From the Black Hills of South Dakota come these bookends made for sale to the early tourists visiting the great western National Parks. Fashioned by THE ARTCRAFTERS of Custer, South Dakota, the center-piece of each bookend is a well-cast elk head and antlers from an unknown commerical source. Surrounding the elk head are a variety of gemstones found in the pegmatite seams of South Dakota.
Pegmatite is a granitic rock that contains a variety of gemstones, some quite valuable. The city of Custer, SD is bordered by several pegmatite mines, and the decorative stones were gathered from these local sources. We asked Jeff Swanger, CEO of Oceanview Mines, LLC, a group of famous pegmatite mines located in the Palomar Mountain foothills at Pala, CA, to identify the gemstones on the bookends for us. He found lepidolyte, mica, black tourmaline, beryl and rose quartz and a copper-bearing ore. (If you are visiting in San Diego or Riverside areas and want a special adventure, sign up for a dig at Oceanview Mine. The scenery is real backcountry Southern California and the chances are that you will find your own tourmaline, beryl or kunzite gem and you’ll have a real good time!)
THE ARTCRAFTERS was the business owned and operated by Monte and Lillian Nystrom between 1925 and 1936. Monte was a well-known local stonemason. He was responsible for the magnificent stone fireplace in the Custer State Park Lodge that functioned as Grover Cleveland’s Western White House during the summer of 1927. Monte built the small but distinctive Artcrafters shop which is still standing today and houses the Artcrafters jewelry firm of Kathryn Fitzner. Kathryn generously shared her knowledge of the Nystroms with us.
Margie Nystrom was an untrained but talented artisan. She ran the souvenir design and manufacturing production of THE ARTCRAFTERS studio, and probably created these bookends. These bookends have been donated to the 1881 COURTHOUSE MUSEUM in Custer, South Dakota.