Hand-crafted jewelry that honors Lakota culture, plus South Dakota products and a gallery of Black Hills art will be showcased in a new retail venue in downtown Rapid City.
Jewelry by DeCory is the newest venture from Doug Napier, who opened his downtown Jewelry Monk studio in 2018 and has been in the jewelry business for 40 years. Jewelry by DeCory is located at 717 Main St.
“I decided to open a retail store to highlight us and local makers in the area,” Napier said.
The shop will be part retail store, part art gallery for higher-end paintings and photography by Black Hills area artists. Artists’ work will rotate in and out of the gallery every three months. The retail store will carry jewelry, pottery and Elements of South Dakota – items made in South Dakota.
Napier plans to have a soft opening Friday, followed by a grand opening later this month. After tourist season, Napier hopes to host events for locals.
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“We will probably have some open mic nights and hang out and visit with other artists,” he said. “We want the gallery to be more of an artists’ hub where people can come and share ideas.”
A focus on local and educational
Napier is from Rapid City and his family is from the Rosebud Sioux Tribe. DeCory is his mother’s maiden name and Jewelry by DeCory honors Napier’s grandfather and uncle, who were tremendous influences on him. The gallery will showcase Lakota culture and the uniqueness of South Dakota, he said.
Jewelry by DeCory is a sister business to Napier’s Jewelry Monk, which is a training center and studio.
“The majority of jewelry sold in the area is actually mass produced in manufacturing plants outside the United States. There’s very little jewelry manufactured in the area other than Black Hills Gold. [Jewelry Monk] has focused on bringing back and working with talented artists and giving them a trade they can take with them,” Napier said. “Our goal is to bring people in and teach them for two or three years, and then you are equipped…you can go anywhere in the world and get a job, or stay and work with us.”
“It’s a lot more fun to work with people one-on-one. I’ve done less consulting because I’m focused on building what we’ve got,” he said.
When the COVID-19 pandemic began in 2020, Napier looked for ways to branch out and decided to pursue his goal of creating his own lines of jewelry, including Lakota Legacy.
“Every piece of jewelry has a video with it that explains the significance of the symbols,” such as buffalo and butterflies, Napier said. This year, Lakota Legacy is introducing a nature series featuring jewelry adorned with acorns, sunflowers, cattails and cactus.
“We added the stories to it so we could positively promote Lakota culture in the area,” Napier said.
“There’s education at the core of everything,” he said. “We want things we do to promote the area, the people and the artists. If I can make jewelry to educate people or promote something positive about the area, then I’m interested.”
The jewelry, with its simple, streamlined designs, is primarily made from sterling silver. The pieces are affordably priced to appeal to tourists who want a keepsake of their visit to South Dakota or to locals who are looking for unique items, Napier said.
”At Jewelry by DeCory, we actually design and produce every single one of our creations locally, and our designs are meant to represent aspects of the beautiful Black Hills area in which we live. We want our customers to be proud of the jewelry they wear and support local craftsmen and women with a living wage at the same time,” Napier said on his jewelrybydecory.com website.
Napier began making jewelry after high school and discovered his lifelong career. He learned the trade at Coleman Frizzell, a jewelry manufacturing company Napier said moved to Rapid City to produce its line of Black Hills Gold.
“I just needed a job and I didn’t know that I would like it as much as I did and I didn’t know I would be good at it,” Napier said. “I’ve been a technical jewelry maker for 40 years. I’d go into large factories to help them streamline their production.”
“I have traveled all over the world, focusing on making jewelry in a manufacturing setting, and I am experienced in all facets of jewelry making from bench jeweler and technical model-making, to production troubleshooting and [computer-aided design]. Along my journey, I have learned many tips and tricks and am more than happy to pass along anything I have learned,” Napier said on his jewelrymonk.com website.
Training future jewelry makers
Napier has a passion for teaching, which is a significant part of his Jewelry Monk website and much of the work at his Jewelry Monk studio. He currently teaches aspects of jewelry making on videos for jewelrymonk.com and his Doug Napier Jewelry Monk YouTube channel.
His long-term goal is to open a nonprofit trade school, DeCory Jewelry Institute. Napier envisions a two-year trade program that will teach students the skills to produce and sell jewelry, such as computer-aided design, marketing and sales. It will build on the mentorship and training Napier already offers through Jewelry Monk.
“I get more enjoyment out of teaching somebody to solder for the first time [than consulting for manufacturers]. I want to focus on giving back to the craft,” Napier said. “I look at jewelry making as we’re equipping jewelers. It’s more of an educational production center.”
Napier said the school is currently in a formative stage, and he is beginning to spread the word about it so he can raise funds to open DeCory Jewelry Institute.
“We’re looking for people who want to pass on the trade of jewelry making in the local or regional area,” Napier said. “What’s neat about the school is once it’s up and running, it can be a self-sustaining nonprofit. We can create things we can sell that will fund the school.”