When goldsmith Philip Devitt travels, he doesn’t aim to visit the same tourist spots as everyone else. You may not find him at an iconic statue, a historical monument, or even at a natural wonder. He’s got eyes for one thing: jewelry.
“I went to go visit my mom in San Francisco a few years ago and I went to a Cartier exhibit,” Devitt said. “That’s what we did. I didn’t go across the Golden Gate, I went to go see jewelry instead.”
“I like to study up on who’s doing what in the industry, as well as historically how pieces were built and the technical history behind it,” he said. “I get a lot of help from reading books, looking at old images, seeing things in museums… I get new ideas. I always want to learn a lot more about the standout pieces people have.”
A Love for His Hometown
As a Bozeman native, and a graduate of Montana State University’s metalsmith program, Devitt has always had an artist’s eye and an interest in fine craftsmanship. What brought him to The Gem Gallery was a passion for making jewelry. “I wanted to hone my craft with really high-end jewelry,” Devitt said.
“After college I went to a technical school just for jewelers to learn stone setting, and then I brought my metalworking background to Don at The Gem Gallery,” he said. “Don put a lot of trust in me from the start, and I think he saw I had a good background working with metals, and he knew I had a real personal interest in it.”
A Hard Day’s Work at The Bench
Now in his 12th year as a goldsmith at The Gem Gallery, Devitt spends his days focused on a variety of both custom jewelry and skilled repairs. His jeweler’s bench is covered with supplies, lights, magnifiers, pliers, files, hammers, and other tools of the trade.
Working with materials like silver, gold, platinum, and more, Devitt sets stones like family heirloom diamonds and locally-sourced Yogo sapphires.
“The locality of Yogos, how they only come from The Treasure State, and only from one specific spot, is so unique,” he said. “They’re just beautiful stones.”
A Creative Mind at Play
One of the things Devitt loves most about his job is using his artistic eye and talents at the bench to create beautiful pieces of jewelry like necklaces, bracelets, and rings. His talents lend themselves to one-of-a-kind pieces, like this diamond and Yogo sapphire ring set in 14K white gold which, at the time of this writing, is currently available for purchase.
Joining the Old and the New
The history of crafting gold into jewelry dates back well into ancient times, earlier even than the notable jewelry of the Greeks, Romans, or Egyptians. Devitt still uses some of the original tools of the trade while melding hands-on metal crafting, hand drawing and sketching, as well as computer-aided design (CAD) for some of his pieces.
The Gem Gallery utilizes CAD designers, as well as a team of jewelry designers to complete a project for a client. However, goldsmiths sometimes take on the whole project, from initial idea to final product, themselves.
“I used to do a lot of hand drawing, and now we incorporate a lot of CAD designs as well,” he said. “It’s important to get to the point with the customer when you’re developing a piece of jewelry with them, and we use a lot of techniques to get there.”
Drawing on ancient techniques, perfected by modern skills, is one of the most fascinating parts of goldsmithing.
“I didn’t know any friends or colleagues back in the day who were goldsmiths, but I know now there are so many avenues you can go down if you have a passion for jewelry,” Devitt said. “You could be at the bench in a shop, like what I do. Or you could design your own line and go to all the shows. But for me I’ve already done all my traveling, and I’d rather be in Bozeman.”
Stop by Devitt’s bench at The Gem Gallery and see for yourself why he’s found his home there.
The Gem Gallery is located at 402 East Main Street in Bozeman, Montana. Call 406-587-9339 or come visit Philip and the rest of the skilled team hard at work.
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