A Silver Wolfe



Self-taught silversmith Dick Wolfe has melded a lot of silver in the last 13 years.

"I came across a series of articles in an old lapidary journal and thought, I've spent all my working life in law enforcement (he was part of the Don Bolles murder investigation) or sitting at a desk, I want to make something for a change," Wolfe said.


Soldering a cabachon into its silver setting requires skill to melt the metal bezel strip perfectly. Dick Wolfe is beginning to incorporate brass and copper into his jewelry.

Too hot a flame when soldering a cabachon into a setting can ruin a piece. Tumbling a soft stone such as turquoise too long in the polishing process can ruin a stone. Pushing a stone too hard against its hard sawdust backing can cause it to crack.

Wolfe persevered.

He learned how to cut, file and solder the bezel to fit the particular cabachon.

Bezel is the ring of silver the stone sets within.

"I used to design jewelry in my head during the sermon at church, but we have a really cool pastor now and he keeps my attention," Wolfe said.

When he got the hang of crafting jewelry from stones and silver he found to his "amazement" people wanted to buy it.

He has made some strange jewelry over the years.

"One lady came to me at an art show and handed me two elk's teeth to make earrings out of," he said. "The teeth were pretty fresh. I felt like a dentist out in my workshop cleaning those teeth."

After he made a heavy solid silver snake bracelet for a client the man came back and ordered several just like it for other family members.

Perhaps the furthest Wolfe has gone out of his way for a client was when a woman requested a "Clint Eastwood bracelet" for her boyfriend.

Dick and his wife Marilyn rented "The Bridges of Madison County" again and stopped the action on the VCR so he could design a bracelet based on the one Eastwood wore.

A few sparkling pieces have made their way into Marilyn's jewelry box.


A sample of silversmith Dick Wolfe's jewelry inlaid with onyx, malachite and azurite, labradorite, rhodacrosite, tourmaline, topaz, amethyst and sapphire.

"She gets first shot because I always give her the jewelry to price," he said.

"He also sells it off my body," Marilyn said. "At one art show this lady loved my earrings, pendant and bracelet."

"She does have a few keepers I can't abscond," Dick said.

The couple used to hike together and rock hound.

"There are some real interesting rocks and mineral around here," he said.

"One time Marilyn and I were hiking around the Rim and we found a jasper field. We brought home a bag of it and when tumbled and polished they were beautiful stones," he added.

"It's fun because rocks don't look the same after you clean them up," he said.

Like most rock hunters he carried a squirt bottle with him to look for the different beauty in the rocks.

He misses rock hounding, yet he faces a fourth foot surgery with plans to sit at his workbench and teach himself a new skill -- making "gold-filled" (which actually means electroplating the gold onto the silver) jewelry. And he can buy rough stone at the Tucson Gem and Mineral Show.

Turquoise might take a day or less to polish because it is soft.

"Most turquoise is stabilized with an epoxy because it is so soft," he said. "When you see the old turquoise and it is green, that is because it is so porous has absorbed oils from the wearer's skin."

Amethyst can take up to a year to polish and get through the layers of grit.

Wolfe doesn't mind.

He said his favorite stone to work with is the amethyst because the end result is so beautiful.


Name: Dick Wolfe

Awards he's proud of: First Place and Judges awards at 2006 Northern Gila County Fair for an unusual labradorite pendant.

Inspiration: Southwest designs.

Next goal as a silversmith: Electroplating gold onto silver.

Fave books: Anything about the Civil War.

Hero: Ulysses S. Grant because he overcame adversity to become one of our greatest generals then president.

Why Payson? Post-retirement, the Wolfes visited every little town in Arizona before deciding on Payson.

Points of contact: Artists of the Rim Gallery or (928) 474-6115.

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