Buying your first horse brings unmeasured enjoyment. For Robert Merkert, owner of Dockside Jewelers in Whitehall, horse ownership introduced him to a hidden treasure. A gem, that he has trademarked Equinite. Though he calls Equinite a gem, it is not a stone, but hoof trimmings typically thrown away after the farrier has been out to visit. He uses the trimmings to hand make rings, necklaces, bracelets and other custom pieces.
"I went out to the barn after the farrier had been there. The horse we had just purchased had not been trimmed in awhile and I could see illumination and transparency in the hoof trimming. It sparked my interest to pick it up," Robert explained.
Horse hooves are as diverse as the horse they are trimmed from. Some are a creamy white others a dark brownish black and several shades in between. The uniqueness of each hoof allows for individuality in the pieces that he creates. He even offers custom work allowing horse owners to send in the hoof trimmings of their own horse.
Finding material can be difficult. "Horses that are trimmed every 6-8 weeks leave very small pieces to work with," he commented, "sometimes there are cracks, nail holes and other imperfections in the hoof clipping. It is like working with wood, it can be knotty, you have to find the best grain."
How did Robert settle on the name Equinite TM? "When I first discovered Equinite, I had made few pieces and would carry them around in my pocket to show people," he explained, "I would say, do you know what this is?' They would say Hematite or Jasper. I had to come up with a name that sounded like a mineral, but also that could be related to horses. Equinite just popped into my head because it designates that it is horse related."
Creating jewelry has been a hobby for Robert for several years. After buying a casting machine, he cast gold and silver pieces in his basement of his home. "I would sell pieces to friends and family and it just kind of snowballed from there," he said. In 2007, he opened his own store Dockside Jewelers and traveled to New York City to take diamond classes sponsored by the Gemological Institute of America (GIA). "I am not a gemologist, but wanted to learn about diamonds and be able to grade them," he added. Since discovering Equinite, his focus has been on promoting the newly found gem. He will attend the Equine Affaire in Columbus, Ohio, April 2010.
Robert is always looking for hoof trimmings to work with. "People just throw it away and to me it is a treasure," he said. For more information on Equinite and to learn how to send in your own hoof trimmings for custom made pieces visit his website at www.equinitegems.com or call 518-499-9001.