Gwen Peabody

What piece of jewelry is your favorite or the one you're proudest of?
I would say that my proudest piece is probably all of the engagement rings I’ve made over the years. It really pushed me creatively. Working with gold and diamonds was pretty intimidating at first, but I’ve grown much more comfortable with them now.

What's the most challenging piece of jewelry you’ve made?
I once made a ring that was part of a set. It was lined with tiny diamonds, which was definitely the most challenging part. Multiple times during the process, I dropped the diamonds on the ground and spent hours on my hands and knees, trying to find them.

How do you select your stones and materials? Are they all from the Southwest, or Arizona in particular?
My favorite way to shop for stones is to go to the Tucson Gem Show at least twice a year. But I really love to be able to see the rocks in person. I like to touch them and get a sense of their weight and size. But for my turquoise, I fell in love with Turquoise Mountain, a Navajo-run shop here in Phoenix. When I found out about Turquoise Mountain, I was like, “OK, I’m never going anywhere else.” I get 99 percent of my turquoise from Xavier; he has a beautiful selection of stones. Going in there is dangerous for me, because I’m like a kid in a candy store!

Most of my stones are from the Southwestern states, but some, such as the jaspers I love, are sourced from Oregon. In particular, the picture jasper has a desert landscape look that I really love. Some of the turquoise I like is from Mexico.

Bracelet samples in a pot of sand

According to your website, your love of jewelry began when your great-grandmother gifted you a turquoise ring. How would you feel if one of your pieces became an heirloom?
Oh, gosh. That would make me cry! I try to make sure my pieces are high quality and stand the test of time. I’ve learned a lot over the years, such as not to use flimsy metal. I also know which gauges of silver to avoid so that my rings hold up. For one of my pieces to become an heirloom, that would be an honor.

Do you see yourself ever expanding your areas of expertise beyond jewelry? If so, what interests you?
Possibly. I’ve always been interested in ceramics. I think making some ceramic pieces that would go with the jewelry, such as little ring holders or plates, would be fun. A friend of mine made these ceramic ring holder saguaros with a wooden base a few years ago, and I thought they were so cute. I bought them from her and sold them through my shop, and they did really well. If I ever got into anything else, that would probably be the direction I’d go.

To learn more about Desert Dust Jewelry, visit