In the world of fine jewelry, does the gem or precious metal become the art, or does the art happen to include the precious items? Charles Beaudet, proprietor of Beaudet Jewelry since 1976, does more than just set stones into metal — his work is sentiment, a memento handed down through generations, but it’s also wearable art. His expertise is in educating about stones and their best cuts, settings, qualities, and care — diamonds, in particular — but also sapphires and the rare color-changing alexandrite.
“I want to educate my clients or customers on what is a truly great gem,” Beaudet says. “People are so trained to buy on weight that they spend more than they need to and overlook the real prizes.”
Beaudet is a second-generation jeweler who, at the age of 12, began an eight-year apprenticeship with his father in Milwaukee, Wisconsin. He got married in 1970 (to Georgiann, who helped manage Beaudet Jewelry until her death in 2014) and moved here in 1972, with the promise of regular work from Chuck Ritchie. At one point he was doing wholesale design and repair work for seven jewelry stores, ranging from Albany and Cottage Grove to Newport. He started creating custom work after realizing that many of the stores were being taken advantage of because they weren’t being educated on what they were buying. As of 2020, Beaudet has created more than 7,000 original custom pieces of jewelry. He also became a trusted gemstone buyer thanks to his expanded resources and much better prices.
“The owners and jewelers of these stores didn’t have long-term contacts with people selling gems, so they were paying ridiculously high prices,” Beaudet says. “My father taught me the importance of developing a network of contacts, and I had them and still do.”
Since 1995, Beaudet has traveled to Belgium to personally seek out the best diamonds. If a customer wants a particular stone of any type, he can find it. “I learned an awful lot from the cutters — not the factory or the owners, but the actual people who cut the stones. I was allowed to go in and sit with them and watch them and talk to them and learn,” he says.
At the age of 15, encouraged by his father, he fell in love with the art of design. He helped with, and in fact finished, an 18k solid gold tea service because his father suffered a heart attack. That tea service now resides in the Milwaukee Art Museum. Another outstanding piece is a gold cornucopia with all the possible colors of diamonds, including lavender, yellow, and the rarest pink.
Beaudet’s is a full-service shop, doing repair and custom design. One project he’s currently working on is for a client who personally mined several Montana sapphires and wanted a set of earrings, with three stones in each earring. Another involves a ring being created for a large green beryl, or aquamarine, which is the same mineral as emerald but not as intensely green. Because the stone is so large and heavy, it takes skill to create a setting that will keep it straight and balanced, with no tipping. For another client, Beaudet is taking pieces of a bracelet and creating a new one.
Beaudet starts with sketches, and carves the finished design into wax. Then he casts the metal and sets the stones. It’s all done with an eye for quality and durability, giving the stones the best treatment and taking the most care with the settings.
Beaudet says he is regularly asked for advice on distributing family heirloom pieces. He tells people to wear their pieces and be photographed wearing them, so their family members want the pieces because they remember the pieces being worn — which often means getting a custom piece you really love. “Not everything in this world is about money,” he says. “The most important things are memories. Jewelry is about much more than fashion. It’s about the sentiment, but mostly it’s about memories. It can really be a touchstone for somebody’s life.”
Beaudet has been in his current location on Garfield Street since 2018, and was in south Eugene before that. Now, he’s also got a spot in the Fifth Street Market’s Maker’s Row, where he’s showcasing one-of-a-kind jewelry inspired by wine grapes or starfish and other elements of the Oregon coast.
Beaudet Gallery at Fifth Street Market’s Maker’s Row
987 Garfield St Suite #1