Black Hills Gold jewelry is an original art form created in the 1870’s in the Black Hills of South Dakota. The design utilizes leaves, grape clusters and vines, made from pink gold and green gold, to surround the main focal point of each piece. The pink color is made by combining gold with copper, and the delicate green color is achieved by adding sterling silver with gold.
By law, any piece of jewelry bearing the description “Black Hills Gold” must be manufactured in the Black Hills of South Dakota.
While there are several manufacturers of authentic Black Hills Gold jewelry, Landstrom’s is the oldest and most famous. Landstrom’s roots date back to 1878 when S.T. Butler, trained by French prospector and goldsmith Henri LeBeau, opened the first Black Hills Gold jewelry manufacturing store with his son, George M. Butler in Deadwood, South Dakota. In 1919, the company was divided into two companies, the F.L. Thorpe Company and the Black Hills Jewelry Manufacturing Company. In 1944 Ivan Landstrom bought the Black Hills Jewelry Manufacturing Company and in 1995 Black Hills Gold history went full circle when Landstrom’s acquired the F.L. Thorpe Company making Landstrom’s the sole owner of all the original Black Hills Gold designs.
The jewelry-making process (courtesy Landstrom’s ): Each new design begins with a two-dimensional drawing and becomes a three-dimensional design carved in wax. The wax is surrounded by a plaster-like substance and when heated, the wax melts and leaves a void that molten gold can be poured into. This creates a casting in 10 karat gold.
Beginning with 24 karat* gold bars, alloys of 12 karat gold are rolled into sheets of gold. Leaves and other component parts are punched out of these gold sheets and are then individually hand-soldered to the casted gold frame. Depending on the design, select pieces of Landstrom’s are dipped in liquid 24 karat gold to create a bright eye-catching finish.
“Wriggling” is a handcrafted finishing method that creates the rich frosty depth in Landstrom’s leaves. The veins of each leaf are then meticulously hand engraved to produce unique light-catching prismatic cuts.
From the first step to the final inspection, each piece of Landstrom’s Original Black Hills Gold reflects the skills of up to 50 different highly trained artisans.
* What’s the difference between a Karat and a Carat?
A Karat is a unit of measure for the fineness of gold, equal to 1/24 of the total amount of pure gold in an alloy. Thus, 24k is pure gold. A Carat is a unit weight for precious stone, equal to 200 milligrams.
No two pieces of Landstrom’s Original Black Hills Gold jewelry are alike as each is hand made. Each piece of Landstrom’s jewelry reflects great pride in craftsmanship by talented artisans with skills taught by their predecessors over 100 years ago. Landstrom’s has been admired and sought after for over a century.
Gypsies traveling through South Dakota in the 1950’s started a legend which says, “To one who wears the Black Hills Gold, good luck and fortune will unfold.”