While his own mother did not have a particularly glamorous jewelry collection, David nonetheless became fascinated with lustrous accessories. David recalls, “There was something magical about jewelry to me—it shines and sparkles and everything so small and precious. You have tiny diamonds in there and nothing is falling apart. As a kid, it was so mysterious to me. I wanted to reverse engineer it, figure out how it was made.” He used to have his mother drive him around to jewelry stores. He would ask to be taken to the back of the shop to see how things were made.
David skipped his senior year of high school and got an apprenticeship with a local jeweler in the capital district. He went on to get his Bachelor of Fine Arts from SUNY New Paltz, whose Metal Program was ranked #1 by US News and World Report.
David has 15 years experience in the jewelry world, including working as a stone setter and fabricator for Tiffany & Co. He says of that job, “I was making beautiful and high end pieces, but it was monotonous. It certainly helped refine my skills, but it was the same thing over and over.”
David and his wife Sara started doing trunk shows, selling online, and participating in juried craft shows all over the Northeast. He says opening his own store was always part of the plan, he just never thought it would happen this quickly. Hudson Valley Goldsmith just celebrated its one year anniversary.
There could not be an environment more radically different from the hectic bustle of Manhattan’s diamond district. The store has a beautiful, bright, and open layout with the workshop right upfront, so future little David Waltons can watch the jewelers at work. The display counters in the store show off David’s own pieces. His aesthetic has “an organic feel to it. There is also something industrial and raw, but the technique is very refined.” His pieces are delicate, yet bold. Everything is made on site using recycled metals and conflict-free diamonds and gemstones, so you can feel at ease buying any of his pieces.
David loves the intersection of old world craftsmanship and new world technology that his industry straddles. At Hudson Valley Goldsmith they hand carve waxes, using the same process that people have been doing for thousands of years, and their diamond cutter still cuts the stones by hand. But they also use 21st century technology like computer assisted design and manufacturing software and 3D printing. No technological upgrade is taken for granted. David says seriously, “I only implement newer technology if makes a better product for the customer.”
The level of skill and precision required to be a high-end jeweler, such as David, is very high—we are talking about setting stones under a microscope and measuring to a hundredth of a millimeter. David admits, “You have to be neurotic,” to which their employee Cathy Jasterzbski sings out, “A millimeter is a mile!” Cathy is one of two employees who are currently in the SUNY New Paltz Metal Program.
In his characteristically humble way David says, “There is more to learn every day,” and then goes off to make hot chocolate for a new customer who has just entered.