Merrill Hinshaw (named by Lapidary Journal as one of the top ten stone polishers in the nation) has always loved the outdoors, he enjoyed spending time with his dad and camping as a child and has always been intrigued by rocks. Merrill and his father would hunt arrowheads and collect interesting artifacts.
The Hinshaw business came to be a reality after Merrill's father was able to purchase some equipment to cut and polish stones, what had started as a hobby quickly became a trade for Merrill. (below: The Display was created over 50 years ago from when Merrill taught lapidary classes.)
Soon Merrill's wife Janis (pictured above) and children were involved and travelling across the country with him in search of rocks that could be turned into unique hand made jewelry. On one certain trip to Wyoming in the late 1960's, Merrill and the family ventured into a manganese mine, he quickly realized that he had a great find. Today he still has about 300 pounds of rock left from the 1000 pound find. (Pictured below are necklaces made with the find.) Merrill stated, "I've never taken a vacation, but I've seen all of the United States, half of Canada and Mexico!"
The most impressive fact is that Merrill is all self taught and each piece of jewelry is hand crafted. The unique craftsmanship can take anywhere from a week to a month to create one spectacular piece of jewelry. Merrill's son Matthew and grandson cut and polish the stones (pictures below) while Merrill's daughter Kim has always been her fathers shadow and has loved going on rock hunting expeditions with him. It's no surprise that she is a geologist today full of knowledge about each one of the exceptional finds. Janis worked shows with Merrill over the decades and now works inside Hinshaw Rock N' Gems shop, located in French Lick.
Their Favorite memories of collecting were from the Yellowstone River and the Manganese Mine in Wyoming. The beauty of Merrill's creations can be seen below.
"The colors and pattern are already there, I just cut them."
Merrill stated, "You never know what you're going to find, it looks like a rock until you cut it open." The Mexican coconut pictured below is a great representation of what you can find, even though you're not expecting it. All of these natural creations take place because of minerals being dissolved and then re-hardening in their own time allowing for the natural construction of these magnificent pieces.
The Hinshaw's have been revealing the hidden beauty of stones in the lapidary (the art of cutting and polishing stones) business for 57 years. They are Nationally and Internationally known artisans creating unique treasures. Once you have been to Hinshaw Rock N' Gems you'll never look at a rock the same way again! This is one way to enjoy #MyFrenchLick.