RIDGWAY—Whether he is seeking inspiration or escape, David Houtz of Ridgway knows that he is most likely to find it in four-wheel drive.

A chance encounter with some stranded tourists and a rental Jeep helped bring these beautiful, enormous emeralds to David
Houtz’s Rocky Mt. Jewelry.

This past summer, however he found something more.

“You can’t feel bad in the mountains,” Houtz, owner of Rocky Mountain Jewelry (145 North Cora) said.   “My Jeep takes care of everything, whether I am looking for ideas for my jewelry or just wanting to get away from the Big City in Ridgway.

“Last summer, I drove up to Yankee Boy Basin one day, and there were four people standing on the road, looking at a rental Jeep down below.”

Only one of the Asian tourists spoke English, but that was enough. Houtz told the group that if they could set the vehicle back on its wheels, he would drive it back out for them—and he did.

“They asked what I did for a living, and I told them I am a jeweler,” Said Houtz, who has lived and worked in Ouray County since the 1970’s. “That was when they told me that they are gemstone dealers.”

Today, Houtz carries some sparkling reminders of that encounter in his shop—enormous rubies, emeralds and sapphires.

“I am getting them ridiculously cheap,” Houtz said, “so I can sell them for super cheap—at first I thought they would just be fun to have in the shop—they are so big they are funny! But my customers from Texas love them.”

The giant gemstones are not the only things new at Rocky Mountain Jewelry, a longtime favorite for locals and visitors alike. Houtz worked recently with his daughter, North Carolina photographer and graphic designer Jeni Dwyer, to upgrade his simple business brochure into something truly stunning.

“I packed up some jewelry and sent it to her,” Houtz said. “She takes pictures for a living, but she had not photographed jewelry before—it took her two weeks. I am really excited about the results.”

Dwyer’s work showcases Houtz’ designs brilliantly, from the popular Sneffels’s bracelet to an ethereal necklace with one enormous, lustrous pearl.

New marketing materials are nice to have, especially at a time when all of the equipment in his shop is new as well—Houtz recently had to replace not only his kiln, but his vacuum table, and the motor in his buffing machine.

“I have a new torch too,” he laughed. “There’s nothing left to break!”

Those who have not stopped in to the shop in a while will also appreciate the new LED lights that show Houtz’ jewelry designs to best advantage, and the beautiful collection of Hopi Kachinas and pottery created by Glendera Yazzi and her niece Autumn of Northern Arizona.

And while many mountain businesses close their doors during the winter months, Houtz no longer has any “off season” to speak of.

“Business has been incredible,” he said. “If I hadn’t had so many equipment breakdowns I would be making money! Right now I am working with elk teeth—an elk’s two top teeth are ivory, and hunters bring them to me to make jewelry that they can take home with them. I had one hunter come in who didn’t kill anything, so he bought a ruby to take home.”

Although he finds himself busier than ever, Houtz has no complaints.

“I love what I do, and I get to live here!” he said. “I love meeting all of the people who come in.”

Rocky Mountain Jewelry is open year round, from 10 a.m. to 6 p.m. Monday through Friday and on Saturdays from noon to 5 p.m. The phone number is 970-626-3929.