He’s been sitting at his jeweler’s bench for more than 30 years but opening Artisan Jewelers on 4th St. in the former Disinger Kruger Jewelers earlier this month has placed the bench and Vasquez on center stage. “Some of my friends have said that after awhile, I’ll want to be out here more,” he explained about the showroom with a shrug. He isn’t sure if he could ever prefer it to his love for working on jewelry.
That love is now readily apparent for new customers to Vasquez’s Fourth Street shop. When he isn’t on the floor working sales, customers will now be able to see him and his jewelers at their benches in the new workshop taking up the back third of the store. Before opening the new store, Vasquez had the jewelry repair and fabrication that had been upstairs brought downstairs. Customers will see the work being done from behind a glass partition that now splits the shop.
The jewelers bench has been a 30-year love affair that began several generations ago for Vasquez’s family.
“I love all of it, designing, molding, carving and finishing, everything,” he said. “When someone says they want something, I begin to build it in my mind. It comes easy to me.”
Vasquez became interested in the art when he was young. He would come to his father’s shop and watch him work while completing his homework after school. His father recognized his interest and began to teach him in the jewelry artisanship that had been handed down to him. The beginning was tedious. “I had been practicing for six months before he let me touch one of his pieces,” Vasquez explained.
But eventually, his skills grew to the point he could break out on his own. After working with his father in Mexico, Vasquez ended up in Los Angeles, California where he was creating high-end pieces for celebrity customers. While working for Brilliant Diamonds, he met Bill Disinger, owner of Disinger Kruger Jewelers of Huntingburg while making pieces for him.
Then, about nine years ago, there was a downturn in the LA jewelry market, and Vasquez was let go from his position.
Disinger remembered his work though and thought he could entice him to come to Huntingburg to work in his shop. “I kept getting this call from an 812 number and thought, who’s calling me,” Vasquez laughed. “He was persistent. I was getting four or five calls a day.”
Finally, after two months of calls, Vasquez finally answered, and Disinger offered him a ticket to come out so Disinger could see his work. Disinger liked what Vasquez had to offer and offered him a job. Vasquez liked what he saw and decided to move to Huntingburg.
Soon after arriving, Vasquez met Angelina Miranda on 4th Street and eventually the two married. Angelina is working on her own entrepreneurial pursuits as well. She is in the process of opening a taqueria in Evansville called Pupuseria and Taqueria de Miranda.
But, Vasquez’s heart remains in his work with gold, silver, and platinum. Although he loves to design new jewelry for customers, his favorite thing to do is set stones. It is a tedious and exacting art to place these small stones perfectly in a setting to create an immaculate piece.
As an artist, Vasquez plans on bringing some new designs to the community. He is working on combining the flowing and intricately carved elements preferred by the Hispanic community with the clean, diamond settings sought by Caucasians to create his lines.
Artisan Jewelers will continue to carry the lines popular in Disinger’s store and provide repairs and service in addition to the custom work.
On April 1, Vasquez will celebrate with a grand opening. He will unveil his new business with an open house that includes some special sales and snacks. Customers stopping in that day during the Daffodil Stroll can get some food and drinks while checking out his artisan offerings.
Artisan Jewelers, 404 E. Fourth Street, is open from 10 a.m. to 6 p.m. Monday, Tuesday and Thursday; 10 a.m. to 7 p.m. Wednesday and Friday; and 10 a.m. to 4 p.m. Saturday. The store can be contacted at 812-683-4376. A Facebook page and website are in the works.