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Farnes’ fascination with rocks has led to faceting career

Mon, Mar 25, 2013

One on One

yp_jen_farnesJennifer Farnes has had a lot of different careers for a 33-year-old, but her love of rocks and crystals has stayed with her since childhood.

The Montana native worked in event management, advertising and retail before she found her true calling. Farnes is one of the country’s youngest master faceters. She cuts gemstones for The Gilded Artisan, a local custom jeweler. When she got into the business five years ago, she learned there would be more work for gem cutters by 2013 than they could do in a typical 40-hour workweek.

She said the average age of today’s master faceters is 65 and there aren’t many young people or women entering the profession.

How did you end up in Colorado Springs?

I grew up in Montana as the youngest of three. I was so much younger than my two brothers that we didn’t grow up together – they were more like uncles I suppose. When I was, 20 I decided to take my first paid vacation from my full-time job to visit Arizona and get to know my oldest brother better. We spent time 4-wheel driving and I fell in love with the desert in the spring when the cactus was in bloom.

With some encouragement from my brother, I submitted my resume for different jobs in Phoenix. I received a few offers – the most intriguing being an events manager position with a large-scale promotions company. I packed up and moved to Arizona and worked for the promotions company for several years.

I traveled the country, met some of my favorite music artists and learned many lessons about business operations. Unfortunately the heat of the summers in Phoenix was a bit too much for me to handle. A friend of mine was offered a job transfer to Colorado Springs, and he knew I was trying to find a way to get out of the heat. He offered to move and store my stuff with his so I could collect my belongings once I moved to the area. It took a few months, but I did end up in Colorado Springs as a manager of a retail store.

Tell us about your long relationship with rocks and what you love about them?

My youngest older brother had a fondness of fossils. When we were camping as a family, he would go looking for fossils and unique minerals. My mother always forced him to take his baby sister along, and reluctantly he would. We would find unusual rocks everywhere and my mother let me bring home my backpack full of anything that would fit.

My youngest brother got married when I was 5, and the wedding gift he gave me for being the flower girl was his collection of crystal specimens, all hand-labeled in individual cases. It was my most treasured possession for years.

I continued collecting rocks throughout my youth – dragging boyfriends along in my early 20s – and now have amassed such a collection that many of my minerals are yard ornaments that my husband and I joke about (the rocks stay with the house if we ever move). I think what I love most about rocks (most specifically crystals) is how nature has created such incredible and mathematically complex structures – and that with an artist’s touch any crystal be turned into a piece of fine art jewelry.

What were you doing professionally before became a master facetor?

I attended the University of Montana with a focus on Radio/TV broadcasting, and I was a commercial traffic programmer for a TV station and a disc jockey for a radio station while in school. After moving to Arizona in 2000, I stayed in-touch with my media background as an events manager – scheduling celebrity interviews for upcoming concerts in different cities while working the logistics side of advertising versus ticket sales.

Not long after moving to Colorado I learned the art of stone faceting, but initially made my living here in retail. I found a new calling in retail sales management by motivating teams to achieve sales goals, and celebrating successes with the people that made it happen. After being recruited through different retail stores, I decided to return to my media background, and started working for an advertising agency as a media buyer in 2004, negotiating advertising rates for automotive dealers across the country.

In the meantime, I had been performing gemstone repairs for jewelers around Colorado – usually one or two jobs a week. My name started to get around as a Master Gemstone Facetor, and soon jewelers all across the country were calling for my services. Five years ago I had to choose between my rapidly growing small business of gemstone faceting, or keeping a career in advertising.

How did you find your way into the gem-cutting business?

In 2003 my family reunion was in Montana near one of my favorite crystal digging sites. I decided it was the best time to introduce my husband to rock-hounding – so we traveled toward Montana ahead of the reunion to play in the dirt. After two days of digging, we had collected over 10 pounds of clear crystal points. A few months later my husband wanted to buy me a pendant for our anniversary, and we both thought it would be special to have one of our crystals cut and put into a necklace. Neither of us knew if it was even possible to find anyone who could do that, but surely someone somewhere cuts the rocks you see in jewelry stores.

After a few inquiries, I was directed to call a man who invited me over to his home so he could look at what my husband and I had found. He lived off a dirt road within a hidden neighborhood in Colorado Springs – a friendly older gentleman with kind eyes. He poured me a cup of coffee and looked through my Quartz specimens with a discerning eye – picking out a few good candidates for faceting. He began to share stories of how he had learned the faceting art, and we told each other stories of looking for rocks in rain/sleet/wind/snow, often laughing at how crazy people can be (ourselves included) when searching for precious gems. At the end of our meeting he looked me in the eye and said, “If you truly like rocks this much, you should learn to cut.” The next week I became his Apprentice.

What do you love about your work and where do you want to go from here?

Jewelry is about having a story represented in wearable art. Anyone can go into a store and buy something they think is pretty and be happy. What I love is bringing out their story in the design of the jewelry and the cut of the stones. Sometimes people just want to have the most brilliant birthstones possible to represent their loved ones, and some want to select a specific color that reminds them of a special event, and others bring me a gemstone they have found and let me choose the best faceting design to then give them inspiration for their custom jewelry. It is honoring a cherished memory in a way that is unique to the individual.

Do you feel like there any opportunities or obstacles for young professionals in Colorado Springs that you wouldn’t find in other places?

Colorado Springs holds many opportunities for young people, but I think the distancing we experience in this age of technology can be a challenge. You can reach your new customers with a good website and social media connections, but keep in mind that your reputation is your success or failure. Don’t lose focus on taking care of your customer because you are too busy worrying about updating your website status. Referrals always carry more weight than a fancy website without a reputable owner. If you are honest with your clients and do good business, they will want to tell their friends about the amazing service they received!

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