By Virginia Kovach
The best things in life begin with love. Maybe that’s sentimental, but think about it: many of the things we enjoy about life, from music to art to food, exist because someone was ignited with passion for something. For Gary Youngberg, owner of Ames Silversmithing, it wasn’t something; it was someone.
“Well, I was in love with a girl,” he said when I asked him how his jewelry business began. “I was going to the University of Iowa at the time, and I wanted to give her something for Valentine’s Day —I was broke, for the most part — and I decided to string some beads and make some necklaces for her.”
The girl Youngberg was in love with is now his wife, Karen.
“I sold a few necklaces to the girls in the dorm,” he said. “The next thing you know, I was buying more beads and making more pieces.”
Soon, he learned how to do basic silver smithing from library books, using a torch in his dorm room to create jewelry on a new level. He started selling his pieces at art fairs.
Youngberg realized that college wasn’t for him — even after he switched from the University of Iowa to Iowa State. He decided to open his own business in August, 1976.
Today, walking into their sparkling Main Street store, you will be greeted by warm, professional staff who are happy find you something beautiful at your price level. My husband bought our rings there. Every time I look at my aquamarine engagement ring, I am reminded of how great it is to have a good relationship with a classy jeweler right here, in downtown Ames.
It’s a family business, so chances are that you will work with Karen, Kyle or Kirk (Gary and Karen’s sons), or Katie (Kyle’s wife). The family dynamic only adds to its charm.
You’ll find exquisite creations with diamonds, pearls, and other common fine jewelry stones at Ames Silversmithing, but you’ll also see unique pieces with agates, jaspers, and turquois. Youngberg has a special place in his heart for those stones.
“It’s Mother Nature at her best, and they’re just fantastic to look at,” he said.
Like many Main Street businesses, Ames Silversmithing is involved in philanthropic work. Youngberg frequently donates jewelry to auctions raising money for people who need help with medical expenses for health crises like cancer.
“I’m happy to do it,” he said. “I’ve had a great business life, our business is good, and I’m thrilled to be able to support those things.”
Chatting with Youngberg deepened my appreciation for Ames Silversmithing. Their commitment to quality and their passion for this community are exemplary. If my husband brings me home another trademark green box, I will smile just as much for their story as for their beautiful product.