Local jeweler crafts a gem of a ring

When Kerr Chase’s bride-to-be Amy requested that his wedding band be something ‘unique’ and ‘very unusual,’ their thoughts collectively went to something other worldly.

In fact, something out of sight – like meteorite.

Kerr’s father, Stevensburg County Supervisor Bill Chase, knew just the person who could help with this – his longtime friend and local jeweler Ralph L. Brown, Sr.

Brown, who has been serving the Culpeper community for more than four decades, took on the challenge.

“Bill’s a long time family friend and customer,” said Brown, who took a break from his jeweler’s table, to talk about the project.

Brown chuckled as he described breaking the teeth off two band saws as he worked with the chunk size piece of black meteorite which has a history of its own.

Obtained from a mutual friend who knows both Brown and Chase, the meteorite fell to earth mid-morning on Feb. 12, 1947 in Sikhote-Alin, Russia. It’s composed of nickel, cobalt, phosphorous, sulfer, germanium, iridium, iron, taenite, plessite, rhabites, troilite, chromite, kamacite and Schreibersiter crystals.

While the exterior is a shiny black, the interior reveals a shimmering, silver colored ore. Most of the meteorites that make it through the atmosphere to land on earth are composed of rock or iron.

Brown encased his ‘out of this world’ creation in a 14k gold band that was done in time for the couple’s August wedding.

In all, it took Brown a little over a week working on and off to complete the band.

“He doesn’t want to brag on himself but he needs to brag about this,” smiled his wife of 46 years, Virginia.

Technically retired Ginnie still helps with the books at J&R Jewelers located in Dominion Square. Their daughter, Juanita Sullivan, now runs the store, along with Ralph, who is also technically retired but can’t totally break away from the jeweler’s tools that have earned him a reputation in Culpeper and beyond.

Before setting up shop in the mall, Brown worked at The Jewel Box for 38 years which was located on Davis Street.

Perhaps crafting things partnered with a strong work ethic are in Brown’s blood. His grandfather was a blacksmith. His father left him with a piece of advice that he has carried with him throughout his professional and personal career.

“The best advertising is cultivating good customers,” said Brown, “if they leave happy and satisfied they’re going to tell their friends.”

Brown learned early on that putting in a new watch spring at no charge would bring that customer back.

Over the years, he’s done work for longtime friends like Bill Chase which has resulted in other projects for their children.

“We’re seeing grandchildren coming in for their engagement rings,” said Brown, “because we’ve done work for their parents or grandparents.”

While it was Brown’s first experience working with meteorite as the material, he’s done his share of unusual designs.

A visit from Walter Cronkite to the Museum of Culpeper History in the 70s produced a dinosaur shaped tie tack for the popular television journalist. Referred to as an ‘icon’ in the industry by Judy Allen, who works at BB&T bank, it was Brown who designed a clever pendant showing her hole-in-one with a pearl.

Juanita laughs. “Since then, she’s had three…so now there are three pearls.”

Brown is surrounded by the tools of his trade. His reputation over the years has spread predominantly by word of mouth and friends like Bill Chase and now Chase’s son Kerr who is thrilled with his wedding band. It certainly symbolizes a love to last through eternity.

The Browns celebrated their 46th wedding anniversary on Oct. 14. That evening a brilliant meteor was seen over most of Western Australia. Part of the ‘Orionids” meteor shower, a slow moving fireball was produced that was visible over Northern Virginia and parts of Maryland.

Like Brown’s work, once seen, these objects are seldom forgotten.

J & R Jewelers
Juanita Sullivan, Owner
Ralph L. Brown, Master Jeweler
707 Dominion Square Shopping Center