Black Hills Gold Jewelry is one of the most unique jewelry collections you’ll ever encounter. With its rich history, elegant designs, and eye-catching colors, it’s no wonder it has been a sought-out South Dakota souvenir since its creation in 1874.

The Story of Black Hills Gold

What makes Black Hills Gold jewelry so unique? The jewelry features intricate designs of grape clusters, leaves, and vines in tri-colored gold. The gold comprises three different colors: yellow gold, rose gold, and green gold. These various colors are created through the process of alloying gold with silver and copper. Who knew science could be so beautiful? Henri LeBeau certainly did.

Henri was the person who crafted the design of Black Hills Gold Jewelry, originally known as “good luck” jewelry. Legend has it that while traveling to the Black Hills after hearing about the Black Hills gold rush, he became hopelessly lost in the wilderness and wandered for days without food or water. In his delusion, he saw what he thought to be a vision of grape leaves floating in a stream. As it turns out, his vision was real! He had stumbled upon a South Dakota vineyard. Inspired by this experience, he stayed in the Black Hills and created what we now know as Black Hills Gold Jewelry.


gold ring tree at mt. rushmore black hills gold factory tour

What Makes Black Hills Gold So Special?

Black Hills Gold Jewelry holds history and tradition in each handcrafted piece. While modern tools and machines have changed the process of making the pieces, the core values of Black Hills Gold Jewelry remain the same.
With each individual piece being so intricate, a significant amount of time and patience goes into its creation. The process varies depending on the type of jewelry. For rings, the process starts with making a wax model from a master mold. After the wax model has melted, leaving an empty space in the mold, molten gold is poured into its place, and a ring in formed.
The individual pieces, comprising of grape leaves, grape clusters, and vines are stamped out on a press. Since so many of these are extremely small and delicate, designers will use rods with wax at the ends to hold them in place. Each piece is handcrafted by jewelers, meaning that no two pieces of Black Hills Gold Jewelry are exactly the same.
Once all the individual pieces are engraved, goldsmiths assemble them into chains, rings, earrings, etc. The pieces are then polished and cleaned to showcase the beauty of Black Hills Gold.
artist carving a piece of black hills gold at the black hills gold factory tour in rapid city

See How Black Hills Gold is Made

There’s only one location in the Black Hills where you can witness the process, and that’s at Mt. Rushmore Black Hills Gold Factory. This free tour takes you behind the scenes into the factory where you can watch artists mold, melt, carve and create each stunning piece. Tour guides explain each step and reveal fascinating tidbits about the process. During my tour, they shared that every fleck of Black Hills Gold carved or buffed off is reused – including anything vacuumed out of the carpet. 
display case with black hills gold earrings at mt. rushmore black hills gold factory

Where to Purchase a Piece of Your Own

After you experience the tour, browse the showroom at the sparkling collection of already created Black Hills Gold pieces to find you perfect fit. Mt. Rushmore Black Hills Gold isn’t the only place in Rapid you can find beautiful pieces of this Black Hills tradition. Gold Diggers, located further down on Mount Rushmore Road, also offers a variety of pieces. Downtown Rapid City, you can find more options inside the unique walls of Presidential Pawn, the world’s only pawnshop and museum. 
The history and process of Black Hills Gold Jewelry have made it a sought-after souvenir for years, and it’s fascinating to know how each piece is created. As I witnessed the time, effort, and dedication put into each piece of jewelry, it made sense why this jewelry style is timeless. Looking for more unique experiences in the Rapid City region? Check out the related content below, or sign up for our monthly travel tips newsletter. 


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