Family business still rings true
Four decades on, the Simonsons’ spoon rings are more popular than ever
Selmer (Sam) Simonson clearly started something in 1970 when he began making jewelry, particularly spoon rings. Then a school teacher in Wayzata, Minnesota, he had a number of side jobs to help support his wife, June, and their six children who were reared in Minnetonka. June was a stay-at-home mom who did beadwork and helped in the business until a stroke nine years ago. She died four years ago.
Sam learned how to make spoon rings from his wife’s sister, Lois, and made necklaces and bracelets as well. His hobby eventually allowed him to drop some of his part-time jobs. And, voilà, Simonsons’ Jewelry was born.
“We ran our Minnesota State Fair booth for the 41st year in 2015,” says Heidi Peterson, one of three daughters still active in the business. Two other sisters, Cyndie Misner and Robin Lockwood; additional family members; and friends also are involved in the business that shows mainly at the Minnesota State Fair and Norsk Høstfest in Minot, North Dakota. The latter is North America’s largest Scandinavian festival.
Sam, the founder and family patriarch, now 84, works at some events with his daughters and teaches others the spoon-ring craft.
Spoon ring history is a bit murky. These rings have been around in one way or another since 17th century England when poor servants would steal a master’s silver spoon and have it made into a wedding ring, according to various sources on the web. In Wales a would-be suitor would give a spoon to a girl he wished to court. The suitor sometimes carved the spoon himself or commissioned a spoon to promise commitment and love.
The rings enjoyed a resurgence in the 1960s and 1970s as an item favored by hippies, according to another source.
Simonsons’ Jewelry does not have a website as yet. “However as the grandchildren become adults, some have an interest in also going into the spoon-ring business, and the sons-in-law also are interested, so we could expand into a web business some day,” Peterson said. The sisters and their spouses are in their 50s and 60s and still employed at other enterprises.
“Most fairs we run by ourselves, with the State Fair being the exception. We have nieces, nephews, and friends pitch in and help us staff our fair booth. Each of us makes our own individual jewelry and lines up our own fairs. We come together to do the State Fair, and Robin, Dad, and I join forces to do Høstfest,” she added.
Most of the spoon rings use only the handle of the former spoon. So what happens to the actual spoon bowl portion? According to Peterson, “Originally, Dad used every piece of the spoon to make jewelry. The spoon portion became a necklace or earrings. Now he pretty much sticks to making rings, and some of us make other pieces with the remaining portions. If the spoon is sterling, we are able to sell the bowls as scrap.”
A lot of thought goes into choosing a utensil to make into a ring, from size to design to material. But almost any spoon will work. “Some of Dad’s most beautiful rings are from demitasse spoons. They make darling rings… usually pinky rings or rings for smaller-sized fingers. If the spoon is small enough, he is able to use the entire spoon and wraps the handle over the flattened bowl. We call them ‘whole spoon’ rings. He can even use tiny salt spoons if they’re long enough.
“Usually, we use only sterling or silver-plated spoons or forks as stainless steel tends to be too heavy and doesn’t bend well. Occasionally we find a stainless piece that works, but generally we don’t use stainless.”
The company does take custom orders and will gladly turn your favorite spoon into a unique jewelry item. The process takes anywhere from a couple of weeks to over a month. “Dad has limited his special orders, but my son Andrew and my brother-in-law, Dean Lockwood, have begun doing the special orders. The length of time depends on the season of their regular jobs,” Peterson said.
The cost of a ring includes shipping charges, plus about $20 per item, with cost per piece decreasing with multiple pieces.
If you plan to attend the Minnesota State Fair or Høstfest next fall check their websites (www.MNStateFair.org and hostfest.com respectively) for dates and more info. In the meantime, if you are interested in a spoon ring, contact Peterson at heidi.peterson23@Yahoo.com.
This article originally appeared in the Jan. 29, 2016, issue of the Norwegian American Weekly.