Making Native American-inspired jewelry for 30 years at his wooden jeweler’s bench has been good for Fred Tenca.
With a distinct style that mixes the curves of San Francisco architecture with precious metals and gemstones found in traditional Native American pieces, Tenca has carved out his own niche.
Pieces range from wide, leather bands inlaid with chunky blue and white buffalo turquoise to delicate rings and brooches featuring larimar, charoite, red coral and lapis lazuli.
Most of the designs are created on a whim.
“I figure out the design as I am doing it,” he said.
At his roll-top desk, pliers, files, leather mallet, ring sizes and torch all
sit at arm’s length. If he feels like working on custom rings, Tenca said he sits down and cranks out several in one sitting — same with pendants, earrings and bracelets.
Several of his pieces feature thin gold and silver twisted around a brooch or pendant. Tenca, 60, said his mentor, who loved to mimic the curvatures of early architecture found in San Francisco, inspired this style.
Several weeks ago, Tenca opened Tenca Design and Jewelry at 410 W. Main St., suite C.
Tenca owned and operated a similar store in a Prescott trading post for some 10 years. After working with a friend in Payson, Tenca realized he loved the warmer temperatures of the area and the people, so he decided to move his business.
“I like it here better,” he said.
Tenca started his career in jewelry repair and design by chance at age 25 when a jeweler he used to frequent gave him the opportunity to solder several pieces. After watching him work, the jeweler told Tenca he had a knack for the field and gave him a job repairing pieces. Over time, Tenca began making his own earrings and pendants. Some of his earliest pieces featured amethyst, rubies and tourmaline.
Today, Tenca mostly works in stones found in Southwest-style jewelry. Tenca buys the stones at various gem shows including those in Tucson and Gallop, N.M.
Tenca said he loves working with a customer to design a custom piece.
“I am willingly to really work with people and get them what they want,” he said.
One woman recently came in with several stones and asked Tenca what he could do with them. After looking at the shape of the stones, Tenca designed a pendant shaped like an arrow.
For more information, call (928) 468-1623.