By Scott Gerdes
New Mexico has cultural and artistic traditions going back thousands of years and Taos artists are committed to keeping those traditions alive and thriving. Shining bright for decades, some of the world’s finest jewelry designers and goldsmiths live here. Whether your style is classic, contemporary or somewhere in between, the pieces made by local artisans will stand out and stand the test of time. The creations are as varied and unique as the people who seek them out.
One of Taos’ longtime, award-winning jewelry designers and goldsmiths is Emily Benoist Ruffin. In her workshop in a back room at her shop at 119 Bent Street, there is a controlled chaos of tools from exotic-headed hammers to ancient bezel blocks. Towering cabinets with small drawers line the walls. Piled up are large loose-leaf binders. But it is here where Ruffin is most comfortable and gives her pleasure — sitting at her workbench with vintage tools in hand.
“I love making jewelry because as I sit quietly, with an entire tiny universe laid out in front of me, time ceases to exist,” she told The Taos News. Ruffin has been constructing jewelry in Taos since 1980. “I need to do this like I need to breathe.”
In front of Ruffin’s workshop is the Emily Benoist Ruffin Design & Goldsmiths retail shop. Ruffin’s signature piece is the Stripe Ring, influenced by the shank on Victorian rings. Hand-fabricated like most all her work, she calls it “one of my reputation makers.” It exemplifies the designedly, made-from-scratch and laborious process that has propelled Ruffin to the forefront of the national and international hand-constructed jewelry-making scene.
“For me, jewelry design is a combination of art and science,” she said. “I was always good in math and loved mechanics. It’s a form of small architecture or small sculpture for me.”
Ruffin attributes her long-running success to an uncompromising dedication to her art, and the legacy of sound design principals and fine European hand craftsmanship that underlie everything she creates. She also does custom work.
“It’s all about perfection and precision,” she said. “For me, it’s miniature engineering. I see the whole picture first, see what it’s going to look like when it’s done. Then I figure out the parts and build it.”
Emily Benoist Ruffin Design & Goldsmiths
Call for hours, appointment preferred
119 Bent Street
(575) 758-1061, emilyruffin.com
More for the jewelry junkie
11 a.m.-5 p.m. daily through the end of January, then closed Monday. Open 11 a.m.-4 p.m. Sunday.
121 Kit Carson Road
(575) 758-9407, bryansgallery.com
For 35 years, Bryan’s Gallery has been showcasing a little bit of everything Southwest. They have a fine selection of jewelry from about a dozen local artists.
Chimayó Trading del Norte
1 St. Francis Church Plaza, Ranchos de Taos
9:30 a.m.-5:30 p.m., Mon.-Sat.; 11 a.m.-5:30 p.m. Sun.
(505) 758-0504, chimayotrading.com
The Abrums family has been running the original gallery in Chimayó for more than two decades and opened the Taos location in 2002. It has grown into one of the most well-respected galleries of its kind in Northern New Mexico. Located in the Ranchos Plaza by the famous San Francisco de Asís church in Ranchos de Taos.
10 a.m.-5 p.m. daily
482A State Highway 150, Arroyo Seco, on the road to Taos Ski Valley
(575) 776-5175, claireworks.com
For 20 years, artist Claire Haye has dazzled guests with her original jewelry from chains and cuffs to slides and earrings. Originally from Chicago, the influence of Haye’s childhood exposure to dance, theater and art can be seen and felt in all of her work.
Larry Martinez Jeweler
9 a.m.-5 p.m. Mon.-Fri.
822 Paseo del Pueblo Sur
(575) 758-4169, larrymartinezjeweler.com
In a town known for its talented jewelers, Larry Martinez has consistently stood on the top of the heap. He is best known for his complex, museum-quality jewelry that is “inspired by Native America.”
9:30 a.m.-5:30 p.m. daily
On Taos Plaza
This beacon of flawless steel and gold wearable art (some with diamonds); exquisite turquoise and silver jewelry; other varieties of precious and semi-precious stones; and knowledgable staff has stood tall in Taos for 29 years. The stunning selection of Southwestern-style to contemporary pieces comes from an impressive list of more than 40 local and regional artists.
Millicent Rogers Museum
10 a.m.-5 p.m., Tue.-Sun., Nov. 1 through March 31. The museum is closed Mondays, Thanksgiving Day, Christmas Day, New Year’s Day and Easter Sunday.
1504 Millicent Rogers Road
(575) 758-2462, millicentrogers.org
The Millicent Rogers Museum Store has been selling authentic contemporary and vintage American Indian and Hispanic jewelry for more than 30 years. Most items are purchased directly from the artists and their authenticity is guaranteed. Also offered are handmade pieces from longtime artists in Taos such as David Anderson and others from Taos Pueblo.
Call for hours
133 Bent Street
(505) 690-7871, momotaos.com
In the heart of downtown Taos in a 19th century hacienda-style adobe on historic Bent Street is MoMo, founded by native Taoseña Moriah Stanton. Her desire was to create a space that could feature her original jewelry alongside the creations of other “carefully curated” local artists. Stanton’s creations include silver work encased in glass and stones cut in counter-intuitive shapes.
8 a.m.-4 p.m., Mon.-Sat.; 8:30 a.m.-4 p.m., Sun.
(575) 758-1028, taospueblo.com
There are families who have maintained a business for three generations. Each shop carries a variety of handcrafted and handmade arts and crafts. The Pueblo is home to many incredible artists, including jewelry makers.