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The first entry in my new blog is something old.  Something I wrote at the passing of my 95 year old grandmother and read at her funeral.  Why do I start my blog, an entry about jewelry and my prettiest, most precious stones, with this?

You will see.


 My grandmother was not your typical grandma, or a typical woman at all. When I think of her, I don’t remember any homemade cookies or hand-knit sweaters or warm hugs. I certainly don’t ever recall feeling spoiled by my grandma.

The grandmother I see is walking through the high desert, surrounded by sandstone cliffs and searing heat and heartbreaking beauty, and she’s a perfect reflection of that landscape: full of richness and depth and quiet history, a little mysterious and intimidating sometimes. She’s walked a thousand miles out here, in her apron and her white Keds. And she doesn’t carry water, or a Power Bar either.

I do recall feeling privileged to be her granddaughter.

I see an educated woman from a distinguished family, taking to her mother’s china with a hammer. She’s building a

Roberta on top of the Uintah Bank Building in 1923

ranch with her husband, raising it from scratch out of the sagebrush and river mud. She gives birth to her boys at home in her own bed. And she never complains about any of the hardships or difficulties in her life. She just sets fire to them.

She keeps her stories to herself. Her heartaches and triumphs over the long years are left for us to imagine.

I see a beautiful garden full of daylilies, roses, and fruit trees, and a yellow tomcat on her doorstep. He’s a little intimidated by my Grandmother too, or anyway he ought to be. And the deer browsing her garden outside her bedroom window— they should be terrified. Grandma was a crack shot and she did like venison.

It’s hard to describe the kind of influence a person can have on your life just by living. But my grandmother looms large in the catalog of forces molding my life. I believe most of us would say that she didn’t so much touch our hearts. Rather, she branded them, with her fierce dignity and independence, her strength of character. We will forever be grateful to have had such a woman in our lives.


Grandma loved her stones.  She was a dedicated rock hound, something she got from her mother.  In the last year of my grandmother’s life, she left me a message saying she had some rocks for me.  This is what she had:

A pile of cabochons.  She figured maybe I could get some use out of them, since I was making jewelry now. She cut these cabs herself, undoubtedly from stones she found herself.  Grandma would never dream of buying rocks.

The next step in my stone odyssey starts here, with this jar of Wyler’s Chicken Bouillon.


Open the jar… carefully, carefully dump it out… and what do you find?


Hundreds of rough Montana sapphires, found by my grandmother and her mother in the early 1900s near their home in Phillipsburg, Montana.

I can see my Great-Grandma Dolly pluck this little river-washed beauty up out of the gravel bar and stash it in her apron pocket. Maybe it’s the year 1917 or so, and a little toddler girl splashes in the stream beside her.

My dad tried his hand at lapidary and cut some of these gorgeous specimens.  Here is what they look like turned into bona fide gemstones.

So, what’s next?  I now have my dad’s gem cutting machine and I really need to learn to use it.  It’s in my bones.


14 Comments Post a comment
  1. OMG this gave me chills!!! What an absolutely wonderful story, beautifully written.

    February 23, 2011
  2. Donna #

    This is a beautiful story, beautifully written. You are multi-talented. This made me want to meet your grandmother.

    Beautiful stones, too!

    February 23, 2011
  3. What a fantastic story and such beautiful pieces!

    February 23, 2011
  4. Fabulous!! What a lucky duck you are to have these special stones from your grandmother…just beautiful! I loved reading the story, and the rocks she collected are amazing….thank you for sharing. 🙂

    February 23, 2011
  5. Simply riveting post. Such a heritage, such blessings, such honor you show to her and her to you. Thanks so much for sharing this story.

    February 23, 2011
  6. What a wonderful story and what beautiful stones. All the more specially special because of the family connections, I do hope you are keeping some for yourself 🙂

    February 23, 2011
  7. Love your inheritance. What a great gift! Yes, definitely learn how to use the gem cutter!

    February 23, 2011
  8. You have an engaging way of expressing yourself. I loved this story, and I look forward to reading your future blog entries.

    February 23, 2011
  9. What an inspiring legacy. You have your family’s trait of being so very capable. I love that some of your creations are made with the now-gone hands of your ancestors. That is a wonderful story. Thank you for sharing it with us. I love the photo of your grandmother way up there on the top of the building looking completely fearless. What a woman!

    February 23, 2011
  10. What a fantastic story! Thank you so much for sharing it. I can see your grandmother walking through the desert and picking up those lovely stones.

    February 24, 2011
  11. Esmeralda #

    Love this! Everything about it is amazing and so inspiring. 🙂 🙂

    February 24, 2011
  12. Loved your grandmother’s story. It puts such a neat image in my mind. I also think think all those sapphires are pretty amazing. It’s hard to find them that nice near Philipsburg today! (I found your blog from your Etsy do fabulous work!)

    April 4, 2011
  13. John W #

    A sister of Mary Ann Amy ( my wife) has a beautiful pink Montana sapphire in her wedding ring. I bought it from a local guy who has always had the most beautiful jewlrey.When I bought the ring I had no clue that their father had ever done such a thing as gem cutting. I later showed him and he told me it was “a very nice ring” but nothing else. And when I show their mom she told me that her dad had most likely cut the stone in that ring……. So it is good thing that their grandma was a wonderful rock hound and that dad tried his hand at gem cutting. My wife has the most beautiful ring with a rich heritage. And Mary Ann keep up the good work! I love it as does Amy!

    May 16, 2011

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