The Rock Diva of Albuquerque

Gertrude Zachary’s eponymous jewelry stores are menageries of color.

NEED TO KNOW
Follow the scenic and sinuous Highway 14—the aptly named Turquoise Trail.

ALBUQUERQUE
SHOP
At the Fall Gem, Mineral, and Jewelry Show, Oct. 3–5, you can hunt for New Mexico turquoise and chat with rockhounds among scores of mineral-loving vendors. Expo New Mexico; exponm.com
VISIT The Turquoise Museum shares the reality, lore, and history of turquoise from around the world. (505) 247-8650; mynm.us/turqmuseum

CERRILLOS

VISIT Casa Grande Trading Post showcases turquoise from local mines such as the Little Chalchihuitl and the Little Blue Bell, in a rustic setting with a petting zoo and museum. 17 Waldo St.; (505) 438-3008; casagrandetradingpost.com

MADRID

SHOP Gypsy Gem (2883 Hwy. 14; 505-424-0503) and Trading Bird Pottery Gallery (2868 Hwy. 14; 505-438-6144) feature jewelry with gemstones mined by the stores’ owner Riana Newman, from her Carlita claim in the Cerrillos hills.
EAT
The Hollar brings Southern-fusion fare to this historic mining town, including fried green tomatoes, and shrimp and grits. (505) 471- 4821; thehollarrestaurant.com

Gertrude Zachary’s eponymous jewelry stores are menageries of color. Gemstones in hues of celadon, coral, and amethyst adorn striking baubles. Such colorful and contemporary designs have been Zachary’s signature since the 1970s, when she saw the potential of gems such as turquoise to be the centerpieces of contemporary designs. This innovation set a new course for Southwestern design, and inspired new generations of turquoise lovers.

Zachary (1937–2013) arrived in New Mexico by way of Germany, New York, and Michigan. The young doctor’s wife soon fell in love with the state—if out of love with her husband. While a single mother, Zachary built a career buying and selling Native American jewelry. After a subsequent divorce from Albuquerque businessman Dick Zachary, she gained a jewelry manufacturing facility in the settlement, and set up her wholesale operation in 1974. She moved the workshop downtown in 1976, where it remains today.

Zachary had no experience in design or craft, but she had a fresh approach to a genre renowned for its adherence to tradition. In 1991, she opened a retail shop catering to local women, ranging from serious collectors to the young and stylish. The company now has two Albuquerque stores, one in Nob Hill and one downtown, and an antiques store. Zachary may have been petite, but her personality was anything but. “She was bigger than life. Nothing really fazed her,” says Erica Hatchell, Zachary’s daughter and COO of Gertrude Zachary Jewelry. “She was 100 percent business. She worked in bed, and carried a notepad with her while she was getting ready in the morning and at dinner, so she could jot ideas down. She believed in complete perfection. Anything she touched turned to gold.”

The company has remained devoted to contemporary Native American designs, but Hatchell has introduced more variety. Hatchell’s designs are conservative, dainty, and affordable compared to Zachary’s blingier ones. Zachary amassed an impressive turquoise collection from now shuttered mines, such as Sleeping Beauty and Cerrillos, and the company will be drawing on these rare reserves for years to come, as well as on Zachary’s never-produced designs. A team of seven in-house Native American silversmiths and six other artists handcraft each design,
and are particularly known for their intricate inlay works.

Zachary paved the way for female designers—the Native American jewelry industry was long dominated by men—and prompted others to employ traditional stones, such as turquoise. Among them is her sister Lilly Barrack, who worked in Zachary’s shop in the 1980s and went on to create her own glittering line, typified by large, eye-catching, statement silver pieces set with tumbled stone. Barrack now has three Albuquerque stores in North East Heights, Nob Hill, and the North Valley.