Marion artisan is a silversmith
What do you get when you combine silver and precious stones? You get jewelry.
Albert Steele, 74, of Marion raised and showed rabbits for many years, earning numerous awards. He paints and draws pictures and now makes jewelry.
He developed his most recent talent after he and his wife, Kay, began spending winters at an RV resort in Yuma, Arizona, four years ago.
He became a member of the Gems and Minerals Club and eventually became a superintendent in the lapidary section, where artisans cut, grind, and polish gems.
As lapidary superintendents, Steele and two other men would go into the surrounding mountains and as far as California, Utah, and Mexico to look for precious stones. They would dig them up and bring them back to a workshop, where the stones are cut up, ground down, and polished.
Steele worked with stones for three years, then decided to advance his knowledge to include silversmithing. Now his stones are set in silver as various kinds of jewelry. His wife sells the jewelry at the resort and locally at craft shows.
His first creations were necklaces made out of silverware, some including stones.
The stones he uses are his own findings or what others bring into the shop. They come from all over and are every color.
Many rocks contain petrified remains of various creatures or items that are revealed when cut up and polished. Some stones are a million years old.
“You would be amazed at what can be found in a rock,” Steele said. “You never know what you’ll find.”
One time he was polishing a white agate, and a little black bird showed up.
“I work to create simple, economical, and nice pieces of jewelry,” he said.
He now has his own shop behind his house at 423 N. Roosevelt St. His wife named his jewelry after it: “Red Barn Creations.”
Doing stonework and making jewelry is Steele’s way of relaxing.
“It’s very calming,” he said.
He does it all — cutting, grinding, polishing, and even some soldering.
He finds the work rewarding.
“Exploring and bringing rocks back to a working area and creating something from them is amazing,” he said.
Steele served in the military for almost 27 years before retiring in 1987. The couple moved to Marion in 1993.
He began raising rabbits when one of his four sons took on a 4-H rabbit project. He became a county 4-H leader and worked at the state fair with the rabbit barn supervisor.
He raised Florida Whites, Dutch, and Champaign D’Argents, entering them in county, state, and national shows. He earned a best in show at Tulsa in 1995 and received second place in a national show for six years. He figures he received at least 600 trophies.
Steele judged as many as 15 county and statewide shows a year until he suffered a stroke in 1997.
He still works as rabbit barn supervisor at the Tri-County Fair in Herington every summer, and he and Kay travel to the National Rabbit Show every year.
They have been married for 53 years. They have 18 grandchildren and seven great-grandchildren.