As a boy, I was always making things from scratch with pieces and parts I found lying around. After moving around a lot and going to three different high schools, I started my introduction to goldsmithing. I took jewelry-making classes at the University of Maryland (while there for more serious studies). Well those serious studies were no fun, but the jewelry making was and seemed enchanting to me. I worked with the currency of the pirates: Rubies, diamonds, and gold! I took every undergraduate jewelry class they offered and then took a graduate jewelry class; which basically was being the assistant to the professor teaching the undergraduate students. Incidentally, it was in this last class of mine where I met a young lady named Nuri, who was taking her first ever college class. A few years later, Nuri became my wife.
After graduation with a BA in Sociology in 1976 and a BS in Precious Metals Fabrication (combined with Business) in 1977, I started as an apprentice at Creative Goldsmiths, a custom jewelry store in Bethesda, Maryland.
I worked very hard for 3 ½ years and was trained in all aspects of making jewelry in gold, platinum, and silver.
It was in that shop that I had the lucky break of sitting between two master goldsmiths who taught me the tricks of the trade.
The first thing I learned was that the jewelry making skills taught to me in college were child’s play compared to “real world” jewelry making skills. I discovered the truth in this very soon afterward.
The work I completed in an entire college semester in a jewelry-making class, was the same as what was expected of me to complete two days in the shop!
I remember wondering after my first two weeks on the job at Creative Goldsmiths if I would last as an apprentice goldsmith, or get fired for being too slow, even with simple jobs like soldering on a jump ring. In this real-world goldsmith shop, we would work on three projects at a time.
So when one project needed to air-cool or soak in some solution we would be working on another project. In college I would just stare at the piece until it cooled off or smoked cigarettes while I joked around with my friends.
After three years as an apprentice I thought I knew enough and it was time to start my own one-man goldsmith company, but I had no money for tools. I asked my dad if I could borrow $3,000.00 to buy tools and he said “no, that’s a dumb idea.” (He was the vice president of a large international corporation called Merck Pharmaceuticals and what I wanted to do, looked to him like a poverty situation in the making.)
Undeterred, I worked six months longer at Creative Goldsmiths and saved my money, bought used tools, and started “Robert Hurt & Company”
contracting with Kay Jewelers, repairing jewelry in one of their local stores.
My dad was right, that job was no money-maker. I realized that I couldn’t afford to buy even one of the nice diamond jewelry pieces I was working on!
I thought if I learned gemology I could start a diamond store because that would be even more exciting. So I took classes from the Gemological Institute of America while working as a jeweler at my day job.
It was slow-going and took years to get my Graduate Gemologist degree in 1986. I learned all about diamonds and started a diamond store, called the “New York Diamond Connection.” It was so expensive to buy inventory! I struggled with that business for several years and I was going through a divorce at the same time, and then I became a single parent to my 2-year-old daughter, Jenna. My world had crash landed...
I sold the store and started over, going back to being a full time goldsmith and now also a full time parent. I would work until 2:30 in the afternoon at a jewelry store, pick up my daughter from daycare, entertain her for the afternoon, fix some dinner for us, watch cartoons with her, and put her to bed at 8pm. Then I would go down the hall to my home workshop that I had set up in the spare bedroom and work on jewelry jobs until midnight. In the morning, I would get up early to iron our clothes so we’d look nice for the day.
I got remarried 5 years later to my lovely wife Ellen and had another daughter, Mariellen. After the 9-11-2001 terror incidents, we decided to leave the Washington DC Metro area for safer living. Ellen and I decided that the first one of us who got a good job out of the area, meant we were moving. We ended up in the Shenandoah Valley of Virginia living on a peaceful lake, 100 miles away from DC.
I had been offered a job as a manager at Rocky’s in Weir’s Cave, Virginia. Rocky’s was a huge multi-million dollar a year store out in the Virginia countryside that sold jewelry, antiques, and silver flatware. It’s the store that has supplied the official silverware to the White House since 1981. I had the biggest single sale of my career there, a $650,000.00 sale of diamonds to one customer!
After several years in the Shenandoah Valley we decided we better move to Georgia to be near our parents who were in their declining years. So we moved to Atlanta in 2008, and then to Marietta in 2010. One nice perk, is that my wife’s family farm is not far from Atlanta and there were horses to ride. I started a jewelry appraisal company which I still have today, called “Buckhead Jewelry Appraisers.” I started making horse jewelry again in my spare time, and now I‘m ready to make it my full time business.
Rob at the family farm, Paces South Farm, Midville Georgia 2017
“I bought it because there’s a realness about it.”
- David Lambert