Meet Joey Rosenlof, Local Lapidary and Rockhound

This story is part of an ongoing series covering the "Hidden Businesses" of Divisadero and NoPa. We've already gotten to know four more creative local businesses that don't have storefronts: Modern HoundBirthday Life Vintage, Spacemakers and Hello Cheetle

Joey Rosenlof is growing a jewelry business out of his garage at Fulton and Lyon, cutting and polishing stone gems for rings, pendants, and plugs. We met up with the self-described "rockhound" in his studio to learn more about his passion for minerals, his family history of rock-carving, and his desire to make jewelry for the neighborhood.

How'd you get started?

“I’ve been a lifelong rockhound. I grew up in Utah, which is a really mineral-rich part of the United States. All of my grandfathers were carvers, so it comes down the family line. Unfortunately, they passed away before I was able to learn the craft from them personally. I’m mostly self-taught, and I take inspiration from other stone carvers.”

Photo: Nicholas Brown

What’s your process?

“I start with rough material that I source from all over the world.  In the beginning, I would go out and find my own rocks, but the majority of my stuff now comes from rock shops and the Tucson Gem Show.  After I cut open a stone, it really tells me where and how I can use it, if it’s going to break while I’m cutting it, and what’s going to be the prettiest part. I stencil the design and cut it out using a series of different grinding and polishing wheels, starting with a coarse grit and ending with a high polish. All of the sanding is done wet with pure water, to wash away debris and keep the stone and blade from overheating.”

Photo: Nicholas Brown

What's the scope of your operation?

“I’ve been doing this as a hobbyist for seven or eight years. I started out carving my own personal jewelry and plugs, and after a while, I ended up carving for Braindrops on Haight. Now, I mostly do custom stone and plug work for friends and clients. I’m getting ready to turn it into a full-time career.

I’d like to expand my shop by improving the space and equipment, and eventually, I’d like to teach other people lapidary.  There’s a small revival of this old art form, and other people need to learn it so that it stays around.  The main goal is to stay custom with my stone work.”

Photo: Joey Rosenlof/Instagram

What's special about wearing stone?

“Everyone has a stone of some sort in their life. It’s fun to be able to take those stones, put work into them, and create a memory that's going to last longer than you. I like to work on a personal basis. When I’m making jewelry for people, they get to pick out their own stones and they have a hand in making their own jewelry, which creates context and gives their jewelry a backstory. The body wears stone really well. When someone has a beautiful set of stones in their ears, it gives them a little extra pep.”

Photo: Joey Rosenlof/Instagram

What are your upcoming projects?

“I recently went to school at Revere Academy downtown, to learn traditional metalworking. I’m starting to incorporate some of the cabochons I’ve made into rings and pendants. Another Braindrops employee and I are collaborating on a project that we’re rolling out in a few months. 

I’d like to build a client base in my own neighborhood. I welcome new clients in the Panhandle neighborhood to contact me directly about creating jewelry and plugs to their style.”

How are you connected to the neighborhood?

“I’ve lived in my current house for over a year, and I love the Panhandle for its proximity to great parks, tasty food, beautiful houses, and all the dogs! I’d really like to work on stone projects for neighbors, and build a sense of community around my business.  I enjoy getting to know the people who wear my jewelry.

I’ve seen the neighborhood changing in the short time I’ve been here; style and culture are disappearing, long-term residents are moving out, too many houses are vacant, and rent keeps increasing. I plan to stay here as long as I can. I’m not trying to move to Oakland, like so many artists seem to be. I usually have my garage open while I’m working, and I encourage people to stop by.”

If you're interested in getting plugs or jewelry made, send Joey an email at jlorenrosedesign [at] gmail [dot] com. You can also follow him on Instagram.

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