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Introducing Kevin O'hern

Merritt Jeweler's goldsmith, Kevin O'hern working on some pieces at his work desk. Photo by Sarah Rudlang

Merritt Jewelers in Pequot Lakes is celebrating its 30th anniversary. Much of the business' success, Barb Merritt said, is due to one particular individual: Kevin O'Hern has been the store's goldsmith for 15 of those 30 years.

Originally from southern California, O'Hern moved to Minnesota in the fall of 1998 after one influencing visit to his father-in-law's home, then in the fall of 1999 he began working at Merritt Jewelers.

"My father-in-law was born and raised in Emily, but moved to California when he was 17 or 18. When he retired he moved here and I came out to visit. It was then I decided I wasn't leaving, went back home and packed everything up and went back here."

Him and his wife Diane live in the area and have two siberian huskies, Jax and Echo. He loves the weather in the Pequot Lakes area, especially winters.

"I don't like the heat, but I love winters here. I like the small population and enjoy being outside," O'Hern said with a laugh.

He gained a love for jewelry making at a young age.

"There was a school I went to in junior high that had a teacher that taught how to cut rocks and agates, stuff like that. He had taught a little bit of jewelry making, just some basic stuff. After that I was hooked and have been doing it ever since," O'Hern said.

Being completely self-taught, O'Hern enjoys the creative aspect of being a goldsmith.

"It is fun building something and being creative. I'm always finding different ways of doing things. Just like that old saying, 'There is more than one way to skin a cat,' well, there's always different ways of doing things. You almost have to do stuff like that or else it is the same thing over and over."

The most rewarding part of his job is building something new for somebody, he said.

"I take their old jewelry that is broken or they don't wear anymore and melt it down and make it into something they will wear again," O'Hern said.

To be a self-taught goldsmith is a rare feat, but O'Hern was able to learn first-hand through work in a warehouse in California that contained used equipment. Through trial and error, he learned what items were for and would take old, broken jewelry and fix it.

"To solder a chain or size a ring, you need to know about the stones. Some can take heat and some can't, so you have to pull them sooner," he said. "Without schooling, there is a lot of trial and error."

Other activities O'Hern enjoys beyond his career include fishing, hunting, cooking and, of course, building things.

"The question is, what don't I build?" he said with a laugh.

"Right now I am building a greenhouse. Last summer I built a wood fire pizza oven, so we have pizza parties and everything outside. It only takes about 90 seconds to two minutes to cook a pizza," he said.

His last words of advice? "Shop at Merritt Jewelers!"