Love trinkets and other souvenirs? On your next trip, we suggest taking a step behind the jewelry counter to explore how your favorite pieces are crafted — and of course get a great hands-on experience while you’re at it, too. These five tours allow you to blow your own glass, check out a gold mill, and get to know local artists in their own studios.
1. Maui Divers of Hawaii (Kahului, Hawaii)
More than 350,000 visitors a year seek out the expertise and fine pearls from Hawaii’s Maui Divers, the state’s largest jewelry operation. The factory’s 20-minute guided tour through the design center (free) follows the process of creating and crafting the company’s signature pearl and coral jewelry. When the tour concludes, you’re delivered right into Hawaii’s largest jewelry showroom, where thousands of precious pearls and coral pieces are available for purchase. What better way to apply your newfound knowledge?
2. The Corning Museum of Glass (Corning, New York)
Upstate New York’s Corning Museum of Glass is a highly interactive museum that brings you straight into the studio. Opt for one of the museum’s popular Make Your Own Glass classes, where veteran glassworkers lead you through the process of flameworking, fusing, and sandblasting — producing a multitude of collectibles from a glass bead ($20) to a glass pendant ($20). If you prefer the work of one of the masters onsite, the museum’s gift shop has an array of glass-blown jewelry for sale at reasonable prices.
3. Clark County “Spring Into The Arts” Studio Tour (Clark County, Wisconsin)
Spend the day meandering through Wisconsin’s Clark County on April 25 and 26 as the region’s many jewelers and metal workers (along with a variety of other artists) open their studios in celebration of their Spring into the Arts studio tour. Organized by the county, the self-guided tour brings jewelry lovers throughout the scenic countryside to the communities of studios where the artists live and work. The joys of live demonstrations aside, visitors will also have the added satisfaction of purchasing the work directly from the artist.
4. Bainbridge Island Studio Tour (Bainbridge Island, Washington)
During two weekends a year, it’s DIY in nature when Bainbridge Island hosts a celebration of its many craftsmen and women. Just a 30-minute ferry ride from Seattle, a day or two of studio tours here will introduce you to over a dozen jewelers on location. The first weekend this year will be August 7-9, with another later in December.
5. Mt. Rushmore Black Hills Gold Tour (Rapid City, South Dakota)
Standing as one of the most famous attractions in the region after the iconic Mt. Rushmore itself, you won’t want to miss the Mt. Rushmore Black Hills Gold store, where jewelry, diamonds, and gemstones are crafted and sold. The 30-minute tour through the factory (free) explores the company’s lost-wax casting and diamond work, among its many other advancements in crafting gold, and provides up-close views of the production process. And, take our word, that process is impressive — it can involve as many as 40 steps!