BROOKSVILLE — Sean Hagan says he's never seen a picture of a piece of jewelry he couldn't design, customize and craft himself.
Among the hundreds he's made, at least two have gone on to adorn stars.
A Brooksville fan of Criss Angel not long ago commissioned Hagan to design and craft a ring for the famed illusionist, who regularly performs at the Luxor in Las Vegas and on his own TV show.
Hagan watched several of Angel's TV shows, all based on the macabre, to get a feel for the man. Then he went to work at his custom shop called Jewelerman in Brooksville.
The jeweler built a coffin inscribed with an "A" for Angel on its top piece. The coffin lid opens to reveal the handmade letters in rose gold spelling "BELIEVE." Skeletal fingers form the shank.
Just under 2 ounces of gold are in the piece, which is adorned with nearly a carat of diamonds. Hagan calls it one of his most bizarre creations and valued it at $5,000.
Then there's Kid Rock.
After meeting Kid Rock at the 98 RockFest in 2008, Hagan showed his appreciation as a fellow artist.
From tarnish-resistant argentium silver, he created a 3 1/2-inch pendant of the rocker's initials and added outside the semicircular center a "D" to signify the group's home base, Detroit.
"I just felt inspired," said Hagan. "I made it up. It's all hand cut."
Not bad for a man who started his career as a construction worker.
Hagan, now 49, was working in stone, mortar and lumber 13 years ago when a co-worker told him he needed to find a career he could continue in his older years, when his body began to give out.
Growing up in North Dakota, Hagan and his brother were rock hounds. A jump to gemstones seemed a natural.
Hagan enrolled in the Gemology Institute of America in Santa Monica, Calif. "After one day there, I was hooked," he recalled recently.
Hagan spent six months as a student, then apprenticed for five years with a custom jeweler in upstate New York. The owner was so impressed with his new employee's talent and drive that within three years Hagan was promoted to shop foreman.
"The education was the big factor," Hagan acknowledged. His imagination put icing on the cake.
"We get creative around here because that's the way my mind works," he noted of his shop in the South Square Plaza at Cortez Boulevard and U.S. 41.
Before opening the store about three years ago, he worked out of his home, creating pieces and making repairs for other local jewelers.
But Hagan prefers to get to know his customers, interact with them, establish camaraderie, take their sometimes sketchy ideas — possibly no more than the wish for a flashy ring or an unusual necklace — and let his arty mind play on the project.
"We're an old-school store," he said. "(A customer) wants the guy behind the counter to know it all."
At the opening of the shop door, Hagan saunters from his back shop, wearing a heavy canvas apron over jeans, magnifying goggles raised from his eyes to a nest in his hair.
He tells customers about individual stones in a piece, explains their particular cut, why they were chosen for a combination, their carat weight and what kind of gold or silver he's mounted them in. He talks of diamonds, rubies, sapphires, emeralds, aquamarines, pearls and tanzanite.
His behind-the-scenes cohort is Wesley Crail, a jewel tradesman who works out of his Spring Hill home cutting rough stones he buys from dealers.
"He can take any stone and find its luster, color, depth,'' Hagan said. "He'll examine a stone, decide how to cut it and go with a bang."
After two years of research, Hagan and Crail collaborated on inventing what they thought was a new technique: the fusion of synthetic stones that results in a multicolored, sometimes layered bauble. But their application for a patent on the technique was denied, no reason given.
That hasn't stopped the duo from creating their eye-catching rainbow works.
An avid biker, Hagan gleefully shows off his creations designed for the Harley-Davidson enthusiast: a manly silver bracelet composed of 100 separate links and pieces, with the Harley insignia, valued at $450; a chunky ring bearing the Harley logo; a similar vest pin.
"I don't like weenie jewelry,'' he said. "I like heavy … to last a lifetime. This a tooth-buster," he said of one. "If it hit you, it would bust your teeth out."
Hagan's most recent and perhaps most novel salute to a biker is a silver pendant in the shape of a motorcycle saddlebag. He calls it a "cash stash," because only the wearer knows that the inch-size pendant opens.
"No one knows there's anything in it," the designer noted. "Fold a $100 bill in there, and even if somebody steals your wallet, you'll still have money." In silver, the piece sells for $35; in gold, $750.
Hagan said custom work amounts to 60 percent of his business. And he is busy, he says, gesturing to a mound of envelopes containing pieces for customer pickup.
He's often asked to fix heirlooms or remount stones in rings. Under the eyes of the customer, he removes the gemstones and hands them to the owner while he makes the repairs or a remount. The customer returns with the gems and, again, under the owner's gaze, Hagan resets them.
"This whole business is built on integrity and trust," he says.
Hagan's philosophy carries to his work room. He has separate benches for crafting gold and silver to ensure a pure product.
"You don't want cross-contamination," he explained.
His work stations are all custom built because he's left-handed.
When he refers to his business as a "mom and pop store," he credits his wife, Beverly, 44.
Said Beverly with a chuckle: "He designs, and I tell him what's wrong with it."
Hagan replied: "She's been the difference in a few pieces."
Beth Gray can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.