Americus Diamond, a well-known gem of Fairfield, has been providing high-quality jewelry to the area since 1981, becoming known as one of Iowa’s best independently owned jewelry stores.
Proprietor Christopher Kufner calls Americus Diamond a “family-style business with international flair.” The store combines Christopher’s passions for jewelry and art, with additional gallery space showcasing his work as well as paintings, prints, jewelry, and sculpture by nationally and internationally recognized artists.
Christopher, who has been painting seriously since 1984, now focuses primarily on his art, while his wife, Kim, manages the store and does a lot of jewelry design. “People come in with their diamonds and they want something new,” she says. “We create or find the right setting for a ring, or a necklace, or whatever piece the customer wants.”
While Christopher has been making art since he was a child, he wasn’t drawn into the jewelry field until he moved to Fairfield from Des Moines and helped to start Crest Jewel with Dennis Wagner. Working as a jeweler, he gained an appreciation for fine jewelry and became manager of Americus Diamond in March 1983. He worked for Jim Van Winkle at Americus for seven and a half years, and ultimately purchased the business in 1990.
Americus Diamond carries an array of cutting-edge designs created by an onsite jeweler, as well as pieces from other manufacturers. “Every artisan or manufacturer we use must adhere to our stringent quality standards,” Christopher says. “We quality inspect every item before it is placed in our showroom.”
Founded on the principles of customer education and old-fashioned customer service, Americus Diamond is a destination location, according to Christopher. Known throughout the area for integrity, quality, and some of the best prices in the business, Americus Diamond draws customers “from about a two-hour radius,” he says.
Their sales professionals are trained to educate customers, not intimidate them into a sale. “We show people the diamonds under a microscope,” Kim says, “and educate them about the differences so they can make an informed decision about what they’re spending their money on.”
“An educated, intelligent customer is always our best customer,” Christopher adds. “Then they feel comfortable,” Kim continues. “They have a choice and it’s not just a mystery.”
Many of their diamonds are graded by the Gemological Institute of America (GIA), an independent, nonprofit organization that conducts gem research, educates gem professionals, and sets the standards for determining diamond quality. The GIA grades diamonds based on the 4Cs of diamond quality: color, clarity, cut, and carat weight, using scientific procedures for evaluating each “C.”
Kim, originally from the Sioux City area, was working in Mount Pleasant in 1992 when she heard a radio ad for Americus Diamond and had to come and investigate. She met Christopher, and in the course of their conversation revealed that she was taking a GIA diamonds correspondence course. Christopher essentially offered her a job on the spot.
Kim is helped in her work by Coco, a small, sweet-tempered dog they adopted from Noah’s Ark about seven years ago. “Coco’s our mascot,” Kim says. “Some people come to Americus just to say hi to Coco. He’s a good little friend.”
Adjacent to the showroom is the gallery that houses Christopher’s modern impressionist works from his private collection. Painted over the last 23 years, the collection includes landscapes and figurative pieces, with a number of paintings inspired by his muse, his wife Kim.
The Kufners have traveled extensively in Europe, visiting museums, researching art and jewelry designs, soaking up the local color, and paying homage to the great Impressionists. In fact, they were married on the bridge at Claude Monet’s home in Giverny 22 years ago.
Christopher works primarily in oils, so painting while traveling is a challenge. “The paint doesn’t dry fast enough,” he explains. “To roll it back up and travel with it is difficult, but it’s easy when traveling to take pictures and make sketches.”
When Christopher gets back to his studio, he works from photographs, sketches, pictures, and memory to create his vibrant impressionistic work. For landscapes, he favors Tuscany, the French countryside, and pastoral Iowa. “I’ve been painting hay bales for 25 to 30 years,” he says.
Christopher’s work is sought after by national and international collectors, including celebrity clients. He’s had shows in Chicago, New York City, and Laguna Beach, California.
A true Renaissance man, Christopher is also an inventor, with a couple dozen patents for the Tuscan Leveling System. Available online, this tile-leveling system can be used on floors or walls and creates a virtually flat surface while substantially increasing installation speed (see below for more).
Built on integrity and excellent customer service, Americus Diamond is a labor of love for the Kufners. Its combination of fine jewelry and gallery space, says Christopher, “is something you’d expect to find in a big city, not in a small Iowa town.”
The gallery space is open during business hours. In addition to the main exhibition of Christopher’s work, the gallery currently carries work by sculptor Dale Divoky, painter Genevra Bell, painter Jim Weidle, glassblower David Laughton, and dichroic-glass jewelry maker Pedro Lujano. Giclee prints on archival paper are available from Christopher’s current private show, and both originals and prints are available for other work.
For more information about Christopher’s art, visit KufnerArt.com.
For information about Americus Diamond, visit AmericusDiamondIowa.com.
The Tuscan Leveling System
Developed for use during tile installation, including stone, ceramic, marble, granite, and large-format slab tiles, the Tuscan Leveling System can be used on floors or walls. The system interlocks the tiles, creating a virtually flat surface during curing. This reduces or eliminates settling from shrinkage and minimizes warping. The system decreases the need to relift tiles to add more mud or to shim tiles, making installation twice as fast while creating a lippage-free mirror surface. The caps used in the original Tuscan Leveling System may be reused multiple times. It’s available online at TuscanLeveling.com.