Art and Soul
For 20 years after graduating from college, Tobin Rupert ran the family business, Rupert’s Auto Body in Carson City. He watched the business grow and prosper but, eventually, found himself growing bored. The way he describes it, there came a point where the business no longer needed him, and he found himself needing something new to invest his time and energy in. His solution was to convert his childhood home—located next door to the auto body shop—into retail space for Rupert’s Precision Gem Cutting, a venture geared toward combining his artistic strengths and a lifelong love of gem and mineral collecting.
“My whole family was hunters,” Rupert said. “We’d go out hunting and I’d never get anything, but I’d come home with the best looking pocketful of rocks you’ve ever seen.”
Auto body repair and gem cutting may seem like unrelated fields, but, to Rupert’s mind, there’s a translatable artistry between the two. “It’s all the same exact tools you use in the gem cutting business,” Rupert said. “They’re just smaller.”
In the five years since Rupert took a step back from the family’s auto body business, he’s earned certifications in advanced gem cutting, diamond setting, jewelry repair and goldsmithing. The home where he was raised by his grandparents has since been divided into a workspace and showroom, separated by a kitchen with a large island that serves as a sort of way station for rocks and gems.
“Most people seem to have a rock or a stone that that’s their stone,” Rupert said, picking up a small, clear box from the kitchen island. “Tiger’s Eye is this guy’s stone. He just loves it. Look at this piece—came out cool. It kind of looks like a bumblebee, huh? He took the really good ones already because he likes the chatoyancy of that, where it really turns colors and stuff.”
Rupert enjoys helping people find a stone or gem they like. In a room off the back of his workshop, he keeps a supply of raw gems and minerals that customers can select for custom jewelry and art pieces. This back stock also comes in handy when gem and mineral hunters stop by to trade. Rupert welcomes these visitors as well as novice rockhounds, who often drop by to see samples of what they’re hunting for or to have their recent finds identified.
Across the house, in Rupert’s showroom, necklaces on headless display stands sparkle. They feature everything from tourmaline to garnets, many created using one of Rupert’s five signature cuts, held within delicate filigreed-gold settings. In another display case, opals found near Denio, Nevada, shine from within the confines of water globes set on polished wood bases. On the adjacent table, the root of a manzanita tree from Tahoe has been hollowed out to make a stand and fitted with a color changing light that shines through the facets of a huge quartz crystal.
Rupert’s passion for sharing the experience of gems and minerals finds its way into the storefront, too, often at the expense of profits. Many of the items on display are not for sale. “A lot of things are just for people to look at,” Rupert said. “Like some pieces of jewelry that you’re never going to find again, I just really don’t want to cut loose with, and there’s some really nice rocks that—if they’re really rare—I probably don’t want to sell them.”