Black Hills gold jewelry is any piece of handcrafted, heirloom jewelry distinguishable by its tri-colored gold leaves, grapevine and flower accents. Pendants, bracelets, and rings are popular Black Hills gold jewelry items, but there are many varied items for both men and women. The history of this heirloom jewelry dates as far back as the 1800s and while there are many knock-offs, there is only one true style.
The area known as the Black Hills was inhabited by Native American Indian tribes for hundreds of years. The Lokata held the Black Hills sacred, as they believed the area was the center of the world. Gold was discovered in the Black Hills in the late 1860s and as the news spread, white settlement increased in the area and the city of Deadwood, a historic mining town, was developed. It was in this area that gold and silver mining became a serious economic focus and also where a goldsmith named S. T. Butler resided.
Though S. T. Butler is credited as the father of Black Hills gold jewelry, it was his grandson, F. L. Thorpe, who would become the all-time, premier signature name and style of it. Thorpe started his own company in Deadwood in 1919 and manufactured the jewelry that had already developed a distinctive style over a period of three generations. At the beginning of business, Thorpe had a partner named E. O. Lampinen, but the partnership dissolved and Lampinen started his own company. Ivan Landstrom purchased the company in 1944, and he moved it out of Deadwood. Many years later, in the 1980s, a federal court judge ruled that a manufacturer can only call its product Black Hills gold jewelry if the product is actually made in the Black Hills.
In 1995, Landstrom's purchased the original F. L. Thorpe Company and today, though many companies have settled into the Black Hills for making jewelry, Landstrom’s is the largest manufacturer in the industry. Every producer has its own style and design, though the focus always remains on the multi-colored leaves and detailed accents. Landstrom’s manufacturers many new styles of jewelry, but also continues to manufacturer some of Thorpe’s original designs.