Chadwick Uptain sits at a table on the patio of Jobot Coffee Shop in downtown Phoenix, working on his Mac laptop. It's 5:30 on a Tuesday evening, and he's got a rare break from watching his 4-month-old baby daughter. He's working, poring over images of his jewelry designs. "I don't have free time," he says. "Any spare minute I have, I try to be productive."
As Chadwick the Jeweler, Uptain makes one-of-a-kind designs, many featuring an organic or nature influence. His series "The Deadly Seas" includes tornado-shaped, cast sterling silver earrings called "Tsunami" and the "Water Bubbles Bracelet," made with lapis lazuli and crystal quartz beads. There's also Uptain's "Lily" pendant and ring, a series of pieces designed like roses, and a line of exotic wood rings.
Uptain's been making jewelry since he was 18, when his uncle, who owned a jewelry store in Phoenix, put him to work making custom designs. Now 34, Uptain continues to design jewelry and makes every piece by hand. "I've done pretty much everything in the jewelry industry, from wax carving to casting to stone setting, soldering, everything," he says. "I try not to incorporate any after-market pieces. I try to design every little piece of every piece."
His designs are sold locally at MADE art boutique and Frances, and on etsy.com. Uptain's usually wearing something he made — at Jobot, he's sporting a beautiful silver and gemstone ring, along with a simple silver band on his wedding finger with the words "Till Death" etched in the metal. He's not married, but he made a set of rings last Christmas for himself and his girlfriend. Uptain's ring has a battered patina that gives it an unusual shine. "I just pounded it with a hammer," he says, adjusting the black derby cap that's hiding his long, strawberry blond hair.
The gemstone ring, he explains, is special because the main stone is rare chatoyant malachite from a mine in Bisbee. The stone gives off a radiant green shine and contains intricate spiral patterns and lines. Uptain set the stone next to a teardrop gem of amethyst (his birth stone). He used to work a lot with sterling silver and gemstones, and would scour Tucson's gem show for materials.
But these days, he's working mostly on a jewelry series made from pewter. Pewter is softer and easier to work with than silver, Uptain says, and it's also more affordable. "I recently designed the pewter line to follow the economy, to be able to provide a less expensive product," he says. "Because there's not a lot of girls running around with two or three hundred dollars for a fashionable ring right now."
Asked what type of person buys his designs, Uptain looks down at the table and thinks long and hard before smiling and answering. "Adventurous women who love compliments."