What makes this jewelry so unique is the yellow gold grapes with leaf designs in shades of pink and green gold. The colors are actually achieved by alloying gold and silver to produce green and alloying copper with gold to produce pink. The frosty appearance is achieved by wriggling, or engraving, the leaves.
The gold and silver, which was used to make the first Black Hills Gold Jewelry, had been mined at the Homestake Mine in Lead, South Dakota, at the time it was the largest gold mine in the Western Hemisphere. Henri LeBeau, a prospector from France, did not discover this gold; however, he did create the legendary jewelry with the leaves and grapes which he sold to other miners and prospectors.
According to legend, the origin of Black Hills Gold was inspired by a French goldsmith, Henri LeBeau. Many years ago, the young Frenchman designed and made jewelry in Paris. After he perfected his method, he came to America. During the 1849 Gold Rush days, he decided to go to California and make his fortune. When he reached the rugged Black Hills of South Dakota, he became hopelessly lost in the wilderness. He wandered for days without food or water. By some miracle of nature, he had a vision of running water with grape leaves floating in a stream from a nearby vineyard. The vision was real and his life was saved.
Henri never did strike gold of his own but he did stay in the Black Hills where he continued his craft. Influenced by his mystical experience, the jewelry he created took the shape of grape clusters and leaves, fashioned in rose, green and yellow gold. The familiar design is almost the same as it was a century ago. Today, each piece of Black Hills Gold Jewelry is manufactured through a series of up to 40 different steps. Each tiny leaf or swirl is made with infinite care. The perfection of detail requires that artists spend from one to eight hours creating a single piece.
One hundred twenty years have passed since that first piece was made and some people still say that wearing the jewelry brings them good luck!
You too can own a piece of history with our upcoming "Estate Treasures: Victorian Furniture, Gold & Silver Jewelry" ending on September 7th, 7 PM Est.