LAYTON — Every time the television cameras focused on Peter Jackson and his crew at the Academy Awards — in other words: most of last Sunday night — some Utahns couldn't help but feel as giddy as Gimli does while slaying evil orcs.
The happy-as-hobbits-in-the-Shire staff from Badali Jewelry Specialties Inc. proved you didn't have to be a Hollywood filmmaker or haute-couture slinky gown designer to have your artwork displayed to the world. The Utah company designed a Middle-earth style good-luck pin that adorned the award-winning director and other "Lord of the Rings" Oscar nominees.
Perhaps you didn't notice their lapels, but the Badali jewelers sure did.
"You have no idea what it feels like to see that on those guys up there," said Paul Badali, a master jeweler and the company owner. "It's quite a rush. Peter Jackson was wearing our pin, and he won Best Picture and Best Director."
And Best Screenplay Adaptation and . . . and . . .
Commissioned by Internet fan site TheOneRing.net, this was the third year Badali Jewelry made well-wishing bling-bling for "Lord of the Rings" nominees. The 2002 pin was a green leaf for "Fellowship of the Ring." Last year, they made a red clasp shaped like "The Two Towers." This time around, they designed a flashy deep blue round clip decorated with the white tree of Gondor and seven stars. They are collectors items since only 100 of each pin were made.
But that's not all of their carefully crafted Tolkien tokens.
Badali jewelers are continuing what Sauron started — with hopes, of course, that their ending will be happier than his. The staff creates all sorts of mystical and magical rings — and a whole lot of what Badali called "the ring that makes Bilbo go invisible." Their version of the One Ring doesn't have quite the same effect on humans — perhaps because they refine the replicas in a Layton warehouse instead of forging it in the fires of Mount Doom. Or maybe it's because they've sold 15,000 and counting.
Just call 'em Lords of the Ring Makers.
Badali's "Lord of the Rings"-related jewelry collection includes the One Ring of Power with the Mordor language inscription proclaiming it to be "one ring to rule them all" in various precious metals (some diehards have even turned these into wedding bands); three Elven rings (Gandalf's Narya, Elrond's Vilya and Galadriel's Nenya); seven Dwarven rings (Gimli'd be proud); and a ring that is actually Gollum's body contorted in a circle (apparently for those who want Smeagol wrapped around their finger).
By the way, Sauron got his hands on the One Ring again. No need to alarm King Aragorn: It was a replica (or so they hope) and the recipient was only the actor (Sala Baker) who portrayed the Evil Lord.
Badali's rarest item is a titanium One Ring. Only nine were made — symbolic of the nine original fellowship members — and they were given to employees, family and friends. And get this: Reminiscent of Tolkien's tale, one of these precious rings was even lost. Not to take some luster off this legend, but the ring wasn't misplaced in the Gladden River or Misty Mountains. Try at a family reunion at an Idaho campground.
The company's non-LOTR merchandise includes red, green and blue bands with funky Elven designs, which are currently as hot an item as a Balrog's fiery breath on their Web site, www.badalijewelry.com. They specialize in fantasy and often customize jewelry with markings in languages from Norse to Egyptian. They once even made a CTR ring in Rune.
But, no doubt, Badali's lembas (Elvish bread) is buttered with the "Lord of the Rings" line. It helps that they're the only company officially licensed by Tolkien Enterprises to replicate Middle-earth masterpieces described in the epic fantasy trilogy books. And when it comes to his company's interpretation of Tolkien's precise descriptions, head jeweler Ryan Cazier is understandably a bit biased.
"We design ours to be worn as jewelry, not as something you'd find at the bottom of a Cracker Jack box," Cazier said. "Ours are by far the best. Hard-core fans prefer our jewelry. People who buy these are classic fantasy geeks who will nitpick over the tiniest details."
That, if you're wondering, was a compliment to their Tolkien-loving customers' tastes. And the clientele should be relieved to know these jewelers are also talented nitty, gritty nitpickers. From casting to polishing, they spend up to four hours on each ring. And that's not counting how long it took them to create the original perfect model.
"We're Tolkien fans producing things for Tolkien fans," said business manager Loria Badali. "So there's a lot of love."
Reading J.R.R. Tolkien's works actually influenced Paul Badali to become a jeweler three decades ago. He was fascinated by the descriptions of the rings' beauty and power. Since he's a lifelong Rings fan, he says it's a dream to actually make money off of one of his hobbies.
Badali is hopeful Jackson will eventually make "The Hobbit," as that would spike Tolkien mania again in a few years. But the interest in all things "Lord of the Rings" is certainly at an all-time high now. You only have to look at billion-dollar box-office numbers, record Oscar reports and Badali's swamped workload to confirm that.
The only downside? It's literally a dirty job.
"By the end of the day," said Cazier while examining his soiled hands, "you look like an auto mechanic."