Local family tradition lives on


By Mike Goodson

Staff Correspondent


World-class education in gemology has now come to downtown Gadsden. 

Do you know how much your jewelry is really worth, or just what someone in a store tells you? As one of only 22 Independent Certified Gemologist Appraisers in the country, Marvin Grier knows.

When the small village of Gadsden was experiencing growing pains during the late 19th and early 20th centuries, several enterprising businessmen moved to the area. These men recognized the wealth of Gadsden’s natural beauty and decided to call the area home. One young man in particular who relocated to Gadsden came with the determination to make a better life for himself, and Gadsden would benefit greatly from what he brought to the community. 

In 1940, J.C. Grier graduated from Holtville High School in Elmore County. He lived in a crossroads community called Slapout. Grier knew that in order to earn a living with his hands and not ask for government help, he needed to be trained. 

The day after his high school graduation, Grier boarded a bus with seven dollars in his pocket, as well as his name, determination and remarkable feet that fueled his trip to Gadsden. In order to pay his way as a printing student at the Alabama School of Trades, Grier mowed the lawn at the school. He also worked an extra job in watch repair, which became his livelihood that provided a home for his family and an education for his children. 

Life was not easy for J.C. Grier, however, as polio had left him with a crippled left leg when he was less than one year old. This handicap seemed to make Grier more determined to make something of his life. 

“Some day I want my name up in lights,” he told his mother. 

Soon after arriving in Gadsden, Grier’s hobby of repairing watches and clocks caught the attention of the owner of the Watch Shop, who opened the door for Grier to become a watch repairman. Within a few months, Grier purchased the business. 

During the days of World War II, times were difficult, although J.C. Grier met Gladys Tidwell, who was a partner in a flower shop at the Printup Building in downtown Gadsden. He helped out by delivering flowers, and in 1945 they were married. 

In 1957 the Griers moved their jewelry store to 536 Broad Street, and Grier’s dream was a reality; his name indeed was in lights. 

J.C. Grier eventually was joined by his two sons, Gary and Marvin, in the family business, which grew into one of downtown Gadsden’s most respected retail establishments. The Grier name was synonymous with honesty and integrity throughout the northeast Alabama area. J.C. Grier passed away in 1991, and the family business closed in May of 2009. 

Although Marvin Grier had closed the family business that had been in operation in downtown Gadsden for more than 65 years, he continued to work in the jewelry business with Glencoe Jewelry Sales until 2014, at which time he embarked in a new phase of the jewelry profession. He continued his education and became both a Certified Gemologist Appraiser and an Independent Gemologist Appraiser. Grier attained the second of these degrees in December of 2013, although his education in the field of gemology had begun in 1997. Cos Antobelli, known as the “Author of Principals of Jewelry Appraising,” personally trained Grier, who is one of only 22 individuals in the United States to hold all of these degrees. Grier earned his Graduate Gemologist Degree (awarded by GIA) in Santa Monica, Calif., and his Independent Certified Gemologist Appraiser Certification (awarded by AGS) in Columbus, Ohio. 

The top two tier educational arms of gemology are the American Gem Society and the Gemological Institute of America. Grier holds the highest certifications that can be earned by these two prestigious organizations. 

Today, the prestigious Grier name once again may be found in downtown Gadsden, as Marvin Grier has opened his new business firm, Keystone Jewelry Appraisals, LLC, at 108 South Fifth Street. Grier offers jewelry appraisals to individuals, insurance firms and estates. Keystone Jewelry Appraisals is open by appointment only and can be reached at 256-467-7001.

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