By Randy Arrington
LURAY, Nov. 15 — Few people in the world have ever held a 45-carat diamond in their hands, but Richard Arnold has.
“And I didn’t die,” the longtime jeweler joked. “There were so many tragedies to the families who had it.”
While heading up the Raw Repair Division for the Sterling Corporation and training new jewelers in the Washington, D.C. area, Arnold had the opportunity on occasion to clean, repair or handle special pieces from the White House and the Smithsonian Institute. On this occasion, his assignment was to clean the Hope Diamond.
“I once redid one of Liberace’s pieces…a ring shaped like a piano…encrusted with sapphires on top and diamonds on the sides…the top [of the piano] even opened,” Arnold remembered. “It’s on display at the Smithsonian.”
Richard retired six years ago and moved from Stafford to Luray with his wife Penny, but after six months of retirement he needed something else to do with his time.
“I had walked every trail and driven down every road,” he said with a laugh. “So, I opened a [jewelry repair] shop at Hawksbill Trading Co.…I was surprised at how many people came up to see me.”
Nearly six years later, Arnold saw a need to expand his operations to Main Street.
“The only reason we moved here was because we ran out of space, and they couldn’t offer me more space,” he said.
On Wednesday, local officials and citizens gathered at 20 East Main Street to celebrate the opening of R.P. Arnold Jewelers in Downtown Luray with a ribbon cutting.
“The goal of Hawksbill Trading Co. is obviously working,” Luray-Page County Chamber of Commerce President Gina Hilliard said on Wednesday. R.P. Arnold Jewelers is now the third endeavor to emerge from the “business incubator” and expand to Luray’s Main Street, following Nest and Hive just a few doors down Main Street and Curated located beneath Vivian’s Flowers just across the bridge.
“Nothing makes us happier than a new business on Main Street,” Mayor Jerry Dofflemyer said prior to the ribbon cutting. “It’s another service that keeps people in Luray.”
Arnold provides a variety of jewelry services such as general repair, ring sizing, stone setting, pearl restringing, watch batteries or creating a special piece custom-made for the client.
“I enjoy designing and making special pieces for people,” Arnold said, “and to see their faces when they get these special pieces is very satisfying.”
His 44-year career in jewelry began in Hampton, Va. in 1977, when he began studying art and drafting. Arnold worked for two years as an apprentice for an “old gentleman from Argentina” before attending the Holland School for Jewelers in Alabama to receive his certification. He then worked many years for the Sterling Corporation, which owns several large jewelry outlet chains.
Now that he’s in Luray, Arnold says that his work will speak for itself.
“In six years, I’ve had no complaints…no one hasn’t liked a piece and they seem to be pleased,” he said, “and there’s been plenty of repeat business, so that’s a good sign.”
Arnold plans to add an engraving machine soon and hopes to expand his services again “this time next year.”
“We thought it was a little slow when we first came here,” he said, “but people really come out and support their downtown instead of going to Front Royal or Harrisonburg.”
R.P. Arnold Jewelers is located at 20 East Main Street, Luray, Va. and may be reached by emailing firstname.lastname@example.org or call (843) 597-4730.