Folks from all over the Lone Star State, from Tarleton grads to couples across West and North Texas, recognize Swindle’s Jewelry as a true state icon. From handcrafted watches to wedding rings and more, Swindle’s is known far and wide for their dedication to creating long-lasting, stunning pieces for Texans from all walks of life. This Texas Treasure has brought joy and craftsmanship to countless Texans from its founding in 1942 to today.
In the early 1940s, Grady “Big Red” and Gracie “Gus” Swindle founded their store in Dublin, Texas, complete with a watchmaking school in the back room. After having met during a watchmaking course at Hardin Junior College in Wichita Falls, Texas, and suffering disabilities of their own — Grady suffered severe arthritis and Gracie had contracted polio at the age of 3 — the pair wanted to provide an opportunity for disabled veterans returning home from WWII to learn the watchmaking trade. The pair lived and worked in the space, making their home in a garage apartment upstairs and surviving on just $1 per day ($18.46 in 2024 dollars).
By the late 1950s, the couple had closed down their school following Grady’s 1958 heart attack. However, the store continued to grow and serve the community. The store was even mentioned in a 1950s edition of Ripley’s Believe It or Not for the irony of their shop’s name, bringing in a broader customer base.
In the early 1980s, Swindle’s achieved their crowning moment when their son, G.A. “Pinkie” Swindle, designed a new type of class ring for Tarleton State University: the coin ring. These rings added a fashionable flair to the classic academic style and quickly became a hit among the students of the time. They were so popular, in fact, that they soon became the store’s signature item.
It’s said that if a student chose to customize their ring, Pinkie would often name the style after them and add it to the store’s offered selections. In addition to Tarleton, Swindle’s has since gained the licensing rights to produce rings for UT Arlington, Abilene Christian University, Angelo State University, Texas State University, and Texas A&M Central Texas.
Throughout the years, Swindles’ stores have speckled much of West Texas, but their sole store is now located in Stephenville’s Bosque River Shopping Center on the far west side of town. Today the shop is owned and operated by Brit Van Zandt, the Swindles’ great-grandson.
“Swindle’s Jewelry represents the best of our community,” says Julie Smith of Tarleton State. “For more than 80 years, the community has trusted this business with the most important days of their lives. From wedding days to graduation days and holiday giving, Swindle’s Jewelry has helped generations of our community sparkle and shine.”
In recent years, technology has advanced exponentially and few of the shop’s original jewelry-making practices remain. Yet one thing has stayed the same throughout the past eight decades — the Swindle family’s dedication to providing quality jewelry for all of life’s special moments.
Congratulations to Swindle’s Jewelry for receiving a Texas Treasure Business Award!
*The Texas Treasure Business Award program is an initiative of the Texas Historical Commission. Since 2005, over 500 Texas businesses have been honored for their historic significance.