VICTORIA, Texas (AP) — Intricate details can mean all the difference in the jewelry world. A perfect replica or creating a symmetrical piece by hand can lead a store to stand apart from the rest.
Step inside Eichhorn, Gonzales & Miller Fine Jewelers, however, and you might find more symmetry than you'd bargained for.
That symmetry comes in human form, with identical twin bench jewelers, Duane and Wayne Gonzales.
The 53-year-old brothers don glasses and rings of black and gray hair, although Duane insists he has the fuller head of hair. Both are married to registered nurses and have a son and a daughter.
In college, Duane's best friend was Lenny and Wayne's was Kenny.
On April 30, both men wore blue jeans, brown boots and light-colored button-down shirts.
"We'll sometimes wear the same shirts to work and not even mean to," Duane said, smiling. "A lot of times we'll buy the same clothes, just by chance."
The brothers have worked together virtually all their lives, first as children, picking on their younger sister, Joy, and later helping tourists in Port O'Connor tie off their boats.
After graduating Calhoun High School they took jobs as orderlies at Citizens Medical Center, where the carbon copy brothers confused more than one patient.
"We usually worked the same shift but there were times one of us was off," Duane explained. "The other one would fill in then. We'd have people say, 'I've been here for over two weeks and you've never had a day off!'"
It was Wayne — the older sibling by a whopping five minutes — who got them started in the world of jewelry.
His parents encouraged him to do whatever made him happy, he said, but also urged him not to work outdoors in the elements. He had done well in a high school welding class and wanted to tie those skills into a career.
Jewelry school seemed an obvious step.
"My parents were tickled," he said. "And this was something I could do inside, but still be working with my hands."
So Wayne went on to Kilgore College in Kilgore, while Duane went into construction. When Duane found himself ready to move on to something new about two years later, Wayne had a suggestion. Jewelry.
"I could do it, so he could do it," Wayne said of his brother.
Duane headed off to Paris Junior College in Paris, Texas — Kilgore College's rival — to begin his education.
The brothers chose different schools, they explained, so they could pick up different techniques. Kilgore didn't teach pave for instance, so Duane passed those skills on to his brother.
Pave is a stone-setting technique where a piece of jewelry is covered in gems, much like a cobblestone path.
Even at rival schools, the brothers never fell into sibling rivalry, they said.
"The problem with sibling rivalry is egos," Wayne said. "He and I don't have egos. He does things I can't do and vice versa."
Wayne found Duane a seasonal position inside the repair shop he worked at while Duane was still in school. Duane repaid the favor around 1990, landing Wayne a job at the shop he was working in: Eichhorn & Kocian.
The company would later come to be known as Eichhorn, Gonzales & Miller Fine Jewelers. And, as far as they know, they're Texas' only twin jewelers.
Ron Eichhorn has worked with the men for about 25 years — Duane a little longer than Wayne — and said he got over the confusion of working with twins years ago. Both men have their own personalities, he said, explaining that Duane is more of a jokester than his slightly older brother.
They all get along well, he said.
"You wouldn't be together this long if you didn't get along, if you didn't like each other," he said. "It's kind of like a marriage."
Ashley Gonzales, Wayne's daughter, has worked in the front of the shop for five years. She admits it's interesting to work with her dad and uncle, but said she enjoys it.
And one thing she's learned over time: be prepared to handle the mix-ups.
"You have to be ready to say, 'Don't worry, he's got a twin brother,'" she said of customers who think they're being ignored.
There are times one brother will go to the back with a piece of jewelry, she explained, but the other will come out and go on to some other task. A recent change has made things slightly easier, the Victoria College student said.
Duane grew a goatee.
"It gives me a way to describe them to customers," she explained. "It really helps."
Facial hair isn't the only difference the men share. Duane is Lutheran and Wayne is Catholic. Duane creates knives and Wayne practices Kyu Shin Ryu Judo-Jui Jitsu.
But both agree they're in the jewelry biz for the long haul.
"I'll probably die at the bench," Duane said. "I love it. We both do."
Copyright 2009 The Associated Press.