Local man finds gifts in Cumberlandite

Local man finds gifts in Cumberlandite

Dave Brown drills a hole through a piece of Cumberlandite in his basement workshop. (Breeze photos by Ethan Shorey)

CUMBERLAND – He’s not quite living off his land, but Dave Brown is more than happy making and selling tiny treasures using a rare rock contained on his property.

The overhead costs couldn’t be much better, says Brown, who has used the pandemic to build up his basement workshop, where he spends long hours happily making stocking-stuffers, including Rhode Island-themed ornaments and jewelry from Cumberlandite, the state’s official rock.

Large concentrations of the rock are found only in this small area of Cumberland, off West Wrentham Road and Elder Ballou Meeting House Road, with trace amounts also found in the Narragansett Bay watershed. Just a little beyond Brown’s 6-acre West Wrentham property, the evidence of Cumberlandite abruptly ends.

Brown said it’s remarkable how few people in the area know about this rare magnetized rock featuring so many interesting properties, while people across the country scope out his Etsy shop, aRock4U, in search of it.

“I just enjoy sharing something that’s so uniquely Rhode Island with the rest of the United States,” he said.

Brown has dreams of making enough money to pay his property taxes with this side hustle, but with those taxes continuing to go up, he jokes, he isn’t sure how feasible that is.

A financial services professional in his day job, Brown said he’s always been crafty and artistic, but found a real direction with it when he discovered Cumberlandite as a material to work with. One decent-sized piece of it can last for a long time, he said.

This first year in business has mostly been about trial and error, he said, but he feels like he’s now getting the hang of it with time to devote to the hobby during the pandemic. He said he’s now branching out into some custom work and commissioned pieces.

He uses a Dremel tool to carve his shapes, including hearts and the outline of Rhode Island, also utilizing a tumbler to shine them up. As he drills and grinds the rock, he gets it wet to make sure he’s not breathing in the dust.

Cumberlandite has so many interesting properties, including some titanium and iron, he said, and the way it warms up to the body’s temperature is almost like steel.

“I stumbled on it and it’s so unlike any other rock,” he said. “It’s so rare you’d think it would be worth more than gold or titanium.”

Brown said the Cumberlandite pieces, including necklaces and rings, are great as Christmas gifts, with free shipping. He said little is more satisfying to him than making a unique gift for someone out of material from his property and sending it across the country. A wearer of a Cumberlandite necklace himself, he also gives away handcrafted items as gifts.

An employee at FM Global reached out looking for gifts because he was part of an exchange where gifts were supposed to reflect one’s geographic region, said Brown, and he was able to fill the order.

Most items in Brown’s shop are in the range of $20-$25. Brown also sells small vials filled with tiny pieces of Cumberlandite for $13 apiece, and he said you’d be amazed at how popular they are.

Dave Brown shows off one of the Rhode Island-theme Christmas ornaments he made out of Cumberlandite from his property.