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Customer Ring Highlight | Alaskan Heritage Gold

Alaskan Heritage: Materials with Grit and Heart

Family Mine in Alaska

The family mine in Alaska

The Story


In early February, we received a commission from a client, Diana, who wanted to design a pair of unique and meaningful rings for herself and her boyfriend. We worked together over the next few weeks to draft the perfect ring for Diana that incorporated Alder wood (abundant in the Pacific Northwest), Purple Agate--her favorite color, a guitar string, and gold flakes that her grandchildren panned from their family gold mine in Alaska. 

We thought the history and meaning of the gold was beautiful and asked Diana if she would provide us with some more information about this special material. Here's what Diana's daughter wrote to us: 

My husband comes from a family of gold miners. They have a family-owned and operated mine in the middle of [an] Alaskan peninsula. It’s out in the middle of nowhere--very remote. They fly small airplanes to get there. The family all goes during the workable months of Alaska, those being May-October. They work hard all summer mining, with up to ten family members operating the mining operations and preparations. Other family members (like my kids) hang around, and learn, and play, in the dirt all summer long.

The gold is mined with a floating dredge. There are not really too many of these in operation these days. In fact, this may be the only floating dredge in operation in North America. We always say “maybe” on that because I guess there could be one somewhere out there. You never know.

Their dredge is a giant boat kind of thing with huge metal buckets. It floats along the river (a small section each season) and scoops up the gravel bringing it into the dredge where it’s tossed and turned separating out rocks and dirt…..and the final product is the gold. It’s pretty spectacular.  

The gold I sent you was some that my kids helped to sort one summer while they were out on the mine. I can’t wait to see my mom’s final product. She is very excited about it.
heritage gold mine alaska

The family's floating Dredge

The Ring


custom wood ring

Alder Wood Ring with Purple Agate, Guitar String, and Heritage Alaskan Gold

We began by using Alder Wood for the ring base and inlaid Purple Agate that was sourced and donated by an employee. We then inlaid a salvaged guitar string and finished the ring design with Diana's heritage Alaskan gold flakes. We think the result is stunning. 

If you would like to work with us to create a truly one-of-a-kind ring, don't hesitate to contact us via our commission form or reach out via email or telephone. We love crafting rings by working with you to create something we could never have come up with on our own. 

custom wood ring

Alder Wood Ring with Purple Agate, Guitar String, and Heritage Alaskan Gold

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Dreamin’ On: Monica & Bob Visit the Studio


Our new friends Bob and Monica

The other day, we had the most wonderful couple come in from Wisconsin. Monica’s a biologist-turned-found object artist, and Bob’s a musician. They drove to Chicago to bring us some wood, set up a custom order, and pick up her daughter from the airport. The weather was sweet and warm, and they planned to spend some time on the lake, but first, the business at hand.

Bob said they had been “dreamin’ on” our rings for a few years, and now it was finally time. From Monica’s family’s farm in Michigan, they had brought a piece of purpleheart, and hope to also use a lighter piece of wood accidentally left at home, and on its way to us now. They settled on the darker wood band for him, and the lighter wood band for her, with inverse linings. “A yin and yang sort of thing!” Allison said, and they nodded happily.

Dreamin' On: Monica & Bob Visit the Studio
Wood from Monica’s family farm

We are lucky, on an almost-daily basis, to witness such love and resolution and balance and partnership. It makes our chests thrum with buzzy delight! It’s all the more special that we get to hear stories of lives all over the world, of the people we work with and the wood which we are honored to set our hands upon.

After the ring decisions were made, Gustav showed Monica and Bob around the studio.

It emerged that Monica runs an arts center called Nisse House of Art, which hosts a gallery, shop, studios, and workshops for low-income rural women and girls, teaching arts, craftwork and life skills. So cool! Let us reiterate: we meet the best people.

After a long and winding talk about Gustav’s possibly-favorite tree, (the Ailanthus), about Chicago, and Monica’s childhood as a “country girl” living in Detroit and New York, and the shifting/growing/changing of our cities, Monica and Bob had to say goodbye.

We waved after them, feeling lighter and more joyous for having met them.

gus bob and monica<
Gustav, Monica and Bob talk wood.

After they left, Gustav reminisced more about the Ailanthus tree, which is famous in literary circles for playing the part of the “tree” of Betty Smith’s classic 1943 novel A Tree Grows in Brooklyn, and famous in the inner-city, where it’s called “tree of heaven” and “ghetto palm,” and can grow through chainlink and concrete. “To take this tree that had such history in Asia, and bring it here as a decorative tree in front of Craftsman houses, and then it gets forgotten, but now it’s invasive, it still grows in vacant lots, through foundations, anywhere…” Gustav trailed off, and made a big sigh of awe.

From the novel:

“The one tree in Francie’s yard was neither a pine nor a hemlock. It had pointed leaves which grew along green switches which radiated from the bough and made a tree which looked like a lot of opened green umbrellas. Some people called it the Tree of Heaven. No matter where its seed fell, it made a tree which struggled to reach the sky. It grew in boarded-up lots and out of neglected rubbish heaps and it was the only tree that grew out of cement. It grew lushly, but only in the tenements districts.”

Ailanthus Tree
via Chicago Botanic Gardens

We’ve been thinking a lot about feelings of belonging lately: immigration, community, gentrification. Human beings are more mobile than ever. We’re less likely to live in the place where we’re born. We are children and children’s children of people who crossed borders and traversed oceans. We stand in the shade of trees which will be growing long after we are gone. We plant trees that will bear seeds that spread for miles.

At Simply Wood Rings, our work carries all of this with it. When a human wears a wooden ring, the two entities are suddenly on the same timeline. We are allowed to travel together, to move throughout the world: things rooted and mobile at once.

We wish Monica and Bob happiness and adventure, peace and joy. And we can’t wait to show them (and you) their rings!