Hartley Jewelers Build An Unusual Token Of Love
In the summer of 2005, Travis Thornton brought a sand dollar from the shores of Puget Sound into Hartley Jewelers in Olympia. He wanted to have something truly unique created: A full-scale sterling silver replica of a natural sand dollar.
The idea was inspired by a romantic evening on the beach. It was intended to be a gift for a Danish woman named Dorthe. Travis and Dorthe had recently begun spending time together and he had developed a romantic interest in her. After a long day boating on the water, they were sitting on the beach somewhere on Cooper Point, talking and watching the reds of the skies and the slowly emerging stars. The tides were out and sand dollars lay scattered on the newly exposed beach.
Dorthe walked to the edge of the receding water and picked up a sand dollar. “I was a little surprised when she asked me what it was. Apparently, they don’t have sand dollars in Denmark and she was really captivated by the patterns on its shell,” Travis recalls. ”When you have grown up in the northwest, it is hard to believe that someone has never seen a sand dollar before. But she hadn’t, and she was pretty excited to have discovered this new creature. So we talked for awhile about the sand dollar, its living conditions and the many myths that surround it,” Travis says.
Back then, Travis and Dorthe were just friends. “We’d talk about everything and nothing – but we were always talking,” laughs Travis as he remembers the day he first realized that he wanted the friendship to become something more. “I made it my goal to constantly impress her with increasingly thoughtful and meaningful surprises. I wanted to somehow capture her excitement over the sand dollar, but could not quite figure out how. In a later conversation, I learned that silver is one of her favorite colors. That’s when it hit me. I need to give her a silver sand dollar!”
A few weeks later, Travis went back to the beach and selected the nicest sand dollars they had piled up on the dock. “I brought it to Hartley Jewelers and asked if they could help me create this unique piece of…art, I want to call it,” says Travis.
“It was kind of a crazy idea, but I really wanted to commemorate that particular evening on the beach,” says Travis. “I had no idea if something like that could even be done, especially given the delicate nature of a sand dollar,” he says. “I was almost embarrassed to ask.”
But at Hartley Jewelers, Rick Hartley was immediately on board with the idea. Growing up on Budd Bay has given Rick a particularly soft spot in the enjoyment of making “nautical pieces” which he has done from shells around the world.
“This was far different from the traditional custom jewelry we make,” says Rick. “It was an exciting project.”
He had to dust off his oversize moulding equipment to accommodate the size of the sand dollar. The best method involved casting each side independently, and even so, the mould for the silver sand dollar was about ten times the size of a normal mould. It made sense to make the two sides of the sand dollar independently and then hinge the two pieces together. This way the sand dollar could actually open.
“Making a custom piece of jewelry – or a silver sand dollar replica – is a lengthy and technical process. But Rick knew that this was a special piece and he did an exceptional job explaining to me how it works and what the possibilities and limitations of the different approaches to making it were. At the same time, I know he did everything possible to preserve the integrity of another living thing,” says Travis, who often popped into Hartley Jewelers to follow the progress of the special piece.
“Rick was extremely knowledgeable and able to guide me toward a better idea than I could have imagined myself,” remembers Travis. “He suggested we incorporate my birthstone into the piece, which I thought was a great idea. We set a ruby in the natural hole of the sand dollar. When the sand dollar is opened the light shines through the ruby and glows brightly red.”
“Rick was so dedicated to making this silver sand dollar exactly how I wanted it. He even made it possible for me to handwrite a few romantic words in the wax mould before it was cast into silver. So, I scribbled a message in what limited Danish I knew at the time,” says Travis.
On one of his many trips to Denmark, Travis gave Dorthe the silver sand dollar. “She absolutely loved it,” says Travis. “She just couldn’t believe the craftsmanship that went into that piece. She also couldn’t believe how awful my Danish spelling was,” he laughs. “I just can’t thank Rick enough for making this special piece for me.”