Words by Anna Lee Vaughn | Images by Justin Hunter
“I started at Young Jewelers the Monday after Elvis died,” Mark Sparks recalls. “That is how I have always remembered it.”
Born and raised in Jasper, Mark began looking for a job while attending Walker High School. He had never set foot in a jewelry store, much less considered becoming a jeweler, but the year was 1977, and Mark was soon to discover his lifelong career.
Hoyt Young of Young Jewelers was looking to hire a jeweler, and Mark decided to apply and interview for the job which he was soon offered. Mr. Young began teaching Mark every aspect of being a jeweler, and after graduating high school, Mark attended Holland School for Jewelers in Selma, Alabama, to become a Master Jeweler.
“I went down there and learned the basics of the trade. I would take a week-long class, come home, and practice for a year. Then, I would go back the next year, take a more advanced course, come home, and work on it some more,” says Mark. “I eventually received a Master jeweler certificate, but it’s just a piece of paper. I don’t consider myself a master jeweler even now. It takes a long time to learn everything.”
In 1985, Mark left home, moving to Chattanooga, Tennessee, to work for a jewelry manufacturer. He met his wife, Susan, got married, and moved again in 1990 to South Carolina. Though he briefly worked in the jewelry business there, his career path soon changed. For the next 15 years, Mark worked in the freight business for DHL Express.
However, Mark was destined to return to the career he had fallen in love with so many years ago. In 2007, he dove headfirst into the jewelry industry again before returning home to Jasper in 2012.
“I called Debbie at Young Jewelers and said, ‘Do you know anybody in Alabama that might be looking for a jeweler?’ And she said, ‘Well, it’s time for you to come home.’ So, I came back, and I’ve been here ever since,” says Mark.
Daily, Mark enjoys the challenge of repairing and creating jewelry, especially stone-setting.
“I enjoy the business, and I love what I do. I enjoy working with my hands, and there is a lot of creativity that goes into it. I also love seeing people smile, taking something that maybe belonged to a loved one, refurbishing it, and making it into something that can be worn now. It’s a very rewarding job.” Since returning to Jasper, Mark has observed much of its growth and change, reconnected with former friends, and continued his already full life and career. And one thing he says is for certain: “It’s good to be back home.” WL