The Owners Old

Bill and Rita Bishop - Bishops Jewelry Fairbanks AK

Bill and Rita Bishop, having a family history of Alaskan Gold Miners, started manufacturing and selling jewelry in 1985.  Their first studio was a single room cabin in Soldotna, Alaska making jewelry from natural gold nuggets mined in Alaska's vast wilderness.  Small gift shops bought their jewelry and sold it to tourists who came to Alaska during their visit to see the last great frontier.  Bill and Rita were the first to create a silver jewelry line highlighted with natural gold nuggets, which made a product that was very affordable for the gift shops to sell.  This set their business apart from all other wholesalers.  In 1987 they relocated their business to be closer to the miners in Fairbanks Alaska.  Their jewelry was rich with heritage from the early days of gold mining that brought growth to this challenging climate in the late 1800's.  Their business grew over the years to come, as did their family.    

Bill. being a good provider, hunted and fished for recreation but mostly to feed their growing family.  They began their family in September of 1987 with their son Hunter Wesley Bishop delivering him in a home birth.  Next to follow was their daughter Teal Marguerite Bishop and last was their daughter, Vivian Francis Bishop, all of which were nineteen months apart in age.  They raised all three of them in Fairbanks, Alaska.   They ate only moose, caribou, Dall sheep, halibut, clams, and salmon.  They gathered and hunted their food every year, growing incredible gardens each summer.  Alaska provided a unique atmosphere to raise three wonderful children that became Bill and Rita’s best kinetic sculptures thus far.  Bill and Rita’s son, Hunter Bishop, was the first homegrown Fairbanks hockey player to sign an NHL contract.  Hunter signed in 2010 with Montreal Canadians.  Both Hunter and Teal attended college on hockey scholarships at Ohio State University.  This lead to Bill to designing a beautiful line of hockey jewelry,, worn by Hockey Legends, Bobby Hull and Guy Lafleur.

Rita, a graduate of the Cleveland Institute of Art, brought the element of design and originality to their jewelry. Though her Major was in Textiles Design, Rita’s Minor was Metal-smithing.  She was fortunate to have studied jewelry design from the famous John Paul Miller, who was responsible for bringing the lost art of granulation into contemporary jewelry design.  CIA heavily influenced Rita in her choices of design and manufacturing. This helped set them apart from their competition in the state of Alaska.  

Bill, a self taught jeweler with additional technical training from the University of Alaska Fairbanks and the Gemological Institute of America, choose the more technical side of the business.   His background in the restaurant business as a chef with family from a famous family owned restaurant, Monty’s Steakhouse in California, his native state, and New York City in the late 1970's, inspired his flare for organization and production skills that fueled the manufacturing business. These skills would make them one of the biggest suppliers of gold nugget jewelry in Alaska over the following thirty years.  Selling to over 150 stores throughout Alaska, major department stores in Japan, QVC on TV, Museums, and the finest and most beautiful galleries in their state.  They produced a sixty-page catalogue showcasing over four lines of jewelry and Signature Series that were numbered and showcased as One of a Kinds, under the name, Fishing For Gold Inc.,   Bill and Rita still provide gold nugget jewelry for the top gift shops in Alaska.   

In 2008, Bill would lead the family into opening up their first retail store.  With 60 years of experience combined between them, the store successfully bloomed into a popular local attraction.   The designing and manufacturing skills that both Bill and Rita displayed made it easy for the transition into their ownership of Bishop's Jewelry Gallery.   A 2000 square foot full service jewelry store in Fairbanks, Alaska was born.