Like its namesake, Acorn Jewelry started small.
East Valley resident Dave Rich had an idea while driving past the Gilbert Temple during its construction: why not use his metalworking experience to create commemorative pewter keychains for the dedication and cultural celebration?
His friends David Rengifo and Steve Smit had already been designing LDS-themed mementoes for pioneer treks and youth camps. The three soon discovered that demand for these products was high, and Acorn Jewelry was born.
With thirty years of combined experience in the design business, Rengifo and Smit had the know-how to enhance Rich’s decades of work in metal casting. What began as a hobby morphed into a side business. Marrying distinctive design and workmanship in a line of pewter keychains, pins, pendants and ornaments, Acorn products are, in the words of their makers, “crafted to inspire and uplift.”
Their crafting process is complex. First Rengifo and Smit conduct 2 to 3 hours of research: not simply looking through images of the temple, but looking at write-ups and comments from people who have been there.
“We want to know what’s unique, what’s iconic about the location,” Rengifo says. “There’s a level of detail and quality…our research often uncovers details about the history of the temple that we will incorporate into the design.”
The Salt Lake Temple’s trademark door knobs, for example, will be featured on an ornament commemorating the building, and desert plant life works its way into both the Phoenix and Gilbert Temple designs.
After their research, the two take time to plan the piece, which is rendered in two and then three dimensions before a mold is made and any pewter is cast. Metal composition, thickness, finishes—all of these things must be taken into account before the final product is created in Rich’s Gilbert-based garage studio.
Moving from a pastime to a business has been an eye-opening experience for the trio.
“There’s a lot you don’t think about, a ton of day-to-day things, with an online business,” says Renglfo.
That business had been largely word-of-mouth until they established a Facebook page and a web presence at AcornJewelry.com. Currently, the website offers pewter items commemorating the Phoenix, Mesa, Gilbert, Fort Lauderdale, Córdoba (Argentina), Payson and Salt Lake Temples. Plans to expand Acorn’s offerings include more temple ornaments and keychains, as well as a line of pet-themed products.
“Pets are tough,” Rengifo laughs. “Expression is harder to do than architectural elements!”
Rengifo says they’d also love to see some crowdsourced ideas and let customers participate in the process.
“I could see doing favorite scriptures [in pewter],” Rengifo says. “Some hand-drawn lettering….”
Pewter is ideal for keychains and lapel pins—with its low melting point and light weight, it’s uncomplicated to cast—but eventually, Acorn may expand its line into other metals.
“We have to weigh the time and money it takes to do a piece against the interest in it,” Rengifo says, adding that they can spend close to $1000 just to create one design.
But the three craftsmen are happy with that kind of meticulous, personal approach to their work—the kind that shows in the artistry of each piece.
“It’s a labor of love,” Rengifo says.