Silver coins have more uses than as a source of currency — just ask John Pretzer and his son-in-law, Dusty Johnston, of Scranton. They are transforming the coins into one-of-a-kind rings through their business, JD Silversmiths.
“We just started fiddling around and got the idea back in February, Dusty said from his home. “We were making them for friends and family and started selling them on Facebook. We had a few hits within a couple of minutes.”
They started taking their jewelry to local craft shows, including those in Taylor, Lemmon, S.D., Medora, and most recently, in Dickinson.
The silversmiths order their coins online from distributors.
“We look for higher quality coins — a lot of state quarters in good condition,” John said. “We found people preferred silver.”
The coins from 1964 and older are made with 90 percent silver. The others are a combination of metals such as nickel and copper that are more difficult to mold, he said.
The silversmiths went online for tutorials and have been perfecting their process ever since.
“Id say it’s been by trial and error and we’re finding what works best for us,” John said.
Their tools are simple hammers, a steel block, a punch and ring-sizing mandrel. The process starts by heating the coin and punching out the center. The coin is placed on the mandrel and the silversmiths start hammering downward from there until the ring takes shake.
“It takes a skilled eye,” Dusty said. “Any little cracker or tiny hairline can turn into a big problem.”
“Our sizing has been pretty much spot on for accuracy,” John added.
Their rings, made from silver state quarters, are being shipped all over the country through Facebook and word of mouth.
The silversmiths shy away from accepting someone’s heirloom coins for rings, because of the risk that the coin could develop a crack during the manufacturing process, John said.
The silversmiths specialize in silver coins such as the Walking Liberty, Morgan silver dollars and Barber half dollars. Their Canadian large cents are popular with women customers, Dusty said.
When the silversmiths receive an order, the turnaround time is less than 24 hours.
“My wife, Allison, takes the orders, and basically , when John gets off work, he’s out in the shop hammering out rings,” Dusty said.
John is the superintendent of Scranton Public School, while Dusty works for an energy service out of Belfield.
They enjoy the hobby as a relaxing outlet from their jobs.
“It started as something fun to do — the whole family gets involved with the polishing and shipping orders,” John said.
The craft shows are their favorite way to sell rings because it’s a chance to meet people, he added.
However, Facebook has been an opportunity to meet people throughout the country.
“We get repeat customers for graduations and things like that, “ John said.
“We’ve never counted the states, probably 30, Dusty added. “From our experience at craft show, we get people from all walks of life — it’s hard to pinpoint.
“People who are away from home in western North Dakota, want a ring from their state — it makes for a good keepsake,” Dusty added.’