Inside Concord’s gem of a business

  • Sarah Huggins at her workbench in the back of her Gems First Custom Jewelry Shop on Main Street in Concord. GEOFF FORESTER photos / Monitor staff

  • Sarah Huggins with a custom earring she designed named ‘Spellbound,’ 14k yellow gold Green Tourmaline--12.96 carats--accented with Blue Sapphires (0.50ctw) and Diamonds (0.29ctw).  GEOFF FORESTER—Monitor staff

  • Sarah Huggins in the work bench in the back of her Gems First Custom Jewelry Shop on Main Street in Concord. GEOFF FORESTER—Monitor staff

  • An 18-karat yellow gold “Shakti” pendant featured at her shop includes Paraiba tourmalines.

  • Sarah Huggins loves working with custom jewelry whether it is worth $75 or $20,000. GEOFF FORESTER—Monitor staff

Monitor staff
Published: 10/28/2018 9:00:18 PM

For gemologist Sarah Huggins, it all started with a shovel in her Barnstead backyard.

“When I was in high school my brother Brian found a quartz vein behind my mother’s house and we chipped away at some crystals and I would look at them under a microscope for hours and hours from this wonderful spot of crystals in the middle of nowhere,” Huggins said. “And that was the beginning.

“Once I saw what was living inside of those crystals, I was totally passionate about it. But I didn’t think I could make a career out of it,” she said.

Twenty years later, Huggins is a board-certified gemologist living her dream at Gems First in Concord. In fact, she is the only gemologist on Main Street and has professional certifications from both the Gemological Institute of America and the American Gem Society.

Even as Huggins began studying to be a nurse, the passion of gems called out to her, enough to answer an ad for a jewelry sales job with Mark and Heidi Knipe in Concord. “They hired me with no experience but they saw the light in my eyes from my passion; they stuck out their necks for me and I have the utmost respect for them. I thought to sell jewelry maybe I can make jewelry,” she said.

“But it didn’t dawn on me that rocks could be a job.”

Huggins began studying gemology and 3-D Cad design with an eye of making high-end jewelry and when the Knipes eyed retirement two years ago, Huggins ventured with her boyfriend and business partner Steven Lemieux at Gems First. “I am an artist and I can make things. Steven knows about numbers, thank God,” she said.

In addition, Huggins is also an appraiser of gems and even has a portable laboratory to go onsite. “That way people don’t have to leave anything with me and they can go have a cup of coffee in their kitchen while I do my work,” she said.

Earlier this month Huggins sponsored an Erica Courtney Trunk Sale at her shop, with high-end jewelry some of the stars wear.

Huggins’s eyes widen when she talks about her favorite gem that had one pendant.

“It has to be rare gems like Paraiba Tourmaline,” she said.

Paraiba tourmaline is one of the most sought-after and most expensive gemstones in the world. Brazil is one of the major countries that produce paraiba tourmaline, Huggins said.

It is known for its unique glow that is often referred to as electric or neon. Price per carat of the best Paraiba tourmaline easily surpasses diamond prices.

“Diamonds have nothing on them,” Huggins said.

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