Retiring jeweler will leave a void

SHAUN STANLEY/Durango Herald

Jewelry artist D. Robert Smith worked his final day on the bench inside the Durango Trading Post on Wednesday.

By Ted Holteen Herald staff writer

Take extra care of those rings, bracelets and any other jewelry, because one of the finest craftsmen in the Southwest wont be around anymore to fix it.

After about a quarter million pieces of jewelry and 42 years in business, D. Robert Smith closed up his workbench inside the Durango Trading Post on Main Avenue for the last time Wednesday afternoon.

Theres one lady who just cant get it through her head that Im quitting, and she keeps asking me to work on her jewelry, Smith said.

Smith has had a local presence in Durango only since 2004, but his decades of work in Arizona and New Mexico established his reputation here long before his arrival.

I had a friend years ago in Sedona who used to tell me You should find this guy, and we were lucky enough to run into him a while back, said Jackson Clark, owner of Toh-Atin Gallery.

Smith has done Toh-Atins repair work for years, though neither could remember just how many.

He can cut a stone better than anyone Ive ever seen, and most of the things hes fixed you can never tell there was anything wrong with them, Clark said.

But Smith, who turned 60 in January, is much more than a repairman. He estimates that since he cut his first stones as an 8-year-old under the tutelage of his grandfather, hes created between 150,000 and 250,000 pieces. His core customers about 100 of them are spread all over the country, and new ones find him all the time.

One was Robert Lamoreaux, a member of the Ojibwe tribe in Canada who moved to Durango the same year Smith arrived. Lamoreaux immediately became one of Smiths most loyal customers and has many of his pieces.

Hes one of the best jewelers I know and I know a lot of jewelers. And Ive got his number, so Im not letting him retire, Lamoreaux said.

Smith conceded that its unlikely hell quit the jewelry craft altogether. He has several business ventures that will occupy much of his time. He is also working on a novel and plans to write a book about jewelry-making and repair.

Its not like Im going to quit working, I just refuse to be like that. Ive got projects to keep me busy for another 10 years, Smith said. Im going to do a little traveling, but I grew up in the Four Corners and Durangos now home. I love it here. Ill just be a little harder to find.

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