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home : business : business May 24, 2016

2/11/2014 12:55:00 PM
The Jewel has offered treasures for more than two decades
Jan Daggett has combined pieces of fossils with gold, silver, and metals to create unique decorative items. photo by Jim Fisher
+ click to enlarge
Jan Daggett has combined pieces of fossils with gold, silver, and metals to create unique decorative items. photo by Jim Fisher

By Jim Fisher

Central Oregon visitors find many interesting gift stores and specialty shops in Sisters, but there is one unique shop here that has a reputation far beyond Oregon.

The Jewel, located at 221 W. Cascade Ave. next to Barclay Park, is starting its 23rd year as a contemporary jewelry store offering custom jewelry made from silver, gold, minerals, rocks and fossils, all displayed in a spectacular setting.

Owner and designer Jan Daggett has guided this enterprise through more than two decades featuring jewelry made with gems, rare minerals, gold and silver, designed by both national artists and her in-house staff.

Jan grew up in Southern California where her dad was an aerospace engineer and her mother a homemaker. She began her interest in jewelry design as a young girl of four. Taking family vacations throughout California and Oregon, she had seen many places more beautiful to live in than the crowded cities of California. With one year left in high school, she convinced her parents to let her move to Oregon to live in the Cascadia area where her family had camped along the South Santiam River east of Sweet Home.

"There were mostly hippies and loggers living in the area, but I was too young to be part of that crowd," she recalls.

To allow her to enter high school in Sweet Home, her parents agreed to have a local couple that they had met earlier to be named her legal guardians. In school, she took the only formal design class she would ever take, a craft class that included all kinds of art besides jewelry, but it was enough to get her started in designing silver jewelry.

"I left a school of 4,000 students" in California and entered Sweet Home High School with only 400 students, she recalls, "but I did find mentors who helped me learn the business," she said.

She soon fell in love with a young man in the Cascadia area and they joined forces to start looking for native rocks, minerals, and fossils to use in designing jewelry. She started her first design business and soon was ready to sell her work. With her mother along, she took her first designs with her on a trip back to Southern California. Being very shy, she displayed them on a board and walked into an exclusive shop on Rodeo Drive in Beverly Hills without saying a word. The owner was so impressed with the display that she asked to show them to her husband. He agreed with his wife and they bought all of her work.

"That was a very great experience for a 17-year-old," Jan remembers.

Later, the search for new materials led Jan and her friend to Montana where they found an agate mine open to the public. For $25 a day, they searched for special rocks, often working a month at a time. Her friend used heavy equipment to remove topsoil and Jan then carefully looked for the best rocks. Their efforts paid off very well, as there was great demand both in this country and in Europe for what they found and designed. They also spent time gathering petrified wood in southeastern Oregon and northeastern Nevada.

In 1985 they gathered enough funding to buy the agate mine, one of the finest mines in the country. Soon she was selling mineral collections to the Smithsonian and other museums. They tried to keep it open for the public as well as for their own mining, but that proved too difficult.

In 1990 they sold the mine and ended their relationship as well. Jan now was ready to use the proceeds of the mine sale to start her retail business.

In the meantime, Jan's parents had retired to Sisters, where her mother ran a small jewelry business for three years. After her father became ill and her parent's home was damaged by a fire, Jan moved to Sisters to help rebuild the damaged home and to help her mother care for her father. Liking what she saw in Sisters and with her reputation growing as a designer, Jan looked for a location to open a retail business. A commercial building on Cascade Avenue was on the drawing board and Jan signed a lease for her current location even before construction started.

"I wanted to include a museum with my store, but starting a new business and trying to open a museum was just too much," she says today. "I still have hopes to have a display sometime of all of the work that I and my staff have done."

This coming month, Jan will try something for the first time. Close to Valentine's Day, she will host an invitation-only open house for long-time customers to visit the store on a Saturday evening and see how designers are creating some of the unique items on sale. On Sunday, she will have an open house for the public.

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