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Wednesday, April 27, 2011

On the Timing of Things

I had a young couple in the other day (why do I seem to start so many of my blogs this way) who were looking for wedding bands. Their wedding was about 6 weeks off. Seems like plenty of time to get a wedding band, right? But there was a little problem. It seems that they had seen some mokume gane bands made by a friend of mine, James Binnion, who also happens to be the foremost metallurgist in the United States and is probably the best mokume gane jeweler in the world right now. I believe they came in to see me because I do some mokume gane (see some here and here), but I only do a couple of bands and with a particular look that I like. I've never been one to get focused on only one style so I've never had the desire (or the time frame) to develop a lot of the other things that can be done with mokume gane if I had chosen that path. I like what I do with mokume at the moment and I view it as a part of my repertoire but I will be the first to tell you that there are a lot of other jewelers (James Binnion included) who do a whole lot of interesting stuff with it. There are also commercial gold suppliers who will provide you with billets of ready made mokume gane material that you can just carve up but that seemed to take all of the fun of making it out of it so I have never pursued that either.

Anyway, back to the couple. So they had their hearts set on bands by James BUT James' wife recently got hit by a car when she was in a crosswalk. His wife is a partner in his business and it meant that he was suddenly running way behind on production. He told the couple that it would be at least 10-12 weeks to get the bands they wanted. And that was after their wedding. So.......they could change the wedding date (well only if it was a very, very small minimalist wedding), wait until after they get married to get the rings (something that a lot of people just don't like to do---I mean you're getting married! You should have your wedding band! That you're going to have for the rest of your life! With the person you love!) or try to find a substitute. But I can assure you that once you have your heart set on something like this it's pretty hard to change and take a substitute instead. So I suggested to them that, since James wholesales his work around the country, that they call every one of his accounts and see if they could find the rings they wanted already made up. I'm not sure if that's what they did or not but it was the best I could offer them.

So why am I telling you all of this? Well it has to do with the reality of timing on a hand made product. Both James and I HAND MAKE our product. It does not come from China. It is not stamped out by machine. We cannot simply call up a supplier and say ship me two more of those. Now I know that most jewelers really want to try to make their customers happy. I know that I try to do the best I can with meeting people's schedules. However there is a point that is reached, with handmade products, where they simply cannot be produced any faster or meet some deadlines.

People often come in and ask me how long it will take to get bands or a custom order from me. Frankly the timing can vary tremendously depending on what they want. If it's something I can pull out of the case and size it's only a day or two. If it's a ring that I just need to swap a stone out of, it can also be only a day or two. If it's something that I cast and I have to get a casting made up and then finished it can be a few weeks or so. If it's a handbuilt piece it can run anywhere from a few weeks to a month and a half. If it's a custom piece that needs models made up first it can take up to two and a half months from start to finish. And when Iam as busy as I am now, working 7 days a week already, you can pretty much plan that all of those time frames will be longer, sometimes much longer. I have been unable to find a way to work 8 days a week so you just have to get in line.

So here's the deal. If you're getting married, and you want a hand made wedding band, it is the single most important part of the wedding planning (maybe next to the dress and reserving the space). You cannot wait until two weeks before the wedding and be assured of getting what you want. Sometimes you cannot wait until two months before the wedding either. You just can't tell what might have happened, how busy someone might be, etc. So don't leave it until the last minute! Or even the last month! You need to plan ahead!

You might be wondering by now what the picture at the top of the page has to do with this, or with jewelry for that matter. Pretty much nothing. But there were some new infrared space photos released by NASA recently and this was one of my favorites. Plus many of you know how comets, and their ilk, show up in many of my pieces so it is an inspiration for me!

Tuesday, April 19, 2011

Overworked, underpaid and happy

I have been killing myself lately with work. I have been working seven days a week since the beginning of February to keep up with things, with the exception of one three day weekend in New York (to see my wildly successful artist son who I am so, so proud of and to visit my parents as well) and I am so exhausted. But you know something, I truly love what I do. I really enjoy the fact that the pieces I make are so important to so many people for so many different reasons. I really don't make jewelry anymore, I make memories; and that is something that means so much more to me than just making jewelry. Whether it is an engagement ring that commits you to your significant other for a future together, a wedding band that signifies your undying love for each other, or even just a custom pair of earrings that represent your love and gratitude for what another person in your life has done for you or means to you; what I create with my poor, bruised hands means something. And that makes me happy. Admittedly I try to make memories that are well made and last you for a lifetime but isn't that what memories are?

I also really enjoy the fact that I still actually MAKE jewelry. With MY hands. Using techniques that go back thousands of years in some cases. This is what I offer my customers and hope that they love.

As always, as you know, I am going somewhere with this. I recently had a very nice young gentleman come in and place an order for my currently best selling ring (which I have mentioned before and can be seen at the top of the page). He asked me if I would be willing to take pictures of the piece in progress. I agreed because, after all, my job is to please and he had explained to me that he was making a photo book that he could present to his fiancee with the ring. I'm not a great photographer, but hey, I have a new phone having finally stepped up into the smart phone market (and yes I would highly recommend the Motorola Atrix that I got)and I figured I could use it to take pictures with. So I basically took a photo after every soldering/setting action that I took. I made an attempt to post it here on the blog but for some reason the system would not allow me to get the photos in order no matter how much time I spent trying (2 hours in fact). But my customer put it together into this very cool book that is available on line and then gave me permission to allow you all to see it (after he proposed of course). As seems to have always happened with a Daniel Spirer ring, she said yes (I swear it's the rings that really make them say yes!!!)and I can now direct you to the link for the really spectacular book that he created here. The final pictures of the finished piece were taken by the customer. It was an 18k palladium white gold version of the ring.

Friday, April 1, 2011

Personal Safety

The other day I had a woman come in with a gold ring and a platinum ring. She wanted to know how much it would cost to remove the engraving on the inside of the platinum ring and get them both polished. She also said she wanted to know how much each weighed. Anyone who has been in my store knows that I like to find out the whys and wherefores of any work I'm doing so I inquired why she was doing this and why she wanted to know the weights. I thought at first that she was going to take the rings to a scrap buyer and sell them, but if she was doing that it was meaningless to remove the engraving. The scrap buyers don't care (nor do they care if they're polished). She announced to me that she was going to sell the rings on Angie's List.

Okay, now I know I'm a little paranoid. I have to be in my business. There is, after all, a reason why I have cameras all over the place, a locked door, panic buttons and requirements that people have to take off their hats and sunglasses, and sometimes have to hand over their licenses before I'll show them an expensive piece. But the reason I do all of these things is because I know that there are criminals by the barrelful out there, many of them desperate and they will often do anything to steal something like jewelry as it's easy to carry and has high resale value (even if it's only for gold scrap value).

Now, please folks, think about this for a moment. You're going to advertise in a public place that you have jewelry you want to sell. And then you're going to agree to meet someone YOU DON'T KNOW to have them look at this jewelry. Do you honestly think there aren't people out there looking for just this opportunity? After all, look at the Angie's list killer who has just been back in the news again as they released some new information on his crimes. He killed someone he met from the list for anything she had and he didn't even know that they might have jewelry for sale on their person!

I'm really sorry, but this is just a stupid thing to do. It is, quite simply, asking for trouble. I did tell the customer (actually I pleaded with her) to either just take the stuff and scrap it or do it on Ebay where she didn't actually have to meet anyone. I told her I was exceedingly uncomfortable with helping someone put themselves in such a vulnerable position. I think however that despite my repeated pleas with her that she plans on proceeding with the sale on Angie's List. It's a big mistake folks and I urge everyone to take this advice to heart: If you have to sell something do it in a way that won't leave you in a position to have someone stick a gun in your face and steal it (and probably stuff you don't want to sell too!).