September 21, 2022

An Austin artisan heads to the Hill Country

“I didn’t change — Austin changed,” says jewelry designer Dean Fredrick.


Jewelry designer Dean Fredrick doesn’t have a single ring displayed in his shop — each one is already on a finger somewhere out in the world. The custom designer/hipster artisan recently moved his business from Austin to New Braunfels, in search of the laid-back vibe he first found when moving to the city 15-plus years ago.

“I didn’t change — Austin changed,” he tells me from a safe six feet away. (It turns out “by appointment only” are the three most important words in the English language post-COVID.)

His new studio, which opened earlier this year, sits in a historic house from 1853, once serving as the town’s first Western Union office. Its quaint front porch, complete with a napping dog named Bean, is pure Texas twee.

Fredrick is a native of Houston, but spent years in Los Angeles as a celebrity jeweler and diamond dealer — he once was flown to New York City to appraise the largest, purest diamond in the world, a heart shaped D flawless monster of a stone weighing 118.78 carats. (It was difficult to get under the microscope, he recalls.)

When he finally moved back to Texas, Austin was an easy choice: Fredrick loved the city’s soul, the “old hippies” that lived in his neighborhood.

“Starbucks was actually driven out of town back then,” he tells me. “People preferred supporting their local coffee spots.” And with that, Fredrick set up his custom design jewelry shop, first on the East Austin and later South Lamar, working one-on-one with each client to deliver beautifully-crafted rings meant to last a lifetime.

“Though I can always tell which couples aren’t going to make it,” he says.

Fredrick’s designs are East Austin meets art deco: simple with lots of cool little details. A blend of modern and vintage. When custom-making a ring, Fredrick says the two most important things to consider are the center stone and the finger wearing it.

Has New Braunfels discovered his unique designs yet?

“Yes,” he nods. “And all my Austin clients are coming down here, too.”

Barbara Purcell
Barbara Purcell
Barbara Purcell is an arts and culture writer based in Austin. She is the author of Black Ice: Poems (Fly by Night Press, 2006). In addition to Sightlines, her work has appeared in the Austin Chronicle, Canadian Art, Glasstire, and Tribes Magazine. She is a graduate of Skidmore College.

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