When Don was a senior in high school he moved to Phoenix where he began working in restaurants as he says, “working in the trenches”. He eventually worked as a chef. In about 1985, he started learning the art of jewelry-making.
He had observed that his older brother Charles, was creating beautiful gold and silver jewelry which incorporated wonderful carved turquoise, coral and other materials. After apprenticing with Charles and working for Gene Waddell, he began creating pieces of his own. In about 1992, he sold his first pieces to Lovena Ohl at Lovena Ohl Gallery in Scottsdale.
“My jewelry-making kind of evolved and I started working with finer jewelers and learning more gold-smithing techniques. Then being around my brother (Charles) and other artists learning bigger things and learning about materials. I stumbled through a lot of stuff, especially cutting materials, what you can and can’t do.”
Don has become a master of cutting and polishing stones for his beautiful jewelry. His designs are influenced by his Hopi heritage and love of nature. Utilizing metal fabrication and the method of tufa casting, Don creates the foundation of his jewelry. He then cuts and polishes natural materials such as coral, turquoise, sugilite and others inlaying them into the silver or gold, often finishing with hand cut beads and handmade gold and silver chain. “My preference is to use either thicker cabs or rough materials. I like to inlay so cutting my own stones is important. I also like to create my own designs as opposed to designing a piece of jewelry around a stone. I love working with really super good materials as far as stones. I also love working with silver as well as 18kt gold.”
An exceptional craftsman with a natural eye for design, Don creates exquisite jewelry in both silver and gold, enhanced by diamonds and other precious stones as well as traditional turquoise. Don says, “I am grateful for my art and it feels like things are falling into place like they should be. I am grateful to be doing what I do and think it is a very cool way to make a living.”