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Tuesday, January 2, 2018

Local Businesses

Magnificent blue sapphire in 18k yellow, white and 14k pink gold

Those of you who have been in my shop and know me a bit know that I like to dress nicely and wear clothes that I have custom made for me (here's a shout out to Al's Attire in San Francisco).  The problem with all the nice clothes though is that I need to get everything dry cleaned and my shirts need to be handled in a somewhat different fashion that requires more personalized attention.  I've used a local dry cleaner not far from my shop for almost 30 years.  It's been a good relationship because I know the owner, he knows what my clothes need from working with them for so long, he has an excellent tailor who works for him who can take care of some of the occasionally tricky things that need to be done for me to maintain the clothes I wear and most of the work is done in house so I know he's looking after it personally.  

About a month ago I went into his shop and asked him how old he was (72) and if he ever thought of retiring.  He then told me that in fact he was shutting down the shop at the end of the year and retiring and that he did not actually have a buyer for the place so it would just simply shut down.  As happy as I am for him (because as a small business man I know how hard he's worked all of his life), it dawned on me that I had no idea of where I was going to bring my clothes in the future.  There are places that will come and pick up and deliver the clothes, there are chains and there are a lot of other small places but the bulk of them send all of the clothes out elsewhere.  None of those options thrill me.  So now, after 30 years, I have to begin a search for somewhere new and because of how things are changing, I suspect it will never be the same as it's become impossible to find the small, personal types of places that he was. 

Where am I going with this you're all asking by now (although most of you who read my blog know by now that I'm always going somewhere)? 

So imagine for a moment that you have some ornate, antique piece of jewelry that's been in your family for years that has broken and you need it fixed.  You say to yourself, "well I'll just run down to that jewelry store on Mass Ave. that I've been going to for repairs for years.  That guy knows everything about this kind of thing because he's been there and doing this forever."  But when you walk around the corner and down the street, the jeweler isn't there anymore.  So you say, "alright I know there used to be some jewelers in Harvard Square. I'll go there."  Only when you get there the only place you can find who's still open says "I don't do repairs but I used to send people to the guy up on Mass Ave.  Why don't you go there?"  Well that's not going to work so you go home and after a web search you find an email address for the guy on Mass Ave and you email him and say "How come you're not in business anymore?  I'm desperate for someone who knows what they're doing to fix this piece I have."   And he calls you back and here's how the conversation goes:

Jeweler:  So when was the last time you bought a piece of jewelry? 
You: A couple of years ago.
Jeweler: Where did you buy it?
You: Well, online.  You know they had some great sales and I bought a pair of earrings.
Jeweler:  When was the last time you actually bought a piece of jewelry from my store?
You:  Well I actually never did, but I brought you all of my repair work.
Jeweler:  And with the expenses of a bricks and mortar store, how did you expect me to survive when all you brought me was repair work?
You: Well I always assumed other people were buying from you.  But where am I going to bring my repairs now? 
Jeweler: Perhaps you should have considered that before I wasn't there anymore. 

Sounds pretty depressing doesn't it? But this is the new reality for small bricks and mortar shops.  We are all faced with  competition that we can't meet.  Most of us can't compete with pricing with online shops simply because of the fact that our expenses are so high.  So we try to offer better service and some of us provide services that you simply can't get online.  But in order for us to continue doing that YOU, the buying public, needs to support us in ALL ways.  Because one day you're really going to need us and we won't be there if you don't.

I hope you all had a great holiday and a Happy New Year.  I expect to see you all in my shop soon because I know you all need some new pieces to enjoy!  BTW the ring in the picture at the top had an exceptional sapphire that my customer saw in the shop and picked out for her ring.  She saw the actual stone, not a picture online somewhere that had been photo shopped, fell in love with it and ordered it two days after she was in.  You can see 100 sapphires on line and they'll all look exactly alike but I can assure you that they aren't.  You can't photo shop a stone you're actually looking at in person.  

Thursday, December 21, 2017

Christmas is Almost Here!

I have been busy with my work (especially with finishing up my wife's Christmas present in the last few days) so I don't have time to say much.  But I wanted to post some pictures of some of my newest pieces that are out in the cases and for sale right now.  You know just in case you wanted to give a hint to your significant other who probably hasn't even started shopping yet. Happy Holidays!
Diamond Comet Earrings

Ruby Swirls (22k gold)

Sunstone Pink and Gold Bracelet

Swirls Necklace

Mix and Match Earrings

Black Hole in the Center of a Spiral Galaxy

Mokume Fans

Saturday, December 9, 2017

Christmas Tree Ornament

A customer came in today to order a pin for his wife for Christmas.  In talking to him it came out that a (very) long time ago, I made him a Christmas ornament for the top of his tree. I remembered doing it because it is the only time I have ever made a Christmas tree ornament.  In those days I used to work in silver routinely and I made up a large star in silver and gold with a diamond in the center.  When he told me he was the customer who had ordered it, I asked him if they still used it and he told me that they use it every year and it's an important part of their holiday as it goes at the top of their tree. After he left he took a picture of it and sent it to me.  And here it is! 

More than anything it's important to me to know that I have been such an important part of their memories and traditions for so long (25 years maybe?).  And that's why I love this business.  Who else can say something like that? 

Want to see what I'm working on now?  What my latest pieces are, either for the cases or custom jobs?  Follow me on Instagram.  Everything goes up there first. 

Saturday, November 11, 2017

Japanese Akoya salt water pearls.
I apologize for my long absences on here.  Unfortunately I no longer have an assistant so I pretty much have to do everything around here (except keep the books which fortunately I have my wife, Kathy, to do).  Plus it's hard to keep up on all the different social media platforms. (Again:  Please follow me on Instagram.  If you aren't on it, get the app and just follow me if nothing else. Every single piece I make up as a custom job or put out in the cases for sale goes up on Instagram.)

 As it happens the holidays are coming and I am putting out new stock weekly.  I also got my gem shipment from my colored stone dealers who always let me have some wonderful pieces for the holidays. This year I got a number of strands of pearls and beads that were all exceptional in one way or the other.  I got in a strand of black moonstone beads that are pretty astounding.  Also I had a strand of lapis nuggets in which the lapis was the best color I have ever seen in lapis material.  That strand I sold right away but I'm hoping to get a replacement one as I think they had another.  I also got in some beautiful pearl strands, both South Seas, Japanese akoya and freshwater.  So if you'd like to see some interesting stuff it's time to stop in! 

I am going to be re running some of my favorite blog articles for a little while.  I have been writing it for so long that I doubt a lot of my readers see the ones from a few years ago.  So starting next week if you've been a long time reader you may see some things that you remember.

Wednesday, September 27, 2017

Seriously: If you don't have any training or time working in the field you're not a jeweler.

18k gold custom ring with a customer's stones.
Okay, so I get it.  It's a really romantic idea to make up the ring you want to propose with yourself.  But the reality is that most people aren't jewelers.  Unfortunately many people now seem to think that doing what I do is really easy, and there isn't much experience necessary.  I'm waiting for the day when we start saying to our surgeons that we want to do the operations on our spouses or kids because it would be really neat if we took care of them ourselves.  All the surgeon would have to do is watch us do the work and help us out a little. 

So this is an email I got awhile ago from a young gentleman:

"I'm looking into making an engagement ring for my girlfriend, and found your website while searching for jewelers in the area. I don't have any DIY experience outside of woodworking and electrical work, so I've been hesitant to really dive in. However, I just talked to somebody who was in a similar position and managed to find a jeweler who was willing to work with him through the process. Is this something that you would be willing to do / have done before?"

Okay, so understand that he has no experience, but he knows someone who did this so it can't be too hard right?  This was my response:

While I appreciate the sentiment, I don’t believe in working with customers this way for a number of reasons. The first is that it’s taken me 40 years to learn what I know and to make jewelry as well as I do. People who think they can just pick up the tools and do what I do tend to be unrealistic.  My employees all come out of an extensive two year school program (North Bennett Street School) and it still takes me about two years to get them up to the level I require (not my level---just the level I need for them to be helping to produce my work).  Secondly I have insurance issues with having people I don’t know in my workshop area.  I routinely work with pieces and gems worth thousands of dollars or even tens of thousands of dollars and I can’t have people wandering in and out of my shop area. And the third and final reason is that I would have to charge you about $500/hour because that’s what an experienced master jeweler’s time is worth. (I could sit with you for an hour or I could make up a ring I could sell for about $5000 and believe me you would need way more than an hour.) 

All that being said I know that there are some jewelers (lower skill levels, less experienced, etc.) who do what you want and I’m sure with a little research on line you can find some.  I have to warn you though that I get in people who’ve tried to make their own stuff and need someone with more experience than their teacher even to fix it.  Good luck with your quest!  

He thanked me and said he would be looking for someone who would do it. 

This is the email I got today:

"I was about to call you but decided to reply to our previous (old) conversation to help with context. I did in fact end up 'making' my fiancee's engagement ring, however I was looking for a jeweler in the area to help with two issues. One of my close friends, Kevin Tabb recommended you very highly (in addition to my own positive experience in the previous emails). 

Issue #1 is that the ring (platinum) needs to be resized. It's a little too big, despite being told she was a size 5.5

Issue #2 is that I didn't fully set the stone (Maine tourmaline). After I finished drilling the seat, it chipped while the jeweler I was working with was checking the prongs before I closed them. Despite being damaged in the process, I still thought the stone looked good enough to propose with. I didn't want to risk shattering the stone and losing that opportunity, so I ended up tightening it as best I could without feeling uncomfortable and gave my fiancee the option of replacing the tourmaline with a new stone.  She has insisted she wants to keep the original stone as long as possible, so I was wondering if you'd be willing to try and finish setting the stone. 

Would you be willing to try to set the tourmaline and resize the ring? I understand there is a significant risk that the stone could be further damaged and know that you can't guarantee that won't happen. If so, how much would those services cost, and how long would it take?"
 So let me review a few things:  You are not a jeweler unless you've had actual training in some form in the field and worked in it, no matter how romantic it might seem.  It took me 40 years to get where I am today and I know what I'm talking about.   I'm not really in business to fix your mistakes when you pretended to be a jeweler so it's going to cost a lot for me to fix all of your mistakes (possibly as much as you paid the other jeweler for the "help"). If you want jewelers like me to be around to fix your mistakes you have to buy the jewelry from me to begin with (of course then you won't have to pay for any mistakes because I won't make them!)  

Again, I appreciate the sentiment, but jewelers who agree to do this with customers demean our profession.  And it's demeaning to all jewelers when a customer thinks that it really doesn't take any training or skills to do what we do.