In the mid 1870s, thousands of pioneers flocked to the rumors of gold, struggling across the wide expanse of prairie in their quest to fulfill dreams of a better life. They wanted strong, healthy families, farms and businesses, and the kind of success that afforded them the chance to live comfortably, luxuriously even.
Aboard covered wagons and on foot they traveled for weeks, months sometimes, with little more than a hope to keep them moving forward. Thirst, hunger, exposure and disease claimed the lives of many, but their dreams would not be defeated. Their futures were at stake, and the futures of the next several generations. The answer to their prayers, their brighter future, lay somewhere off the horizon in a dreamland of wealth and success – the Black Hills of South Dakota.
Gold had been discovered there just after the Custer Expedition and the promise of untold wealth offered by nuggets large and small all over the Black Hills was the star upon which many young Americans hung their hopes. In 1874 miners were discovering and claiming plots of land along Black Hills creeks, making small fortunes in placer gold – the loose gold pieces generally found mixed with sediment and rock in creek beds and streams.
Many fortunes were made, and dreams built on the placer gold that settled to the edge of the mining pan. Homes, businesses, families, and whole communities were financed by settlers and prospectors persistent in their vision of a better life. Fearless of the wild frontier, devoted to the work required, those early Americans risked it all to bring lives they could only imagine to the America they already loved.
According to legend, one such young American – Henri LeBeau, a goldsmith from France – fell asleep believing he was dying of thirst and starvation, and dreamt of a mountain stream with grape vines growing on its banks. When he awoke, he discovered just over a nearby rise, the stream and grape vines of his dream. In his endless gratitude for his life saved, he devoted his talents as a goldsmith to creating jewelry featuring the grapes, leaves, and vines that adorned the banks of the stream. This tale of determination and success is forever immortalized, in the signature rose, green and yellow gold of the grapes and leaves featured in Black Hills Gold jewelry.
At Black Hills Gold Jewelry by Coleman, artisans create stunning jewelry accessories through a process that can require up to 40 different manufacturing steps; a few dating back to the early 1800’s. Many of the 40-plus steps also include handcrafting by these artisans who are skillfully trained when hired or bring their skills with them that they learned from past generations. Working just 30 miles from the Mt. Rushmore monument honoring our Founding Fathers – Presidents George Washington, Thomas Jefferson, Theodore Roosevelt and Abraham Lincoln – these skillfully trained artisans produce a wide variety of traditional and contemporary styles carrying the world renown designation of Black Hills Gold.
To this day, the legend of Henri LeBeau as well as several of the traditional Black Hills Gold Jewelry manufacturing steps live on in fine jewelry pieces exclusively crafted by Black Hills Gold Jewelry by Coleman.
By Jaclyn Kennison, JLance Freelance and Events