Gary Allan's Custom Jewelry Business Is a Family Affair: 'We're Getting Faster and Better'
The country singer and daughter Maggie Herzberg are a golden team in family business Gary Allan Custom Jewelry
Gary Allan's daughter Maggie Herzberg remembers a Christmas about six years ago when her dad issued a warning.
"Presents are going to be a little bit smaller this year," she said he explained, "because we're going into the jewelry business."
Allan, a country singer, was negotiating a new record deal and developed a passion for making jewelry in his downtime. On Black Friday of 2015, he called a jewelry supply business and ordered all the equipment he needed to set up a jewelry production shop in his home.
"I said, 'I want you to sell me everything that's 25 percent off today,'" Allan, 53, told PEOPLE with a laugh.
The phone call was the beginning of Gary Allan Custom Jewelry. A bit of a country renaissance man, Allan represents an artisanal craft whiskey brand and has a flair for fashion that he once turned into a high-end men's clothing store. He also recently renovated his new house, the former home of Conway Twitty. The home overlooking the lake is California country opulence. It includes a wall papered with authentic peacock feathers, another adorned with sentimental guitars and a black and gold light fixture fashioned from inverted microphones that hangs from the game room ceiling. While Allan quips that it's a chore to keep guests from petting his feathers, jewelry is his passion and not home décor.
"I've always been fascinated with knives and watches," he said. "I think I always wanted to be a jeweler."
Allan and Herzberg, 32, run the business out of his Hendersonville, Tennessee home. Allan sells his jewelry, which ranges in price from $70 to $24,000, on his website. But the business had an uncertain start.
"I spent like $20,000 with those people on Black Friday, and everything showed up at the house in boxes," Allan said. "I was like, 'I don't know what any of it does.'"
The singer, who recently released his new album, Ruthless, called the supplier and asked them to recommend someone to teach him how to use the new tools — a special desk, some files and a torch, and the oven and vacuum machine that enabled him to pour and cast silver.
The salesperson directed Allan to New Approach School for Jewelers, a nearby jewelry school in Franklin, Tennessee. In 2016, he learned how to cast silver and gold, how to set stones and more. When Herzberg complained about her job as an accountant, Allan suggested she go to jewelry school, too.
"Now she's better than all of us," he said proudly.
The father-daughter team has added more sophisticated equipment since their early days in the jewelry business. Now the shop includes a microscope, a laser welder for delicate repairs, a rolling mill for making rings, two stone-setting benches and a graver max for engraving and stone setting.
Situated on the second floor of his home, the jewelry studio only has a few hard and fast rules — the most important: no synthetic gemstones. Allan has precious stones scattered about tabletops alongside dozens of rings, necklaces, beads, earrings and pendants in various stages of completion.
Herzberg works in the shop five days a week, fulfilling orders at the pace of about 100 pieces a month. Not that long ago, she didn't think she could complete more than 20.
They took time growing the business, making sure that their jewelry met their standards before making it available to the public. Allan often wears prototypes on stage, which prompts fans to want to buy copies for themselves. However, Allan makes sure each piece is perfected before he places the items for sale. The bronco pendants patterned after his logo are his best sellers, cast in silver and require little hands-on work. However, the acoustic guitar charms are more intricate.
"I had a ton of them, but they weren't good enough to sell," he said. "We kept working on them and making it better. We just barely got to where we could sell them, and we have people waiting on them."
The family orders their gemstones from online suppliers and has a friend that owns a local pawnshop who passes along any precious stones that aren't diamonds. An acquaintance from the jewelry school attended an auction where he purchased an assortment of high-end gems – including the topaz in the $24,000 ring that Allan dubbed "big blue" and a 10-karat black diamond they have yet to design a piece around.
"Big Blue" sold after several years posted on his website. A man called and purchased it simply because his wife liked the color blue.
"I've been pushing to do more big rings," Allan said. "I think we should always have something crazy."
In addition to the broncos and the guitar pendants, the family also creates rose necklaces, earrings and unique pieces ranging from a gemstone encrusted skull ring and a cyclops vampire Mickey Mouse to a delicate 18k gold sand dollar necklace and a sophisticated sapphire ring with diamond accents.
"We've grown so much in the last three or four years that it's hard to imagine doing more," Herzberg said. "We're getting faster, and we're getting better. Our stuff is getting more interesting. I'm learning more stuff, too."
The singer, known for hit songs including "Smoke Rings in the Dark" and "Watching Airplanes," often works alongside his daughter. He jokes that he's so slow at crafting his pieces that he must charge more for them than other jewelers. But, Gary Allan Custom Jewelry is a small family business. His 13-year-old granddaughter Chloe ties knots in the leather jewelry. When she sells a piece, she makes $20 — money she's saving to buy new Apple AirPods.
Herzberg, who is Chloe's mother, has goals, too. She's about to learn computer-animated design and then, she said, "it's over for everyone."
"I would like to see us do more original design," she explained. "I want to get faster and sparklier."
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