Following his heart

Goldsmith Magnus Homestead will retire after working for nearly 30 years at Runyan's Jewelers

After nearly 30 years spent creating and repairing pieces of jewelry that people treasure, goldsmith Magnus Homestead is set to retire.

Homestead, 62, has been a metalsmith and stone carver for more than 40 years, but for 27 years he has worked at the local family-owned Runyan’s Jewelers in downtown Camas.

“It goes by so fast,” he said.

Today is his final day on the job, and an open house will be held in his honor on Saturday, from 1 to 4 p.m.

Homestead was born in England. His father was a university librarian, so the family lived in several different cities on the East Coast and West Coast of the United States when he was growing up. Eventually, he settled in New Mexico and later moved to Southwest Washington.

Homestead started carving jade in 1972 and two years later became a goldsmith apprentice.

This profession, which dates back to ancient times, has changed greatly over the years, but some aspects of it have also remained the same. Bench hammers, torches, pliers and hand files are still used to manipulate precious metals, alongside them are now lasers and high-powered binocular scopes.

“It’s neat to be a part of something really ancient, but also really modern too,” Homestead said.

He has enjoyed having a role in the important moments in his customers’ lives.

“Jewelry is almost always celebrating something positive. It’s a positive energy field,” Homestead said. “As the person who sits and makes, and repairs, and designs, you get an opportunity to work with people in some of those special moments. When they are getting married, having an anniversary, welcoming new grandchildren, you get to be part of that celebration.”

He explained that among the challenges of his job is taking a customer’s idea or concept, and making it a reality.

“You are working through those communications with them, getting to the point where you really are connecting to that person, and bringing that person’s energy into that piece that you are making,” he said. “Often it is a piece for someone they love very much. It’s challenging.”

Homestead speaks highly of the Runyan family, who has owned the jewelry store since it was opened by Emerson and Lola Runyan in 1946 (the original store was founded by Leonard Runyan in Vancouver in 1917). The couple’s son Paul Runyan and his wife Barbara eventually took over the business, and when they retired in 1997 their daughter Debbie Runyan-Parker took over.

According to Runyan-Parker, Homestead possesses a unique set of skills.

“Custom design is always very special,” she said. “You can’t find just anyone that has those skills. He has been a driving force in that aspect of the business.”

Runyan-Parker described Homestead as a worldly person, someone she has looked to as a mentor over the years.

“Working for different people and at difference venues has enriched his outlook and what inspires him, which is nature especially,” she said. “He’s committed to his roots. I think that is what inspires him the most. Most of his jewelry is organic. That is his niche.”

Homestead has enjoyed working for an employer who supports and encourages the creative process.

“Debbie allows us to do really good work, and take the time to do it,” he said. “First and foremost, it is always about getting the job done properly. Because in the long run, you want everybody walking out to not only be happy as they are walking out, but in five years be really happy about the experience and what they have and what they’re wearing. It’s about long-term relationships.”

Now, however, Homestead will turn his attention to his other interests in life – which are many.

From blacksmithing, building traditional kayaks by hand and studying round wood timber framing, to voraciously reading and spending time with Jo, his wife of 43 years, and their two sons and four grandchildren, Homestead will have no problem filling his time.

“It’s gotten to the point where my life is just so busy otherwise,” he said. “It’s just time to start doing other things.”