Diamond Cutter & Jeweler Tim Ritter Retiring After 50 Years
November 22, 2023 | View PDF
Tim Ritter, Williston, ND, has truly enjoyed his career as a diamond cutter and jeweler but after 50 years, he has decided it's time to relax at his cabin on Pouch Point, and play music. Fortunately, the business is being passed along to his two sons, Ethan and Evan, who will continue the excellence Ritter Brothers is known for.
After pursuing a music career for a few years, Tim and his brother Steve made the decision to become diamond cutters, starting with an apprenticeship in Nevada. While there, Tim also learned the art of silver smithing and jewelry making and followed up with classes at the Gemological Institute of America in Los Angeles.
Back in Williston, the brothers started Ritter Brothers Diamond Cutters in 1976 upstairs in the back of what is now the Cooks on Main building. Their father was a dentist who practiced in the front. Tim explained that a dental lab which made its own gold crowns and bridges, and a jewelry lab were almost identical since everything was done with a lost casting process. After about a year, the brothers opened a retail shop upstairs in the former MDU building next door, with Tim running between the two to assist customers, then back to the lab. "Steve and I worked together for decades and complimented each other," Tim said. "He was the hands-on bench jeweler, a real craftsman, and I was the shop guy assisting customers." Ethan as the craftsman, and Evan expertly dealing with clientele, now fill those roles. Plus, Evan inherited his father's distinctive voice.
In 1978, the opportunity arose to buy their current location, prime real estate on Main Street. A.B. and Gertrude DeGree, DeGree Jewelers, had passed away and their daughter, Ann Barbara decided to sell about a year later, after having Eva Dwyer run the store. "It's a prime location, a super spot," Tim said. After a couple of years, remodeling started. "The flooring in front was blue and red lino tiles. It was pretty bad," Tim said, laughing. Then the oil boom really kicked in and business was booming. Steve left the business at that time, leaving Tim on his own, but returned once the oil boom ended.
Then the bust brought tough times for everyone, but Ritter Brothers continued to provide top quality merchandise, coupled with outstanding service, and survived. "It's been a high ever since," Tim said.
Trips to Antwerp and Amsterdam to purchase diamonds, as well as trips to Bankok to purchase the best sapphires and rubies in the world, were high points during Tim's long career. He was thrilled to meet the grandson of the man who cut the Cullinan diamond, the largest gem quality rough diamond ever found in the world. The Cullinan II which is in the Imperial State Crown, is housed in the Tower of London. He was also able to see the mold that the man used to determine the cut. In all, nine diamonds were cut from that one stone. "That was exciting," he said.
"It's been a treat and a joy," Tim said of his long career. "We've served generations of the same family and it's been fun. Our trade area is Montana, North Dakota, Canada, and beyond. The sale has been an especially good time with old buddies stopping in to visit and shop. I love 'em all!"
"The customers are our backbone and we go the extra mile for them," Tim said. "Having a craftsman on hand has been the key to our success," he explained. "People from out of town don't have to wait, we can do repairs the same day. You must have an expert bench jeweler on the premises. It's a prerequisite to success."
For Tim, the past 50 years have flown by. He credits his incomparable staff for much of that. "They were the best, always, and super compatible with the clientele, both in Williston and Devils Lake. They are all part of the Ritter Brothers family."
"It's been a great career," he said. "I love music more but both have provided a great creative outlet. I've been able to work with the best merchandise in the best setting, with top-notch clientele. I've enjoyed it all. It's sad to see it come to an end but at 75, I'm tired and need to step back and slow down. The staff and the customers have made the whole rodeo worthwhile."
Tim is confident that his sons will continue the solid tradition of Ritter Brothers. "They're great kids, and top-notch jewelers," he said. "They are tradesmen and good craftsmen and can communicate well on any level, with any age group." Both attended New Approach Jewelers School, Franklin, TN, the best school in the country for the arts. Tim taught them everything he could with the technology he had, but technology has changed and improved dramatically and the young men have learned it all. "With the new technology, they are better jewelers than I ever was," Tim said proudly. Laser welding, which generates no heat, was a huge development, allowing jewelers to be more precise and work with any type of material including colored stones and silver. Electronic instruments to detect quality and type of stones as well as bullion have also made counterfeiting more difficult. "Counterfeiting is rampant in coins, gold bars, etc.," Tim explained. "We had to buy the new equipment."
As Ethan and Evan make the store their own in January, they plan to update some lines to reflect current trends and economics. "We'll be ordering in some more earthy lines which are popular right now, as well as keeping the classic lines," Ethan explained. "We want to cater to both our past and future clientele." Evan loves being part of the community and plans to continue the tradition of donating to virtually every cause that comes their way.
Ritter Brothers huge liquidation sale is on right now in both Williston and Devils Lake through Dec. 30 with the entire inventory up to 70% off. Merchandise including jewelry, clocks, Waterford crystal and more is being brought out from all parts of the store and new items are coming in as well. "We have an excellent selection," Tim stated. The store is not taking in repairs until after the sale. "All that will be done after the boys take over," he said. "That new Christmas ring will be expertly sized."
Tim will continue with his first love which is music. He still plays the guitar and sings for corporate gigs, weddings and funerals, often with fiddler Amanda Johnson who has been his partner for the last decade. "She sings beautifully and our style and voices blend." Catch Tim on a Friday evening at The Eleven restaurant or maybe jamming at Books on Broadway on a Saturday afternoon mostly during the winter months.
Congratulations on your retirement Tim. Enjoy!