An ancient, earthly element inspires a local entrepreneur’s personal and professional passions.
Nick Gardner recently opened Ebony Gemstone Co. at Flint Farmers’ Market, showcasing a vast inventory of naturally formed rocks for their beauty and other benefits. Specializing in jewelry, metal work, and materials including leather and exotic woods that he gives custom adornment, Gardner’s art and designs cater to a novelty market in the community.
Ebony Gemstone Co.’s new space downtown marks its expansion from seasonal into a year-round, permanent business.
“I was into stones. Since I was a kid, I was always into fossils and dinosaurs and stuff like that,” Gardner says.
His interest led to a hobby of collecting rocks and later studying them intensely to learn about their properties. Eventually, he amassed stones from trade shows and other locations until he had a houseful from all over the world.
While building the massive collection he describes as numbering in the thousands, Gardner became a self-taught designer of stone art and accessories.
“Different stones have different health benefits,” he says.
For example, hematite is said to promote oxygen in the blood, and increase mental clarity. Amethyst, the birthstone for February, addresses sinus issues and other conditions related to organs and cavities in the head, Gardner says, and turquoise, the birthstone for December, has been used to help equilibrium.
Rocks are often overlooked as related to their symbolism. Gardner points out the common, visible presence of large stones at central locations on university campuses and the carved gargoyles and lions often found at the entrances of homes – some stone is believed to deflect negative energy.
Although geology is the commonly accepted science of studying rocks, he describes his appreciation of stones as more in line with geomancy, an ancient art.
Gardner’s enthusiasm and designs led to requests from others for their own jewelry pieces. Named for his wife, Ebony Gemstone Co. was formed about six years ago and set up shop outside Flint Farmers’ Market.
“It was real organic,” he says. “I didn’t plan to go into business or anything like that. I said ‘I could make a living off of this full-time, doing something I love to do.’”
Since forming the company, he and his wife have attracted “all types of clients,” including fellow jewelry-makers, practitioners of holistic wellness, and even children who like wearing shark-tooth necklaces.
Gardner is among local business owners whose creative products will be featured as part of Vehicle City Fashion Week Nov. 12-17 (see TheHUB’s VCFW story). While Ebony Gemstone Co. has participated in previous Vehicle City Fashion events as a vendor, 2018 marks the first time the business will contribute to styles within the show itself.
“I’m going to do a lot of over the top type stuff, head pieces and big earrings,” Gardner says of his designs.
“I think I make every piece of jewelry there is, except watches,” he adds.
Ebony Gemstone Co. fills a niche among Flint’s cultural and retail shops.
“You’ll see a lot of people who sell jewelry, but not a lot of people who sell stones,” Gardner says.
Confessing that he “could talk all day” about stones and their historic uses and symbolism, he says the business creates custom designs on site, sometimes within as little as 20 minutes. He uses only simple hand tools. Quartz crystals, jaspers and – perhaps not coincidentally – flint stones are among the many materials he keeps in his inventory.
Part of his appreciation and enjoyment of designing stone art lies in its longevity and the non-perishable nature of its material. The finished product, he says, is one guaranteed to last.
“Just as a symbol,” adds Gardner, “this is something that’s forever.”
To purchase tickets for Vehicle City Fashion Week and see the full event schedule visit the event page.
Lead Photo: Nick Gardner, who recently expanded Ebony Gemstone Co. into Flint Farmers’ Market, will be among designers and artists featured during Vehicle City Fashion Week. Photo by Alvin Brown