The Maker: Chuck Bruce

The jewelry rock star makes inlaid earrings and bracelets look easy.

Chuck Bruce has something close to X-ray vision. The Indiana Artisan, who has been creating inlaid silver jewelry for almost 20 years, says he can glance at most stones and “see” what’s inside. “Beautiful rocks are what make the inlay work,” Bruce says. Before cutting cross-sections, he’ll look for fracture lines, indicating potential bland spots of color or unwelcome changes in a stone’s composition. Among his favorite varieties to work with? Labradorite, dinosaur bone, and pietersite.

Bruce didn’t plan to become a rock whisperer. “In college, my degree was in interior design—until I flunked a required class,” he says. Eventually, a silversmithing course he took for fun set him on the lapidary path, and, later, he became an instructor himself. He now teaches at the Indianapolis Art Center.

When not teaching or selling in art shows, Bruce fabricates earrings ($25–$65), pendants ($45–$325), and elaborate cuff bracelets ($500–$2,700) in his home studio near the Indiana State Fairgrounds. He begins by slicing the stones into tiny blocks with a diamond-blade saw. Once he has a few pieces he likes, he shapes the silver with a torch and sander. Finally, he carefully glues and clamps the rocks into the metal, polishing everything later. All told, a single piece can take a few days to create. Some of his work ends up in Zionsville’s Art in Hand Gallery, but a lot of it sells by appointment only. When you make jewelry from stone this pretty, it’s not hard to find business.

Dinosaur bone cuff, $2,700. Petrified bone with ebony accents set in sterling silver.