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Making magic at the “Y”:
Jeff Goebel’s creations are unique and dazzling
by Karen Reider

People of all walks of life adorn themselves with jewelry. From diamonds to costume, there is just something about wearing your favorite ring or necklace. Some have sentimental value, others match certain clothing or moods. They all make us feel good about ourselves, and that’s the point ...

The point that Jeff Goebel of Ramsey’s Rocks and Minerals made when we chatted recently. “When you look as far back as the beginning of civilization, humanity has been attracted to gems. It is something innate, something I don’t think will ever go away. It’s not always practical, but often essential.”

Goebel’s first fascination with the art of making jewelry came when he was attending Northern Arizona University in Flagstaff, some 25 years ago. Goebel was taking general art classes. One day he passed the goldsmith classroom, saw the flames from the tools being used, and was intrigued. He knew he had to be in there. He was utterly compelled. And, once he began classes, he discovered he was a natural.

After four years at NAU, Goebel attended a trade school in Germany for a while.

“They have a really good apprenticeship program,” he said. And, “the Germans train you intensely. Every little step is repeated over and over again. They are very thorough. It kind of kills creativity but the skill you gain is worth it. You can develop your creativity later when you’re on your own. American schools seem to focus less on technique. It would be good if there was a better balance in each of the worlds. You don’t want to stifle either.”

The fact that Goebel got the best of both worlds is evident in his masterful jewelry making. While stressing the importance of school, he also made it clear that the real learning began when he started working the trade.

He has been hard at it ever since. Over the years he has worked for jewelry stores in California, Idaho and the Caribbean.

Surrounded by his jewelry as we talked, I noticed each piece, though very unique, had a certain style that was obviously his.

Goebel explained to me that his own personal style of making jewelry has always been there, but his talent has increased. “Actually, it’s an ongoing process. I’m still developing my style and always learning new techniques.”

During his 25 years as a goldsmith, Goebel has worked with every kind of stone, including many diamonds. “They are all valuable learning experiences. When you are in the trade you have to discover them all. Every stone calls for a different technique.”

Goebel met Fred Shute, his partner at Ramsey’s, at Frankfurt International School in Germany in 10th grade. They hit it off instantly and developed a great friendship. Goebel speaks of him as a “brother.”

When Goebel went on to attend College at NAU, Shute came along a few years later and attended school there, too, studying geology.

In 1984, they combined their talents, working together in a store in Moscow, Idaho, modeled on the concept of “geology to jewelry,” highlighting the relationship of the raw gem materials from the earth and their transformation into exquisite works of jewelry art.

“We did a lot of rock hounding back then,” Goebel recalled fondly. The stores were doing well, but Goebel and his wife Marsha, a native of Arizona, were not enjoying the cold weather. When Goebel was offered a job in the Caribbean, he took it.

Both decided to come back to Arizona. Shute, now a Gemologist and Geologist, purchased the original Ramsey’s, which was located in uptown Sedona. Ramsey’s Rocks and Minerals, a Sedona institution for 53 years, and probably one of the oldest rock shops in the United States, has been known to collectors and connoisseurs from all over the world as an excellent, direct source of fine quality mineral specimens and rare and unusual stones.

The store was moved to its present location at the “Y” in 1996 and shortly thereafter was purchased by Goebel.

Several years later, Goebel and Shute’s paths crossed again. They found themselves following similar career paths. Shute was importing ruby, sapphire and rare collectable gemstones from Sri Lanka, Thailand, Indonesia and Hong Kong, and Goebel was developing his skills as a goldsmith working at fine jewelry stores throughout the West.

Now Goebel and Shute are working together again, transforming the “rock” shop in Sedona into a showcase of gems and jewelry. They are like brothers and work incredibly well together. Goebel says they “balance each other out. Fred has great visions, and I’m the one who grounds them.”

While Ramsey’s still carries a large inventory of rocks and minerals, there is a greater emphasis on more precious “rocks” like ruby, sapphire, emerald, tourmaline, tanzanite and diamond.

Shute has spent a good deal of the last 10 years working in New York, Antwerp and South Africa in the diamond industry. He was recently a consulting geologist on a diamond mining project in South Africa.

Goebel does a lot of custom work here in Sedona. People either bring in their own stones or pick ones at the store. He then works a design around the stone to make it very unique for that person. His style is “substantial pieces.”

He told me that “people usually get a little more than they ask for as far as the materials go.”

Before any casting is done, Goebel starts with a mock-up in wax so the customer can see the design to scale. Considering the cost of gold, this can be very useful. “Most people can’t visualize the piece, so the wax helps tremendously. It eliminates any guess work. You can even put the stones in the wax to let them get the feel of the piece.”

Goebel absolutely loves to work with colored stones. Lately he has been focusing on gemstones from Arizona, like Amethyst from the Mazatl Mountains, and Arizona Periodot from San Carlos, which is the best in the world. “People recognize it when they see it. Its beauty is impeccable.”

They also work with copper minerals from Arizona like fire agate, azurite and malochite. Goebel showed me a striking ring-of-fire agate, offset by a white sapphire, set in 18k gold, which he says “gives it a richer color.” Goebel masterfully works the gold around the stone. He casts wax into gold and then sets the stone.

“It can get tricky around the contours. But after 25 years, you learn how to do it. It’s like any profession, you have to be good at it and make no mistakes. I’ve cut and set emeralds that were worth $50,000. There was definitely tension.”

Shute and Goebel do their own cutting of stones, for the most part. Others they send overseas to get cut in China. You lose about 80% of the original material when cutting stones. By the time you cut around the inclusions, 10 karats cuts down to two karats. 

Love of the his work is eminent in Goebel’s jewelry and demeanor. “This is a wonderful trade,” he smiled.  “You work with some of the most precious objects on the planet.”

Goebel likes working with people on commisioned pieces. “Most people are happy and enthused when they come to buy jewelry.” He enjoys the interaction and likes that his jewelry “makes people feel good.” Over the years he has made many wedding sets and other things that seem to “bring out the love” in people. Goebel likes being a part of that.

I asked if he had a typical clientele and he told me, “women are the industry here. If it wasn’t for them, we wouldn’t be in business! Men come in on a mission, making them easier to sell to because they have to go home with something. Women, on the other hand, will come in and try jewelry on for hours just for the sheer enjoyment.”

When people come in, they know what they purchase is something very unique and different. There is not another like it. Most of what Ramsey’s sells are colored stones set as very unusual pieces that you wouldn’t find in a commercial jewelry store.

Goebel’s philosophy is to make sure everyone who leaves Ramsey’s is happy. As a result, a lot of his clients return again and again. He gets referrals and return business from clients who worked with him more than 15 years ago. “It’s an awesome following of people from all parts of the world.”

Goebel and his partner Shute are also selling diamonds on a brokerage basis. “Forget those retail markups,” said Shute. “Forget driving to Phoenix or L.A.” Now you can keep it right here in Sedona, Arizona.

Check out Ramsey’s huge opal sale through the holidays. Or stop by to see a myriad of jewlery, minerals, fossils and crystals. Ramsey’s has a nice blend of raw natural materials and refined gems and jewelry. They boast a vast inventory of stones and rocks from Arizona and the Southwest including petrified wood, agates, geodes, and specimens of copper minerals such as azurite, malachite and chryscholla from the many historic copper mines around the state of Arizona.

While Ramsey’s used to be all gems and minerals, Goebel and Shute have taken it to the next level: custom, fine art jewelry. And, the “brothers” couldn’t be happier.

Ramsey’s Rocks and Minerals is at the “Y” next to Sedona Market in Sedona. You can  call them at        (928) 204-2075 or (800) 807-2204.

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