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Jeweler retiring after five decades in industry

by Summer Zalesky Daily Inter Lake
| May 22, 2022 12:00 AM

Business has never been better, according to Murphy McMahon, the owner of L’Or Custom Jewelers on Main Street in Kalispell, and yet he’s headed into retirement.

“Business has grown exponentially,” McMahon said. “But I can’t find help.”

To keep up with the amount of work, McMahon said he needs two full-time goldsmiths. He has tried to recruit jewelers from other states, but the high cost of living in the Flathead Valley has dissuaded the potential employees.

“I have been working 60 hours per week for the last two years and I keep getting further and further behind, so I made the decision to close the store and have a gigantic sale,” he said. After 50 years of working in jewelry, McMahon is leaving behind a legacy.

McMahon’s uncle was a jeweler, which is how he got started.

“I didn’t like standing behind the sales counter though,” he said. “So I went to Seattle to learn the trades. Then I went to Portland and worked with an old school jeweler for six months.” McMahon said he learned how to set diamonds here and learned the traditional way of working in jewelry.

Before opening his current store in Kalispell, McMahon owned a store in Whitefish. The Kalispell store was an attorney’s office and before that, was owned by the family of a Swiss immigrant who had a cattle ranch in Kalispell. McMahon bought the storefront in Kalispell in 1997 and after a few years of remodeling, he opened full-time in 2004.

The shop has been decorated with bookshelves and chairs to curate the specific atmosphere of home.

“I want this to feel like your living room at home,” McMahon said. “I want people to be smiling when they come in here.”

McMahon specializes in making custom jewelry. Clients bring in sketches and go through the process of envisioning the final product with McMahon. All of the material for the jewelry comes from a fair-trade dealer in Virginia which means that the gold is ethically sourced and recycled. McMahon enjoys working with all mediums, though his favorite to work with is 18-carat yellow gold.

“It is a nice, flexible metal and has a rich color,” he said. “The jewelry is priced by the cost of material and the time put into the piece. I can easily put 70 hours into a piece.”

“The most rewarding part of my work is knowing that I built something that is going to get handed down,” he added. “Even if they don’t know who built it, it's a legacy.”

One of his clients is third generation as he made custom jewelry for her grandparents.

“Nobody has grandma’s shoes, but the jewelry gets passed down,” he laughed. To McMahon, it feels satisfying knowing that he has created an heirloom for generations to come.

While McMahon had not envisioned retiring at this point in time, he is excited to use his free time to get a knee replacement and spend time with his son and new grandchild.

Currently, L’Or Custom Jewelry is having a sale with markdowns up to 70% and the sale will continue until most of the store is cleared out. McMahon said he has a huge collection of jewelry that he is hoping to sell as it will eventually be invested in his retirement fund.

“The response to the sale has been overwhelming and we’ve been very busy,” he said.

L’Or Custom Jewelry is located at 735 S Main St, Kalispell and is open Monday to Friday 10 a.m. to 6 p.m. and Saturday 10 a.m. to 3 p.m. Call 406-755-4220 or visit https://lorcustomjewelers.com/.

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L'Or Custom Jewelers at 735 N. Main St. in Kalispell on Thursday, May 12. (Casey Kreider/Daily Inter Lake)

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Murphy McMahon at L'Or Custom Jewelers in Kalispell on Thursday, May 12. (Casey Kreider/Daily Inter Lake)

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Tanzanite rings at L'Or Custom Jewelers in Kalispell on Thursday, May 12. (Casey Kreider/Daily Inter Lake)

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Inside L'Or Custom Jewelers in Kalispell on Thursday, May 12. (Casey Kreider/Daily Inter Lake)

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A Montana sapphire ring at L'Or Custom Jewelers in Kalispell on Thursday, May 12. (Casey Kreider/Daily Inter Lake)

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