James Avery, Creator of a Southern Jewelry Empire, Dies at 96


He continued manufacturing pieces by himself for three years but eventually hired more help as demand for his rings, bracelets and other designs grew. After years of relying mainly on consignment sales, he realized he had tens of thousands of dollars in unsold merchandise and decided to open a storefront.

He opened his first store in Dallas in 1973, with locations in Houston and San Antonio following soon after. The business expanded methodically over the years, opening stores in Texas, Louisiana, Oklahoma, Tennessee and Georgia.

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An angel wings charm by the Avery company, which is known for its religiously themed designs.

In 1987, Mr. Avery was commissioned by the Archdiocese of San Antonio to design and craft four vessels used by Pope John Paul II at the Mass he said while visiting the city. Mr. Avery also created replicas of the items, which he took to Oklahoma City to exhibit in his store there.

Mr. Avery turned over control of the company to his sons Chris and Paul in 2007, but continued designing pieces for years after. The company, which remains private and family-owned, continues to perform all the steps of production, from design to manufacturing.

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A June birthstone (alexandrite) collection by Avery.

Homer James Avery was born on Dec. 7, 1921, in Milwaukee. He earned a bachelor of fine arts in industrial design from the University of Illinois.

Not long after Pearl Harbor was bombed, on his 20th birthday, Mr. Avery joined the Army Air Forces and eventually commanded a B-26 bomber. He flew in 44 missions over Germany, but the most lasting impact of his military service may have come from his basic training.

Stationed at what became Lackland Air Force Base in San Antonio, he developed a fondness for the Texas hill country and met the woman who would become his first wife, Mona Pierce, in Lubbock. The couple had two children.

After the war, Mr. Avery taught at the University of Iowa and the University of Colorado, where he began experimenting with jewelry-making techniques.

In 1953, he returned to Texas with his second wife, the former Sally Ranger, with whom he later founded his company.

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Mr. Avery turned over control of the company to his sons Chris and Paul in 2007, but continued designing pieces for years after.

Credit
John Dyer Photography/James Avery Artisan Jewelry

Mr. Avery is survived by his fourth wife, Estela;five sons, George, Jim, Tim, Chris and Paul; five stepchildren, Tracy Hollin Avery, Lindsey Hollin, Paco Espinoza, Diana Espinoza Robuck and Sergio Espinoza; 10 grandchildren; and six great-grandchildren. A sixth son, Steven, committed suicide, according to The Express-News.

Although his work was known for its religious influences, Mr. Avery himself was something of a skeptic.

“I’m not concerned about having eternal life at all,” he told the newspaper, adding: “Man will be gone from this planet before too many more years. But while we’re here, let’s be kind to each other and help each other reach out and do whatever we can for each other.”

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