For more than 25 years, Robert and Melissa Higginbotham have given back to the community, tenfold what they have taken. Not because they have to, but because they hope to create a community as beautiful and everlasting as the diamonds they sell.
Every year the Higginbothams donate tens of thousands of dollars to local charities and organizations and donates hours of their time to the Rotary Club, Time Out Shelter and Payson Community Kids, to name a few.
“We donate to every nonprofit that asks,” Melissa said. “I just wrote a check for $3,600.”
Last year the pair donated to more than 60 charities and Melissa says easily more than $20,000. This year the pair is hosting an exchange student from Spain.
When asked why they give so much back, Melissa said because they wanted to raise their children here “and if you take from the community, you must give back.”
Recently Robert helped clear garbage from the yard at Payson Community Kids and regularly appraises jewelry donated to nonprofits free. Robert has also donated countless hours as a troop leader with the Boy Scouts during the past 15 years.
The couple easily puts in 80 hours a week at the store, but always makes time for others.
The pair moved to Payson originally to raise a family in the 1980s and quickly
opened Payson Goldworks in the back of Joey’s Gold. Three years later, the store moved to its own location in the Hopi House center, now the corner occupied by Walgreens.
In 1990, the store made a final location and name change. The shop was uprooted to the Payson Village Shopping Center and the name changed to Payson Jewelers. Eighteen years later, the store is in the same location.
The pair has seen the Rim Country change many times over, but has never stopped creating jewelry and living their dream.
“We outlasted them all,” Melissa said. “We are not going anywhere.”
Robert became interested in jewelry while in high school. After taking a craft class, the teacher, noticing his talent and interest in crafts, suggested he look up a local jeweler in the phone book who created their own pieces.
Robert found European jeweler, Senor Ramon Vila and his son George in Phoenix, where he studied for seven years the art of jewelry.
The store’s three jewelers, Robert, Bill Witte and Jason Huffman, have more than 100 years of combined experience. Before Robert had the help of two other jewelers, he often found himself working round-the-clock.
“Sometimes I would work all night to get work done, sleep for a few hours and do it again,” he said. “We never run out of work.”
The store specializes in diamonds bought direct from Belgium and jewelry made with Arizona gemstones including Four Peaks amethyst, Arizona peridot, Arizona garnet and Arizona turquoise.
The amethyst is mined from the nearby Mazatzal Mountains, 30 miles south of Payson, and is the only active amethyst mine in North America.
The pair still travels to Belgium and Chicago to personally pick the diamonds they will use in the shop.
“You have to reject a whole lot of diamonds to pick the right ones,” Robert said.
The couple said they have customers who have been coming to the store for years and are now bringing in their children, who are getting married.
“We know every hand that touches our jewelry,” Melissa said.
Robert created his son’s wedding bands and altered a family ring for his daughter’s wedding.
Besides creating custom wedding rings, the shop fixes just about anything requiring repair.
“We do teapots, decorations and a lot of eyeglasses,” Robert said, “Our motto is ‘specializing in the impossible,’ which has gotten us into trouble a few times.”
The duo said the shop could not run as smoothly without its staff, including office manager Lauretta Shiya and sales associates Steph Helmintoller and Sue Garn.
All of the staff helped decorate the wall this Christmas with teddy bears. This year’s bear is appropriately called, “Chase the Blues Away.”