Home for the Holidays: A Nomadic Thumbies Pendant Makes Its Way Home


Bret Dougherty, Co-owner, Studio 2015 Jewelers and Studio D Jewelers, Thumbies

As we arrive at the end of what has been a very long year, both literally and figuratively, I find myself at a different point in my life and grateful for many things that might not have even occurred to me in what feels like “way back” in 2019. You may be familiar with only one facet of the Dougherty family businesses – perhaps our custom jewelry locations or the keepsake jewelry manufacturing, but it has been a brand-new year for us in what is actually a four-decades old family business.

Woodstock, Illinois has been home to my family for the entirety of my life, and I am now raising my own family here. As a family, we made a decision this year to re-brand our Studio 2015 Jewelers to Studio D Jewelers, and to move the retail location to Woodstock Square, a few doors down from where we started our Thumbies keepsake jewelry company. We were fortunate to have the Studio D inaugural weekend over the Thanksgiving holiday, and to be able to safely see many old friends and supporters during that time. But something else happened on opening day that felt meaningful in a distinctive way.

On the day we opened the doors at Studio D, we received a Thumbies keepsake returned to us in the mail. Upon researching the piece, we determined that it came from a funeral home in Iowa, and had been created 20 years ago, a yellow gold wax process Thumbies pendant that had been purchased in remembrance of the buyer’s grandmother. You can see from the image that this was created in a different time, when the shapes and prints were not as exacting as we are able to produce today. But still, it remains unique and meaningful all these years later.

This piece is part of the first version of the Thumbies line that our family was involved in creating, so for us it is sort of like Ford’s Model T. We can often create 2,000 pieces in a busy week at this point, whereas 20 years ago it was approximately 2,000 pieces in the entire year. It is amazing to look at the 20-year-old piece and see how much our process has evolved in many ways, and yet it still tells the same story that our pieces tell today – for each individual family. From the beginning these pieces have been about making a connection with loved ones and 20 years later, while some of the production processes have evolved – the hand craftmanship and the passion for creating that connection with a loved one have remained the same and reflects the priority of our artisans. 

Whether I am at the retail jewelry store or the Thumbies location, it is always a mini treasure hunt when a piece comes back or someone brings in a collection to be evaluated. It is constantly exciting to me to see if I can find the next something cool, to talk with a customer and question them about their family history to discover what a piece might have meant to someone in their lineage. It is about continually looking every piece over carefully, honoring those pieces, finding what is valuable in terms of roots and sentimentality. People sometimes know more than they realize and if you single out an engraving on a ring or a watch that they didn’t even know was there, they will often connect the dots at that point, when they see it for the first time. It’s a piece of their own history, in their hands. This Thumbies pendant coming back to us on the day we opened our new location, four doors down from where it had been made 20 years before? That felt right, and it represented all of the people who have worked for Thumbies over the last 20 years, making it the company it is today. 

With all that has happened and everything that we have adjusted in order to survive in 2020, to be here for our team, our customers, our families, the bottom line is that we would not be in existence without the support of our customers and partners. Even my parents, the company founders, suffered through their own bout with COVID-19 this fall, and the fact that they are both still here leaves me overwhelmed with gratitude. This compounds upon itself, and I, my family, and our entire team here want to thank all of you, and to wish you a peaceful and happy Christmas, along with a better and brighter 2021 for everyone.