How it all started
Bob Summers was born in 1939 in West Virginia. In 1943 he survived polio. By 1956, he was serving in the Armed Services. He retired in 1977.
He went to college after leaving service and received a BA in Psychology.
He studied Jewelry Design at American River College in Sacramento for 1 semester. He also took classes from a Silversmith who was from Arizona for a brief period. Beyond this, Bob Summers was a self-taught Silversmith. He got the basics down and did all of his own research and design experimentation and development on his own.
From 1973 to 1975 he taught lapidary and silver working techniques at Fort Hood, TX.
While stationed in Germany, from 1975-1976, he stayed busy as a claims investigator by day and a jewelry designer and silversmith by night.
Upon returning from Germany and retiring from the Army, he began giving lectures and demonstrations of his work at Rockhound Clubs and Gem Shows in Northern California. He also showed his work at the California State Fair Gem and Mineral Expo.
Notes on his process:
“I sketch everything first, then try to refine the sketch before beginning.
I always select the stone first and try to make the metal compliment the stone.
I only use the best stones that I can afford. And though I use a lot of turquoise, I also like many other types and treat them with the same respect.
All of my work is hallmarked with my custom designed Claw with an “S” inside and stamped Handmade Sterling.”
“I do ALL of my own Silverwork. I do some of my own Lapidary work but no longer have access to the larger equipment it requires.
I use only hand tools, many of my own making, with the exception of my buffing machine.
I try to set a high standard for myself, which is to say, if I make something that does not please me or look quite right, I reduce the metal to scrap and “repurpose” the stone. I want it all to be my best effort.”
Note from his daughter, Jen Summers:
About 10 years ago he was diagnosed with Emphysema and a few years later he was diagnosed with Parkinson’s disease. As if those were not big enough hurdles, in 2016 he suffered what is called a “mini” stroke. It was a succession of several small strokes. He ended up in the hospital with impairments in his hands, his speech, and overall motor skills. He literally had to learn to walk again. But through his tough and stubborn ways of never giving up, he was able to recover!! He was not permanently impaired but had some residual issues. We had no idea what would be possible.
As the healing progressed and he was no longer able to build furniture or have a large garden anymore... also, they took away his driving privileges with the Parkinson’s diagnosis... he has gone back to his Silversmithing passion that he so much enjoyed in years passed.
It brings him so much joy!
He has challenges with his hands at times but has devised ways to overcome those challenges by creating tools to help him steady them enough to make the beautiful work he does.
Truly a pioneer!
He believes in creating every part of every piece by hand and no using short cuts!! No buying silver cast parts and adding them in... he would never! Each flower, each feather, each crescent was shaped by his hands.