By Judy Brown
It is out of the way, unique and well worth the trip if you love gems and jewelry.
Joe and Judy Brown of Garnet Studio in North River own a small shop that sits on a hill overlooking Gore Mountain. Joe is a retired school teacher and gem faceter and Judy has owned and operated the business for over 30 years, making jewelry from stones that they mined in the Adirondacks.
Joe grew up in North Creek and worked, as a teenager, for the Barton’s Mines Mineral Shop. He developed a love of gemstones and collected for a hobby when he was not working at the garnet shop. Judy lived with her parents (Hagan family) who owned Garnet Hill Lodge, the site of the abandoned Hooper Mine in North River. She loved exploring the old mine and started tumbling stones and making jewelry in her early teens. She used to sell her wares at the Garnet Hill Lodge to the tourists that would visit.
They met in high school and dated until they graduated from college and married in 1971. Their first big purchase after they were married was a faceting unit so that Joe could learn to cut stones. John Cornwall, a local gemologist, was their mentor. He sold them their first machine and helped them get started. Judy worked for John for several years, making jewelry and keeping his shop in order. Once Judy and Joe’s family started arriving, she passed that job on to Judy Monroe who worked there for many years.
Joe and Judy have 4 grown boys. The business afforded that Judy could be a stay-at-home mom. She learned to cut cabachon stones and work with gold and silver to make jewelry and set the stones that they cut. Work was done after baths and bed for the boys. She finds that the night is the best work time when things are quiet and the creative juices flow. She worked for a silversmith in Vermont for a year, took a course through BOCES, and went to the Jewelry Institute in Rhode Island for a diamond setting course. Most of what they both have learned is from the work that they have done over the last 35 years. They now sell to over 50 gift shops in the Adirondack region.
When they moved to North River, the plan was to open a studio where they could share their craft with others. They love what they do and enjoy sharing their knowledge with others. Judy has taught many Elderhostel groups and children’s groups.
Over the years, they have grown to love the variety in the gem world. They have stones from all over the world set in gold and silver and many that sit on the shelves waiting for inspiration. They try to go to Tucson, Arizona every year to the world’s largest Gem Show in February to see the newest gems on the market and visit with those crazy people that love rocks.
They now have a new teaching studio.