By KRISTIN FARLEY 6 News Anchor/Reporter
KNOXVILLE (WATE) - A heartfelt gift to a Knoxville mother of two has quickly turned into a must-have gift and a thriving business.
Owner Grant Barton explains how his company, Precious Metal Prints, started when he was trying to come up with a memorable gift for his wife, Laura.
"I just started thinking that would be something really neat, to make my wife a piece with our sons fingerprints in them," he said.
Barton was talking about a silver pendant with the fingerprints of their sons, Will and Henry. That was three years ago.
"She said, she still says, it's the best gift she has ever gotten," Barton said.
Within weeks people started commenting on Laura's necklace, and yes many moms wanted their own.
"I was very proud to say Grant made this for me, they all wanted one," Laura said. "I was so proud to have my children right there with me all the time when I could not be with them."
It didn't take long for the couple to realize this had the potential to be bigger than just a hobby.
Grant began packing instructions and the clay in small kits to sell in a few small boutique style stores.
"The customer could read the instructions, make their impression, and then mail it in," Grant explained. "Then we can complete the piece and mail it back to them."
The business really took off in June of 2011 when Precious Metal Prints went to the wholesale market in Atlanta, adding 60 new stores in just one week.
Nowadays, Grant spends countless hours a week finishing these special pieces.
He solders fingerprint cufflinks and polishes the silver on all his pieces to remove fire scale after each one is cured in a kiln at 1600 degrees.
When the piece is complete, Grant mails it back to the customer, but often the correspondence doesn't end there.
He told us that these mementos mean so much, he often gets touching thank-yous.
"We have actually gotten a number of emails and people have taken the time to send handwritten letters to us," Grant said.
Precious Metal Prints are now in 300 stores in 30 states and they are getting ready to roll out a gold-plated product.
People are also using these kits at hospitals and funeral homes as a way to honor loved ones who have passed away.