If there's a word that describes Precious Metal Arts, the narrow jewelry shop slipped between Thomas Hammer Coffee and Redheaded Finn on Bannock Street, it's "design." In the past few years Boise has undergone a design renaissance, but Mike Rogers, owner, operator and master jeweler at Precious Metal Arts (finecustomjewelry.com), has been wrapping his aesthetic sensibilities around Boiseans' fingers since 1998.
Rogers admits that the secret to his success sounds overly simplistic.
"It's trite as hell, but it's 'hard work,'" he said.
The process of creating jewelry begins with an extensive interview with his customers, during which they discuss their tastes in everything from art to architecture while Rogers sketches jewelry until the customer begins to nod.
"People are paying me for my thoughts on design," he said.
He then carves a lost wax cast of the piece, creates a mold, pours the metal and sets the gems. This part of Rogers' craft can take between two weeks and a year, but he says his customers are willing to wait for quality.
"People who walk in here are, by nature, people who want something made. They want something that's original," he said.
As a visual and musical artist, in addition to being a jeweler, Rogers' inspirations for something as small as an engagement ring can be bigger than a building, and his pieces often derive their geometric qualities from architecture. In one instance, he filled a sketch pad with designs borrowed from the Chrysler Building.
"I'm really drawn to clean lines and architectural form in my jewelry," he said.
He's also attracted to forms found in the natural world, having once hand-etched a mock-up of the Snake River Aquifer inside the band of a white gold ring. When another customer requested a lotus blossom somewhere on her ring, he placed it on the palm side of the band. Rogers guessed that about 20 percent of his designs include "Easter eggs"--hidden details meant to delight the owner and anyone closely examining his work.
"Sometimes I do that just for me. It's another layer of meaning," he said.
Rogers' creativity and attention to detail have made his designs popular in Boise, but he's reluctant to assess his own work, stressing that every piece he designs is a moment in the evolution of his aesthetic sensibilities.
"I feel like I've spent my entire life drawing a line between Art Deco and modernism," he said.: