Grant Dial took a gamble in 1976. The Maxton native, a Lumbee Indian, quit college about a semester before graduation. At 24, he believed his future was in making and selling jewelry. He started Grant Dial Silversmith in Red Springs that year. Now his work is benefiting a pro gambler — the winner of the 2004 World Poker Tour championship, held in November at the Foxwoods Resort Casino in Mashantucket, Conn. In addition to $1.5 million and a Rolex watch, winner Tuan Le got a silver-and-wampum concho belt handmade by Dial. It’s worth $10,000, according to Foxwoods officials. The Travel Channel broadcast the tournament in January.
The son of Robeson County sharecroppers, Dial moved with his family to Columbus, Ga., while he was in high school. Friends invited him to participate in a Mormon youth program. Dial, now 53, joined the church and majored in physical education at Brigham Young University in Provo, Utah. There was a problem, though. “I went to school totally broke, so I needed a part-time job.” He got one working in a silversmith shop.
He started making his own jewelry, an adaptation of Navajo-style pieces that included turquoise, onyx and coral. He continued to work in the shop, selling his pieces for about 18 months before quitting school to go into business in Red Springs.
About eight years ago, he found a supplier of wampum, which comes from the shell of the quahog, a New England clam. A friend cuts and polishes the wampum, giving it a purplish hue. Dial makes jewelry from January through March and sells it primarily by traveling the East Coast the rest of the year, setting up booths at art shows and Indian powwows. He also sells jewelry on his Web site. Prices range from about $50 for some rings to $10,000 for concho belts similar to the one awarded to Le. He won’t disclose revenue for the business, which includes his wife, Gina, and three sons.
It was at a powwow near Foxwoods, which is on an Indian reservation, that he was introduced to the resort’s marketing director. “The minute this guy saw the belt, he wanted to purchase it for the contest.” The prize belt is made of 180 pieces of wampum and took two months to make.
Still, Le, a 26-year-old Los Angeles native, didn’t seem overly impressed with the belt after winning the final hand with a straight, Dial says. “This guy had a million dollars laying on the table, too.”