South Dakota November 14, 2017
This Man’s Near Death Experience Led To One Of South Dakota’s Most Beautiful Creations
South Dakota’s Black Hills are full of natural beauty and spectacular scenery, and they’re also the birthplace of a unique kind of jewelry. Black Hills Gold jewelry is a South Dakota creation, and there’s a rather entertaining legend behind its history.
During the gold rush in the 1870s, a young Frenchman named Henri LeBeau left Paris to try his hand at gold prospecting.
Henri had spent his early years learning the jewelry trade, and had worked as a goldsmith for several years. He was much more at home in the city than he was in the rugged mountains. He got hopelessly lost, and wandered alone for days without food or water.
Near death, Henri had a hallucination of grape leaves floating in a beautiful mountain stream.
It turned out that the mountain stream was not a hallucination, and Henri's life was saved by the cold, gurgling water. He was rescued, but didn't forget his vision.
Henri began designing jewelry that paid tribute to his vision - swirling vine patterns with tri-colored grape leaves made in rose, green and gold tones.
Though there are hundreds of jewelry designs that incorporate Black Hills Gold, most have some elements of the vines and leaves.
The original jewelry was created with gold from the Homestake Mine.
Black Hills Gold jewelry is created with 24k gold. Copper and silver alloys provide the unique rose and green tones.
In the 1980s, copycats began creating knock-off Black Hills Gold jewelry.
The three companies that were making Black Hills Gold jewelry in South Dakota filed a lawsuit, and now it's illegal to produce this jewelry anywhere other than the Black Hills of South Dakota. Only a few companies still exist; one is Mount Rushmore Gold, which is located in Rapid City.
Every piece of Black Hills Gold jewelry is created by hand.
The process includes as many as 40 steps. One single piece of jewelry can take anywhere from one to eight hours to create. While you can purchase Black Hills Gold jewelry from jewelry stores all over the world, all of it is made right here in South Dakota!
Have you heard this story before?
Here’s some more Black Hills history –
the murder of Wild Bill Hickok happened right here in Deadwood.