Area resident turns the diamond from the rough with home made bead work

John Cox’s heart doesn’t work as well as it used to.

As for his hands, that’s a different story.

After losing his job, the 61-year-old struggled to find work during the recession.

He spent more than 25 years as a casino industry professional and moved to North Las Vegas from Florida in 2006. Now, his doctors won’t let him work because of his health.

To supplement his income, Cox, who served in the Vietnam War as an Army combat medic, crafts necklaces from beads, stones and other components. He’s been making jewelry — necklaces, earrings, bracelets and anklets — for six years. An old girlfriend showed him how to make his first necklace.

He’s been hooked ever since, making about 2,500 necklaces in that time. Cox finishes the stones himself with his own tumbler, which helps break down the rough cut product with silicone carbide grit and water and turns them into smooth and shining jewelry quality — with a decent aluminum polish.

Tumbling the stones is a five-phase process. Each phase takes more than 160 hours to complete. The gentle sound of water trickling — it sounds like it’s raining in his tiny apartment — is continuous.

It’s been that way since he started making jewelry, Cox added.

The U.S. Department of Veteran Affairs has helped with some of his small-business costs, including stones, a computer and computer classes for “John’s Jems.”

“They helped me get back into production so I can be a help to society,” Cox said. “Due to all the medical conditions, I can no longer go to work. But this helps me out. It helps my heart.

“I had no idea I had coordination or the concept for these types of colors.”

Cox spends about one to two hours daily making necklaces when he has the resources. He can make about 10 to 15 in one day.

His goal is to make 1,000 necklaces by Christmas to give to Toys for Tots. So far, he has about 150 made for the project. With seven months to go, Cox said he’s confident he can meet the goal, and he wants to work with local Marines for charity.

He gives necklaces away on the bus or while walking down the street.

“I see their smiles,” Cox said. “There’s nothing better. It feels good.”

The final products, which he normally would charge $25 to $250 for customers, are spread out over his kitchen table. Bags and containers of tiny colorful beads, large stones and other jewelry components are scattered in and around his work station. But business is slow. His income is limited.

“I’m asking for bead components,” Cox said. “No cash, but money orders for one of the various bead stores (Discount Beads, 4266 S. Durango Drive; Bead Jungle, 1550 W. Horizon Ridge Parkway in Henderson; and Bead Haven, 7664 W. Lake Mead Blvd.). That way, (people) know I’m not spending it for myself.”

His neighbor, Mary Gilson, said she thinks Cox can meet his goal. She makes jewelry, too.

“It’s something to strive toward,” Gilson, 83, said. “It’s a lot of work. He has nice jewelry, all different kinds. He does very well, tumbling his rocks. He’s a good guy.”

For more information about Cox’s jewelry, call 561-4321.

Contact Downtown and North Las Vegas View reporter Kristi Jourdan at kjourdan@viewnews.com or 383-0492.

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