Friday, June 28, 2013
Some people are surprised over the range of the type of work I do. Even within what I have out in the store I do cover a fairly wide swath of types of work. Admittedly much of my work is easily identifiable as coming from me, but with custom work, I can pretty much take on any job (although if you're looking for a plain Tiffany style setting I'll probably send you elsewhere as I'll just charge too much to do something so readily available everywhere). As I mention in the title to the post I work near that fine higher education institution MIT. Over the years this has led to any number of unusual and interesting jobs.
One of them started with a phone call we got late on a Thursday asking if we could solder platinum. I said of course and the guy proceeded to tell me that he had a platinum piece that needed a precise soldering job, that it had to be done right away, that it was going up into space shortly and that he couldn't tell me what exactly we were working on (for security reasons, not because he didn't know). Now how could I turn down something like that? I love space and all that has to do with it, it wasn't going to be the usual "can you fix my platinum ring" job and we could only guess at what we were actually working on. To this day I have no idea what it was for. But we did get the job done for them by their Saturday deadline.
Another time we got a young guy in who was a graduate student at MIT and his thesis was on how people perceived urban landscapes. He had built a contraption that he wanted to wear over his head that had a mechanism that would cover his right eye when he took a step with his left foot and cover his left eye when he took a step with his right foot. Again, I wasn't really clear what he was trying to achieve, but I told him I would see what I could come up with. For this one I sat down and brainstormed with a very old and dear friend of mine (who happens to be an extraordinary bench jeweler) and we came up with the idea of using the loupes that we wear to see things close up. We were able to attach his contraption to a loupe without the lens on it and it allowed him to move it up and down as he wanted to in front of his face. Unfortunately he never came back and told us if his thesis was accepted!
So the picture above is of a recently completed pair of wedding bands. We had to use CAD/CAM to do these because the customer wanted "logic gates" engraved all around the bands. Unfortunately you can't truly see how they change as they go around the ring but you can get an idea of what they look like from the picture. What are logic gates, some of you might ask? I haven't got the foggiest idea, although I'm sure I could Google it and find out but I think I'll leave that up to those of you who would like to know. These bands were done in platinum.
But on the bottom here are some earrings that I just put out that show the other extreme of my work range. They are 22k and 18k yellow and white gold with freshwater pearls and carved labradorite faces. I thought they made a nice juxtaposition against the interesting, yet completely different bands above!
Tuesday, June 25, 2013
Because it is summer, I wanted to let people know a few things about upcoming schedules. We will be closed the week of July 4 (June 30-July8) for a break (no trips planned this year) and for the months of July and August we will be changing our hours slightly. During this period we will be open until 8 on Thursdays by appointment only. Otherwise we will be closing at 6. Also we will be closing an hour earlier on Saturdays at 5. So our hours will look like this: Tue, Wed, Thur, Fri 11-6 and Sat 11-5 but open by appointment only on Thursday evenings until 8.
It's been an interesting month in a number of ways. I saw my pearl/opal dealer again, and despite my vow not to buy anything from him, I still came away with some interesting strands of South Sea keshi pearls (pictures will follow as soon as they are strung), a beautiful pair of boulder opals and a strand of boulder opal beads (not round ones). Unfortunately the opal beads seem to have been laid claim to by my wife so, while I will get a picture of them up at some point, this particular strand won't be available.
I also recently spent some time with a new customer working out what she wanted for an engagement ring. This was her second marriage and her first husband had died awhile ago. She wanted to use some older diamonds she had and I was happy to accommodate her. What was interesting about it though was the long discussion we had about how the diamonds had come to her, why she wanted to use them, how good her first marriage had been (despite the fact that much to her dismay her original engagement ring was a family piece that she didn't like---but she wore anyway because, as she said, sometimes you just have to give up some things for a relationship to work), and how excited she was about her new relationship. During a good deal of this conversation I had another customer waiting. When the first one had left the store, the second one said to me: "I had no idea how much like a therapist you are!". And in some ways, truer words were never spoken. Sure I make and sell jewelry and run a small business as best I can, but because of the product I deal in, there is a tremendous amount of emotion, sentiment, love, and memory involved, and as someone who is assisting customers with their pieces that carry these feelings, I tend to hear a lot of it. However, not only do I not mind this, I actually really enjoy it. I get a chance to learn about new people, and to hear stories of important events in all of their lives. It always makes me stand in awe of what meaning is attached to my pieces as well. And that kind of sums up why I do what I do.
Speaking of meaning, love and emotion, the picture above was given to me recently by a couple whose engagement ring and wedding bands I custom made for them. They were made of 18k white and yellow gold and her engagement ring has a blue sapphire in it.
Friday, June 7, 2013
So onto a few varied topics. The first is that I just read an article by a noted gemologist who was discussing ruby treatments, and specifically, composite rubies that have entered the marketplace. I have discussed here ruby treatments in the past but it appears from what she has written that there is a wrinkle in the discussions on ruby treatments even I wasn't clear on. While there are different amounts of heat treatment in ruby material, and while some glass flux may have seeped into treated stones (with those more heavily treated having more flux in them), there is, in fact, another material currently in the marketplace being misrepresented as treated ruby when in fact it should be called a composite material. Apparently this is exceedingly low grade corundum that is cleaned of all of the potch (material that isn't corundum) in the crystals, which leaves a relatively small amount of material actually intact and then a lead glass is purposely added to it to fill in all of the areas where the potch was removed. This is NOT simply a heat treatment. This is the PURPOSEFUL addition of a second material in order to make a product seem like something it isn't. The problem is that a lot of manufacturers are buying this material for pennies and then setting it in jewelry, marking it up huge amounts and then selling it as heavily heated material as opposed to composite material. Besides the obvious ethical issues around this, the material is extremely fragile and can be easily damaged simply through cleaning processes that jewelers use, no matter the processes that are used to repair jewelry (such as heating the pieces---something I won't do, but a lot of jewelers believe it's safe to heat ruby in pieces they are repairing--and putting the pieces into the acid baths needed to clean them after work is done). This then leads to customers thinking the jeweler has ruined their "ruby" when in fact it wasn't a "ruby" to begin with.
So this leads me back to two of my favorite statements about how to do business. 1) Know your jeweler (or in my case my suppliers----there is a reason I have been using the same ones for 30 years) and 2) If it sounds too good to be true it probably is. If you see a 2 ct. ruby in a ring and it's priced at $1000 or less, it is most likely a composite material, no matter what the seller tells you.
And this leads into another story and why those two statements are so important. I had a customer come in recently with a ring she bought on line awhile ago. It had, she said, a black opal in it that had broken and she wanted it replaced. Now mind you this was a large stone and when I asked her how much she had paid for it, she said something around $2000. The ring had been purchased as an antique (or at least as a used piece) a few years ago. The stone definitely looked like opal and it was black but it wasn't quite "right" and the pricing seemed way too low. So I originally told her I couldn't get her a true black opal in a reasonable price range but I might be able to get her a boulder opal that would be pretty and wouldn't set her back quite as much. She was quite attached to the ring and she wanted something that looked as close as possible to the stone she had. So I called my opal dealer and went through the usual difficulties of trying to discuss color over the phone with him. He sent out some stuff she didn't like so he asked me to send him a picture of the original stone, which I did. He immediately called me back and asked me to take a closer look at the stone under the microscope as he believed it was a sugar and acid treated opal. Sure enough it was! This actually made finding a replacement easier as we were able to get another piece of treated opal that was quite similar. However it also opened up the question of what the jeweler selling the ring actually knew. Apparently it had been listed on his website as a black opal. He wrote black opal on the receipt. But this was by no means a black opal. If my customer had wanted to, she could have gone back to him and insisted that he replace the stone with a real black opal (I suspect that would have set him back a good $10,000 in this size) or give her money back (or if she really wanted to push it take him to court where he would be liable for triple damages). The guy is fortunate that she really liked the piece and it wasn't so important to her what the piece was so much as just that she could keep wearing something that looked like it. But if it had been me I would have gone back after the guy. Again, my two caveats above should be followed.
Now I want to talk about something that I would really, really like some feedback on because I'm not sure what to do about the situation. I recently went on line to check my presence out and when I went to Yelp I found I had three recent reviews. One of them (a 5 star review) was immediately relegated to the filtered pile (an issue I've been trying to talk to them about for years since I have one of the highest filtered to unfiltered reviews of anyone I've been able to find on Yelp but to which they just tell me it's out of their control). However I got two other reviews that were negative. Unfortunately, because they filter so many of my reviews, the two negative reviews have dragged down my rating. Now mind you neither of the reviews had anything to do with my product. One of them complained that it was foreboding walking into my store because of all of our security signs, that we had a dog who bothered her (those of you who have been here know Ziggy and know that while he may bark his hellos and goodbyes to you but he's a sweetie pie once he settles down) and that I was grumpy. Now some of you who are regulars know that I have been having some health issues in the last year, and I am the first to admit I can be grumpy when I'm exhausted and out of sorts. I responded to this customer both privately and publicly on Yelp and apologized and told her that if Ziggy bothered her I was always happy to remove him from the room. Privately I mentioned the health issues as well.
I'm not really so concerned about her review. It was the other one that I am unsure what to do about. This one was from a young lady who apparently (although honestly I don't recall exactly who she was) came in with a new ring to be sized and she claimed I insulted her ring, the place she got it from, her hands and I wouldn't size the ring the way she wanted. I'm pretty certain (as I get them in regularly) that it was a piece purchased on line (and probably from Etsy), that wasn't well made (while it is possible to purchase high quality, well made jewelry on line, the bulk of it simply doesn't fall into that category since pricing is usually paramount with on line purchases). I believe I may have also explained to her that she didn't have knuckles (a common thing among hands---everyone's are different and some people have quite distinctive knuckles and some don't---and it has nothing to do with your weight---I have had extremely skinny people in who just don't have much in the way of knuckles; maybe they don't crack them enough when they are kids (-; ) and that it impacted how I had to size her ring (hence her statement that I had insulted her hands).
Now I admit I get a little irritated by people who buy things online and then only come to a bricks and mortar store to get problems with the pieces resolved. This was a new piece. Any bricks and mortar jeweler would have resized the ring for free as the product came from their store. In this case the customer either didn't want to be bothered with sending it back to get it sized, the place she got it from wouldn't resize it (I get people in all the time who tell me this), had resized it wrong already (I get that all the time too) or she felt it was too expensive to ship it back. I get irritated with this because if people only use bricks and mortar shops for looking at items and then buying them for less on line or for cleaning up the messes that on line shops leave their customers with, then the bricks and mortar stores will all soon be out of business. And I am sure that my irritation shows through occasionally. I'm pretty much the whole show here and no matter how I'm feeling, or what I'm thinking, I'm the one who has to work with the customers.
However, because of Yelp's unexplainable filtering system (I have 45 5 star reviews that are filtered), it now looks like I'm a horrible guy. Those of you who know me know that my quality standards are high in all the work I do and that I do try to service all of my customers as best I can. So my question to all of my customers who read these long blogs I write is: Should I respond on Yelp to this customer's comments (I'm allowed to do that) and if so, what should I say? Is honesty the most important thing and should I say that the ring was poorly made to begin with. Should I just ignore it? Should I just say I'm sorry and leave it at that? Any thoughts and comments are appreciated. You can either comment on here or email me at my regular email address: firstname.lastname@example.org.
Pictured above a two sided clasp with a diamond and a green tourmaline made up for a customer using her diamond.