Rough Around the Edges
With a blowtorch and a crucible Jessie Lewis melts down old silver. Thrifted vintage shoe and belt buckles, estate-sale 19th century cutlery, as long as it’s stamped and pure, she gives it new life. From her studio in Montana’s Bitterroot Valley, Jessie and her brand—Ruby and Revolver—have become known around the country and the world for beautifully raw jewelry combining these reclaimed precious metals with unique and old American-mined stones.
“To be able to melt down metal and turn it into something new is important to me for a couple of reasons,” she says, “because mining's horrific on the environment, and I also like old stuff. I always have. I like the idea of creating something new out of something that's damaged or old or no longer used. The cycle keeps going.”
Inspired from a young age by her father’s career as a welder and gunsmith, Jessie took to metalsmithing naturally. Learning from books and with tools slowly accumulated from pawn shops, she taught herself through a combination of trial and error and an artistic kind of grit.
“I’ve come a long way as a metalsmith,” she says. “I used to have a tiny little smithing station in my kitchen because I had a studio apartment. Now I have a dedicated studio space that I can cast in and I can cut my own stones, and it's actually expanding right now as we speak. As I've expanded my skillset I now have big, big tools that I'm working with.”
Jessie says it’s tough to describe the style of her work, because sometimes she likes to make big,
chunky pieces, and other times she prefers small and minimalist design. Either way, she says her
stuff doesn’t fit into the category of fine jewelry because it’s more raw than that. A piece of
Ruby and Revolver jewelry is full of character and is solid enough to be worn, dropped, and tossed
around for a lifetime
“I like pieces that have a little bit of a rough look,”
she says. “But there's a big difference to me between
a mistake in my work, a flaw in my work, and allowing
the metal to have its own voice. I like things that are
a little bit tough and a little bit sweet. If I'm setting a
diamond, I want kind of a rough setting. I don't want
it to be really polished and clean and bright. It's just
not my style. I just like things that are a little rough
around the edges,
The raw gritty nature of her work is fitting, as it matches the nature of the place she lives. She draws inspiration from the rugged beauty of Montana, and the more time she spends in nature, the better and happier a creator she becomes. “Montana’s just a really easy muse,” she says. “There’s so much natural beauty here that its super easy to draw from.”
One of the biggest challenges in her journey was setting out down the path of transitioning her craft from a hobby to a full-time business and means of financial support for her family. She had no business background and had the experience of feeling financially insecure when she was younger, so turning jewelry making into her full-time job felt very high stakes—especially considering she set out on her own when she was six months pregnant. A few years later, having developed a large and loyal following and loving what she does every day, she’s certainly glad she did.
The many pieces of jewelry she’s made that are now treasured by people all over the world, she hopes will become family heirlooms handed down generation to generation. The craftsmanship and attention to detail in each individual piece is far more important to her than the volume of things she creates. And she thinks that after several decades of societal focus on cheap and mass-produced goods, we as a culture are shifting our focus back to quality and craft.
“I think that we're kind of shifting back into that sort of focus,” she says. “I’ve always loved looking at old furniture and things that were made a hundred years ago that truly were built to last, not built to be replaced. I think more than anything, I want my work to be super, super solid.”
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