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Saturday, May 21, 2016

My Life as a Jeweler Part 1

At work at 18 years old
A new reader asked me in my previous posting how I got into this business.  A few of you may know about this but I figured it's as good a topic as any so I might as well tell you.  When I was in middle school one of my classmate's mother and father owned a jewelry store in Stamford, CT.  I believe I was 14 when I went into the shop one summer day and asked if they had any work for me to do and they gave me a broom and told me I could clean up the store.  I didn't go in because it was a jewelry store.  I went in because I knew them and I figured it was as good a place as any to earn some money (something I had been doing in the summers since I was 12). 

I worked on and off for them for a few months and got to know them a little bit.  When I was 15 I happened to go in one day just to say hi and the owner (his name was David Goldfarb) asked me if I wanted a job since a young lady who had been helping them out in the store was heading off to college.  Again, I was always looking for work so I jumped on it. But this time Dave decided to actually teach me how to make jewelry.  At the time he made most of what he sold and the vast majority of it was in silver.  Dave, and his wife Liz, had been in retail most of their lives and had previously owned a clothing store.  But Dave was an extremely talented man in a wide variety of ways.  He was an artist, he had a very creative bent in many ways and he was adept at processes, by which I mean he could see a design in his head and then figure out a way to make it up in quantity with the least amount of effort and the most consistency. 

That was how I started, by learning some of the techniques and a whole lot about how to produce an item.  Dave taught me a number of extremely valuable lessons, some of which it took me decades to fully absorb, but the most important one was this:  It doesn't matter how great a design you have.  If the piece isn't made right and finished properly it won't look good.  And, conversely, you can have a pretty ugly design but if it's made right, it will look good.  Now I think at the time he may have said it will or won't sell, but it has become apparent to me over the years that there is plenty of actually horribly made and/or designed jewelry that does sell, but his basic lesson that you better make it right has always stuck with me and I have always tried my best to do just that with my jewelry. 

Dave taught me how to work in sterling silver but he rarely, at the time, worked with gold so I got no experience with that.  I worked for him for 3 years during which time I also began acquiring my own tools to make jewelry at home.  When I finished high school I stayed at home for the next year, continuing to work for him.  At 19 I moved up to Boston to go to college part time at UMass Boston.  But I needed to support myself so I made up a small line of sterling silver jewelry that I decided I would try to wholesale to stores.  It was really pretty silly when I look back at it now but I remember going into these places with a half dozen black velvet pads with pieces U pinned on them in a paper shopping bag!

So this is taking a little longer than I thought. I'm going to call this part 1 and I'll continue the tale in my next article. 


  1. This is so cool! I've always wanted to learn how to make jewelry like this... but now I have the added hurdle of being in another country...

    That lesson that you shared with us from Dave about the make of a piece is something I've never thought much on. It's a really cool lesson that I'm glad you shared ^_^

  2. What a wonderful personal insight into the business! Would you say this was an immediate passion, or did it take some time for it to grow on you? Can't wait for more to come!

    1. Initially it was because I wanted to earn some money. But apparently fate had decided my path in life.

  3. We're still on tenterhooks waiting for part 2 of your autobiography!