Jacob Albee started making jewelry for a simple and sort of unusual reason.
"I wasn't a star athlete, didn't play the guitar and wanted to make the opposite sex think I was cool," Albee said. That goal to impress that started as a high school hobby turned into a successful career. He now rolls around his studio, Jacob Albee Designs in Burlington, creating designer jewelry.
He makes everything by hand, unlike commercial jewelers who often join pre-made parts together. "It's like the difference between a cake mix and a cake from scratch, and we all know which one tastes better," Albee said.
Custom wedding rings are a big part of his business, like one set he's working on with matching green garnet stones from Kenya. "I still get butterflies in my stomach every time I sit down with a stone dealer and look at gemstones," he said.
This goldsmith works with uncommon materials, like raw, 100 percent pure gold, meteorites and even dinosaur bones. Albee has sources all over the world who track down these special items. "The inherent cool factor of them being unique -- sometimes I like what they look like," he said.
It's not just unique, but many items are also "green." Albee uses recycled gold and silver. But of all the materials he works with, Albee says the old slogan is right -- only diamonds are forever. "You can't break them, but they're hard to break and they're hard to scratch -- they'll never wear out and it's about the only material on earth that can make that claim," he said.
His designs take intense concentration, patience and a plethora of tools. An espresso like machine steam cleans the pieces before they're joined by soldering. The steam gets rid of dirt, grease and finger prints.
A finished product, like a one-of-a-kind meteorite cuff, sells for 9-thousand dollars, but prices start at 3-hundred. The average sale is around 25-hundred dollars. "One purchase is a compliment, a repeat purchase is more than twice the compliment," Albee said.
Albee sells in Burlington, but by appointment only. Almost all of his jewelry is bought by out-of-staters and he's often on the road selling his goods at high-end craft shows. He's also stays busy, with an average 6-8 week wait on orders.
Popular pieces, as a Vermonter makes his mark, turning natural materials into treasured jewelry.
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