Rudi Haug continues his mastery of jewelry, with the family business he started in 1975 in downtown Hendersonville.
The shop specializes in repair of jewelry and watches, crafting custom jewelry, and sale of new jewelry or pieces on consignment. Since 1980, after its first five years, the store has been at 434 N. Main St. next door to the original site.
Haug, 77, is known as the city’s “original goldsmith.” Though semi-retired, he works four days per week. He is invaluable as a lifelong mentor to colleagues. Rudi was consulted about a unique challenge, when The Tribune stopped by Monday.
The family tradition carries on, with his son Ronnie the full-time jeweler and Ronnie’s step-son Brentley Orr as an apprentice. Rudi’s wife Valerie has helped out before. Their daughter Yvonne Hill is store manager.
“It’s been my dream, for my children to carry on the business,” Rudi said. Ronnie has worked for him for 32 years since a senior in high school, and Yvonne for 25 years — nearly all as store manager.
“I’m very proud to keep going what my Dad started from nothing,” Yvonne said. “We work very well together.” She added that “my Dad said he’ll work until his ‘head hits the bench.’”
“I’m very grateful learning this trade under my Dad,” Ronnie said. “His quality is unsurpassed. I’ve worked with many jewelers, who come and go. I’m honored by how Dad is a stickler. He taught me the right way. We do quality work, and we stand by our work.” Ronnie said some jobs are rework of “repairs done elsewhere” such as “using solder on the prongs that (eventually) disappears, instead of actually using metal as we do.”
Ronnie projects Brentley with his mechanical aptitude and eager learning will “be better than I am.” Brentley said he likes the “hands-on” work, and learning from masters in his family.
Though Rudi and Ronnie bring experience, they also adapt to new tool technology and styling challenges. As Yvonne noted, since “invisible set” diamonds are wedged together, if one loosens others fall apart in a domino effect.
The jewelers do custom logo engraving or wax carving, and computerized engraving. Ronnie said they can repair jewelry “better and quicker” with a costly laser welder, and often do same-day repairs.
Goldsmith by Rudi prices are very competitive, Yvonne said, largely because work is all in-house. In fact, Rudi began as an outsourcer for 50 area jewelry shops before opening his own store. He then serviced 25 shops each week when Ronnie started, Ronnie said. “We couldn’t sit around, and be artsy. We had to stay at it. He’d say, “speed up, every chance you get.’” Ronnie added, “I work better under pressure and stress. Dad’s the same way.”
Rudi said in “learning my craft, I had to hustle” to meet heavy workloads.” Still today, “you have to have top quality, but also have efficiency and get the work out in time.”
Rudi is still precise and “very mechanically-skilled,” Yvonne said. “People say ‘If Rudi can’t do it, it can’t be done.’ He fixes all kinds of things. He made a brace out of metal, for somebody’s hand.”
Orders for custom jewelry are up to a few each week, Yvonne said. She said it is often cheaper to customize, melting and recycling precious metals rather than pay for those costly materials. Or, for example, customers want an heirloom piece modernized into an engagement ring.
Jewelry making is such a fine craft. Ronnie noted that it takes a blend of artistic vision, common-sense foresight on what will fit together and last, and careful detailed craftmanship for enduring quality. “You have to be more than an artist,” he said. “You have to make it work, and come together just right.”
That last component requires confidence, focus, patience and persistence. Brentley stays relaxed and focused. He and Ronnie pace projects in work stations in back, by listening to rock music on cable radio. But when Rudi is in, they tune to a station from his native Germany for folk music.
Rudi came to this country at age 20. He was a mechanic in the U.S. Army, running a crane that lifted tanks out of mud.
He is the first jeweler in his family. Both of his grandfathers were skilled tradesmen, and business owners. They also lived near Stuttgart. One was a gunsmith. He made trigger housings for Sauer guns. The Nazis seized his factory, for military use in World War II. The allies did not return it, after the war. Rudi’s brother was a gunsmith.
Their other grandfather ran a large print shop. He printed a newspaper for a nearby farm area. The printing press was on the bottom floor of the building where Rudi’s family lived, on the third and top level. He recalled when the press ran, the “whole house shook.”
Working diligently, Rudi keeps the mood loose at times. “He’s very funny,” Yvonne said. “He has such a dead-pan face. You’re not really sure if he’s kidding or not.”
Rudi Haug earned a civic honor as 2009 Main Street Champion, for “exceptional contributions to the downtown revitalization process.” For decades he has promoted and donated to Main Street, such as for Christmas lamp wreaths and roofline lighting, sidewalk benches and plant pots for festivals.
He is pleased how Main Street has grown busier since 35 years ago. Rudi quipped how back then, once most stores closed at 5 p.m. “you could shoot a cannon down Main Street, and not hit anyone. No one was there. Today, people stay here to eat and shop.”
For more on the Goldsmith by Rudi, call 693-1030 or check http://thegoldsmithbyrudi.com/.