The Aldrich’s met while attending Northern Arizona University. A few years after marriage, both took a jewelry course from Mesa Community College, the only formal metalwork training they have received. Having a little money, they made their jewelry for Christmas presents, while Benny worked as a carpet and tile layer and Valerie was beginning to raise their family. Their early pieces were shell inlays and concho belts. To augment their income the couple sold pipestone and serpentine from local Arizona quarries to Santo Domingo, a New Mexico pueblo famous for its bead makers. When asked what their raw materials would look like as beads, the Aldrich’s drilled and hand ground beads from the rough stone. Their career in jewelry making began in earnest in Jerome, Arizona where they lived for some years.
The Aldrich’s were among the first to use gemstones for inlaying and revived spiny oyster as a jewelry material some twenty years ago, using only the best natural gemstones and other traditional and recent materials, none of which is resin treated. Only the highest quality of natural raw materials is used in their jewelry.