Richard Shull comes from a family of talented artists and ancestral miners who immigrated to California during the gold rush. Inspired by his grandfather who worked at many mines in the Nevada desert, Richard naturally migrated to this same area to pursue his dreams of finding and creating something special. His childhood years were filled with his own experimental backyard sculptures and sojourns throughout the West, which included stops at every rock shop along the way. These early fascinations guided Shull into studies of fine art and natural sciences, which culminated in his residency at the Gemological Institute of America and subsequent Graduate Gemologist diploma in 1992.
Shull's interest in abstract art and the mechanical and optical properties of gem materials blossomed as he taught himself to cut, combining his design ideas with the gemstones he has spent years studying and mining in the field. His carved gemstones with flowing, organic lines, liquid optical effects, and truly professional finish have been recognized on the cover of Lapidary Journal's 50th Anniversary Issue, in Henry Hunt's American Lapidary, and in many other trade publications over the years. In his sculptural art pieces, he creates an elegant balance of mineral, light, and art designed especially for fine jewelry. Shull has worked with a myriad of different gem materials such as transparent ametrine and tourmalines, as well as translucent gems like opal and chalcedony, but the mining and cutting of phosphate gems, turquoise and variscite, captured his heart from the very beginning.
While studying at GIA, Richard would spend weekends in the Mojave Desert mining turquoise with Ed Nazelrod at the classic Apache Canyon mines near Baker, CA, returning to class with high grade natural turquoise that blew away the classroom samples of the finest Persian turquoise, providing lessons for himself and the class that there is so much more out there to learn about. Now almost 30 years and many mines and tens of thousands of stones later, we are still learning and discovering new things! And doing our best to share that knowledge. Richard was the author of the Gemstone Column for Art Jewelry Magazine from 2009 to 2014. Most recently, Richard wrote the Gemological section in Mike Ryan and Philip Chambless’s new turquoise history book, due out in August 2020.
Miner, Prospector, Cutter, Stone Grader, Photographer, Shop Manager, Author, Botanist
Helen Constantine-Shull grew up in the Southern California foothills of 10,049 ft. Mt. Baldy. Even from before birth, she accompanied her parents, and later her two brothers, on numerous camping trips to the Eastern Sierra Nevada, and on family travels throughout the U.S. and overseas. During this time, Helen developed a deep appreciation of the outdoors and the diversity of human culture.
After her initial decision to be ‘practical’, earn a B.A. in business, and land a ‘real’ job, she took time off to live in the mountains just east of Yosemite National Park. While living in the town of Lee Vining on the shores of Mono Lake, Helen was given the opportunity to both illustrate and write a botanical guide to the surrounding Mono Basin. This experience led her to pursue the dream of furthering her education and earn an M.A. in botany.
By spending so much time in the field staring down at plants, Helen's long-time avocation of geology and stones was piqued as well. Alongside her husband, she began mining gems and experimenting with lapidary art and design. Together they mine, process raw materials, cut myriads of cabochons, and craft fine, heirloom quality gemstone beads. Helen also takes the stones in her hands and creates jewelry following exacting standards. By using an old world level of quality, Helen's creations have found a worldwide following. After finding a need to capture a record of the Shulls’ artistry (and adventures), she developed special techniques of gemstone photography used to create the images published in several major jewelry trade journals.
"Beads were the first items used by humans to adorn themselves…and turquoise was one of the first gems used to create beads. Since that first day, beads…and turquoise!...have been irresistible to us. I find great pleasure in using techniques based on those of the ancients to craft my beads, often utilizing recently discovered gem materials such as our turquoise and variscite, as well as other gems like Peruvian opals, fire opals and a variety of tourmalines. Especially rewarding is the opportunity to both unearth the raw stones and see them through to the completed cabochon, bead or jewelry piece. I hope that as our stones are worn by owners, both radiate with beauty."
The Shulls work out of their studio and live near their mines in the Nevada desert.