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Fairbanks Jeweler turns old insulators into new rings and necklaces

Published: Oct. 21, 2021 at 5:29 PM AKDT
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FAIRBANKS, Alaska (KTVF) - When Michael Wong first saw an old glass insulator in a friend’s garden, he couldn’t help but notice the way it sparkled and shined.

“Being a cutter and loving color, I noticed it, and I thought to myself, ‘that would probably make a pretty gemstone if I cut it into a gemstone,’ so I did,” Wong said.

Colorful glass insulators, mainly used between 1875 and 1930, were installed atop poles across the country.

Glass insulators sat atop telephone and telegram poles and were used to prevent electric...
Glass insulators sat atop telephone and telegram poles and were used to prevent electric current loss during transmission.(Sarah Hollister)

“They’d run the telegraph wire around the glass to the next pole to keep the wire from losing its current to ground,” Wong explained. “You don’t see them hanging anymore. They kind of all disappeared.”

Starting his career mining gems underground in California, it wasn’t long before Wong self-taught himself to cut and facet.

Wong works with all different kinds of stones but has carved himself out a unique business using insulators.

Michael Wong cuts the insulators into smaller pieces before carving them into gems.
Michael Wong cuts the insulators into smaller pieces before carving them into gems.(Sarah Hollister)

“I start out with the insulators and I cut or break them into small pieces - then by hand, just holding it in my fingers, I’ll shape the stone,” Wong said.

Wong says he likes the idea of preserving history but loves the way the jewelry shines.

“I just thought it was really pretty glass, and I wanted to try it,” Wong chuckled with a smile.

Master Jeweler and Faceter Michael Wong makes rings and necklaces using old insulator glass.
Master Jeweler and Faceter Michael Wong makes rings and necklaces using old insulator glass.(Sarah Hollister)
Michael Wong created the gems for these necklaces and rings using old glass insulators. Glass...
Michael Wong created the gems for these necklaces and rings using old glass insulators. Glass insulators were used around the country atop telegram and telephone wires mostly between 1875 and 1930.(Sarah Hollister)

You can find Michael Wong’s glass insulator pieces in Fairbanks at Bishop’s Jewelry Gallery and Gold Rush Fine Jewelry.

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