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Goldsmith Hugo Kohl has built his wholesale and retail business around hubs (or molds) that were used to make die-struck jewelry in Providence, RI, a jewelry manufacturing center from the 1790s until the 1940s, when casting began to take over the trade. Kohl has collected more than 7,000 hubs and also found and purchased antique and vintage equipment he needed to re-create jewelry from those hubs. In 2015, he opened a combination manufacturing and retail location in a revitalized icehouse in downtown Harrisonburg, VA. He designed a pathway through the workshop among the machinery and tools so visitors could watch. “It’s amazing the effect that has on certain people,” Kohl says. “It’s almost like you made it yourself. You want to own it.” Hugo Kohl is the winner of the 2020 America’s Coolest Stores Contest in the Small Cool division.

Hugo Kohl says his work is the perfect happy accident of discovering something he loves that enables him to make a living.

Hugo Kohl synchronizes “male and female” rolls in preparation for transfer patterns onto silver sheet.

Hugo Kohl takes a break in the hub vault, where he keeps the thousands of antique and vintage molds he has collected.

The Hugo Kohl showroom offers a view of the workshop, which is also open for tours. The showroom is built to the classic design proportions of the golden mean. “The room in its length and width and height has that proportion,” Kohl says. “Even when completely empty, it’s visually very pleasing. It feels like a room should feel. It is not oblong. There are no empty spaces. When I put a tape measure to it, I said, ‘Wow, it really is a perfect room.’”

Goldsmiths Hugo Kohl and Olga Kutsa at work at the bench.

The hub vault is one part of the Museum of American Jewelry Design and Manufacturing.

Goldsmith Olga Kutsa shows off a freshly divested tree of white gold filigree rings.

A closeup view of metal passing through a Gorham Manufacturing Co. roll machine. These rolls, circa 1888, are attributed to designer and sculptor Florentin Antoinne Heller. “Some things I make ONLY as they made them, because it’s the best way,” Kohl says. “And sometimes I take advantage of newer technologies. I’m not limited by the same processes. I have machines in here that when they were built, they were gravity powered or human powered but may have been refitted with older electric motors.”

Kohl uses this 50-ton press in a wide variety of stamping operations. The Zeh & Hahnemann Co. percussion press was manufactured in 1913.

Most of the hubs were collected from manufacturing plants in Providence, RI, once an important center of American jewelry making.

Hugo Kohl bought all the vintage jewelry manufacturing equipment he could find and then learned how to use it.

Kohl preserves the history of American jewelry making with his collection of hubs saved from closed jewelry factories in Providence, RI.

Hugo Kohol leads a tour of his jewelry factor and museum in Harrisonburg, VA.

Kohl specializes in making and selling 20th century jewelry designs from the Art Deco period. Almost everything he makes is available in a wide variety of metals, including sterling silver, 14K, 18K gold in yellow, rose and green, as well as platinum and palladium.

Hugo Kohl Jewelry has found its home in the historic CASCO Icehouse complex in downtown Harrisonburg, VA. The revitalized industrial space includes several restaurants and a brewery. Kohl has been involved in the downtown revitalization process for more than 30 years. “Our boutique and factory have become an anchor location in our downtown and attracted other businesses to locate adjacent to us,” he says.

The courtyard in front of the Hugo Kohl boutique, factory and the Museum of American Jewelry Design and Manufacturing at the historical Ice House in downtown Harrisonburg, VA.

Hugo Kohl’s boutique, factory and museum is housed in the historical Ice House in downtown Harrisonburg, VA.

Hugo Kohl’s finished pieces, available in a wide range of metals, build on the history of jewelry making in America.

18 Photos That Show Why Hugo Kohl Boutique and Factory Is One of America’s Coolest Jewelry Stores

18 Photos That Show Why Hugo Kohl Boutique and Factory Is One of America’s Coolest Jewelry Stores

Goldsmith Hugo Kohl has built his wholesale and retail business around hubs (or molds) that were used to make die-struck jewelry in Providence, RI, a jewelry manufacturing center from the 1790s until the 1940s, when casting began to take over the trade. Kohl has collected more than 7,000 hubs and also found and purchased antique and vintage equipment he needed to re-create jewelry from those hubs. In 2015, he opened a combination manufacturing and retail location in a revitalized icehouse in downtown Harrisonburg, VA. He designed a pathway through the workshop among the machinery and tools so visitors could watch. “It’s amazing the effect that has on certain people,” Kohl says. “It’s almost like you made it yourself. You want to own it.” Hugo Kohl is the winner of the 2020 America’s Coolest Stores Contest in the Small Cool division.