For 50 years, Gist Silversmiths has set the standard for silver buckle design and craftsmanship. It's our uncompromising devotion to quality – combined with a service ethic that's second-to-none – that makes Gist Silversmiths the choice of champions. We believe, what a champion gets should be worth what a champion gives.
As we reach this amazing milestone, please take a moment and reflect with us on some of our more memorable moments and successes of this family business and how we've grown into the company we are today.
California Gold…..and Silver
The Early Years … roping and rodeo fuel a lifestyle and a thriving business!
Born to Byron and Mickey Gist, Gary was raised in southern California. Byron was an ornamental ironsmith in Lakeside, CA, crafting everything from ornate fencing to weathervanes and giving Gary his first exposure to artistic design and manufacturing.
Byron schooled his son in horsemanship and influenced him to work hard … learn, practice and strive to be the best.
In 1953 at age 7, Gary entered his first jackpot with Byron. “I was riding my half Welsh and half Shetland pony named 'Blackie'. It was a 2-steer for $1.50 a man. I remember coming home with eighteen $1 bills to show Mom. Needless to say, I was hooked on roping,” remembers Gary.
At age 12, Gary joined the PRCA, making him their youngest member.
In 1962, at age 16, Gary and Byron competed in the Pro Rodeo World hampionships and the National Finals Rodeo. They went on to compete at the NFR for 12 years.
The highlight of Gary's roping careercame in 1964 at age 18, winning the NFR Average with his dad Byron and finishing second in the World standings. “We were actually the youngest father and son team around in the 50's and 60's”, said Gary. “And we roped so long together as a father and son team, I'm sure we were the oldest!” Sadly, Byron passed away in 2013 at the age of 91, but Gary has a lifetime of fond memories, one of which is roping with him up until he was 85 years old.
In 1964, at age 19, a letter in the mail changed the course of Gary's life... Drafted into the Marines, he spent 2 years serving his country during the Vietnam conflict. The “long days of sitting and waiting” while serving, gave him time to think about his future. He gave serious thought to becoming a professional silversmith and believed he could start his own business.
An idea was born … in 1968, at age 23, Gary returned from Vietnam and continued to rodeo a bit, but he focused his energy on learning the silversmith business. “It was tough to make a living as a rodeo cowboy, so I made my hobby a business. If I hadn't, I probably would have ended up a broke cowboy”. Winning several championship buckles in his early roping career, Gary was confident enough that he could not just win them, but also make them
In 1971, Gary moved his business to Northern California, first in Oakland and then with expansion on to Vacaville.
Fueled by solid business growth and a desire to enjoy a calmer, more scenic lifestyle with his family, Gary moved to the current location in the heart of the “Gold country”, Placerville, CA.
Family … and a Team of Experts help the business grow and thrive!
Following in their father's footsteps, Gary's sons Branden and Chad have excelled in different aspects of the business.
· As a teenager, Branden started in the tool and die shop, an area which forms the foundation for the company's growth and development of superior advances in the reproduction of a variety of design elements and manufacturing strategies. Working his way up from Shop Foreman to Plant Manager, Branden now guides the team of artisans.
· Chad began engraving at 11 years old, laying the foundation for his love of art. As Art Director and one of the best buckle designers in the industry, he continues to create unique and innovative designs, keeping Gist Silversmiths the forerunner and most sought after award and custom buckle in the world.
· The Gist Team brings together a mix of hand-craftsmanship and technology working in perfect harmony. To create a single custom buckle involves 28 steps and each step has employees involved that are committed to making the piece the very best it can be.
· Our staff averages 14 years with the company and most department leaders have in excess of 20 years on the job. Of particular note, our senior master engraver has over 40 years on the job!
· “In looking back to those who have had a profound impact in the success of Gist Silversmiths as well to our present artisans, craftsmen, operators and front office team, my family offers our gratitude. Without their continued commitment to excellence, Gist would not be where we are today and you, our loyal customers, would not covet your prestigious Gist buckles,” acknowledges Gary in summarizing 50 years of growth and success.
Challenges … present opportunity!
· Simplistic designs of 50 years ago have given way to more creative influences and our art department has continually risen to each new challenge, creating unique lettering fonts and stone settings along with innovative shapes and edge design.
· Game Changer … in the late 1970's, a foray into more innovative tooling applications opened the door to offer more interesting design features at affordable pricing. Gary Gist remarks, “We were doing something no one else was doing at the time; being able to replicate hand engraving that has 99% of the detail of the original”. Gist Silversmiths could now produce product for a wide range of budgets, build it all in the USA and be able to maintain consistent quality.
· Today, we continually seek better ways to supply our current and new customers with quality products that include unique design features at affordable prices. As the buckle industry continues to expand, new machinery and a variety of new and updated technologies, help us expand our ability to keep pace with the growing need, all proudly made in the USA. Our authentic event motifs have always been a great source of pride. Once tediously sculpted from clay, todays digital technology has allowed us to produce superior 3-dimensional detailing considerably faster.
· As precious metal prices saw dramatic increases in the early 2000's, Gist continued to expand the mass production of their most popular styles in the Champions Minted Collection, a distinctive line of award buckles. A shift from more costly gold accents to more creative elements with black painted accents appeared in new designs, along with unique and varied stone settings.
· Made in the USA takes on new meaning: With buckles being made overseas or by our neighbors south of the border, we are committed to be proudly made in our Placerville, CA facility. We take great pride in the value this provides to our customers, national associations and to contestants everywhere.
Customers … fuel the creativity and growth over the decades!
As the premier award buckle manufacturer in the western lifestyle industry for now five decades, Gist has been fortunate to design awards for generations of equine and livestock enthusiasts. “Our industry partners have fueled our growth and success over the years and we try to give back whenever possible to help grow these associations and support the youth,” says Gary. “I was lucky my father introduced me to the sport of team roping and now I'm able to bring that love of the lifestyle to my grandkids! I hope that many more families in the future will continue to enjoy all that this industry has to offer and Gist wants to be a part of that in the future.”
· Customer Service: Contrary to popular belief, customer service is NOT dead! As a direct sales company, you can call us directly to place your order. We will pick up the phone and match you with a qualified sales team specialist who will assist you with your needs and guide you through the process. Just let us know your budget and we'll make sure we match you up with the appropriate buckle type. We make it easy for you to do business with us!
· The “throwaway” mentality: In this day and age of “it's not meant to last” being the norm, Gist Silversmiths is more dedicated than ever to provide our customers with a product that will last and is expected to last. From our Champions Minted Collection of silver and gold electroplated product to our Masters Collection in karat gold and sterling heirloom buckles and accessories, you can always count on Gist Silversmiths to deliver consistent and superior quality and the ultimate in durability.