speciality is natural gold nugget and sterling silver jewelry which he sells on his newly created website appropriately named Gold Pan Jewelry. He handcrafts his jewelry using traditional torch methods to solder as well as by wire wrapping and hammering techniques.

Jimmy is based in North Carolina and since he is retired from his flooring business, he can devote his full attention to learning all about jewelry and practising his craft. However, what is unusual about Jimmy is he is also a gold prospector - those nuggets he uses were found the hard, backbreaking way.

After finding his first nugget in his home state, gold fever struck. In 2003, he met his friend Mark Exeter in Alaska and together they staked some claims northwest of Fairbanks, about 60 miles from the Arctic Circle. Jimmy uses simple methods of locating gold ore. First he pans samples and counts the number of gold flakes he finds in that location. Then after testing several areas in this way, he returns to the spot which yielded the most flakes and begins collection either by sluicing, metal detecting or even diving underwater to locate those pockets of rare gold pieces. These "pickers" or nuggets are almost pure gold, between 20-23K.

It is mostly uncomfortable in prospecting season what with roughing it and tons of hungry mosquitoes which are conveniently out of focus in scenic photographs of the north. But there are also dangers to be faced. He and his partner bunk down in a converted metal motorcycle trailer ever since the grizzly bear raid on their tents in their first season. Even then, Jimmy had a terrifying experience when after hearing noises very early one morning, he opened the door of the trailer and came into eye-to-eye contact with a very large black bear (300-400 lbs) busy rummaging through their cook tent. Most black bears flee with shouting but this one charged. Fortunately the one shot Jimmy fired missed the bear but peppered him with loose gravel enough to scare him away. So both bear and man lived to forage another day! This is one designer who has actually risked his life for his craft!

Jimmy proudly considers himself a "green gold miner" because he uses the nuggets just as they are. There is no wasteful and destructive processing of the gold ore. Jimmy is definitely environmentally sensitive. The rocks he moves to get at nuggets are then carefully replaced before he moves on. Generally though, there is so little gold in the raw ore to begin with that mining companies go through tons of ore just to recover a little. In Marcy/Jewelry Geek's Gem Alert video on metalchasers, she talks about the No Dirty Gold Campaign which supports environmentally responsible and ethical mining practices.

You can check out Jimmy's metalchasers gallery which is where I found him! Thanks, Jimmy for the pictures and for sharing your hair-raising stories. We've hiked and camped extensively in the Canadian Rockies before but fortunately did not encounter any bears although we did see grizzly tracks once. I remember we had to suspend our food 15-20 feet from special poles (courtesy of Parks Canada) in bear country.

Good luck and stay safe with this summer's prospecting.
The Beading Gem's Journal