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Wednesday, December 18, 2013

More New Things in for the Holidays

Here are some pictures of some beads I recently got in. The light blue are natural color (unheated) aquamarine crystals:
Light blue rough random shaped beads
Natural color aquamarine crystal beads
These darker blue beads are tumbled tanzanite.  I haven't actually ever seen anything quite like this before in tanzanite:
Blue/purple random shaped tanzanite beads
Tumbled Tanzanite Beads
The pendant below is a new one I just made up with all natural color unheated orange sapphires:
half circle shape with size graduated orange stones on one side and sticks with balls on the other
18k Yellow Gold and Orange Sapphire pendant
That's it for today.  Just wanted to show you some of the new goodies. 

Tuesday, December 17, 2013

On Charging a Fair Price for a Product

18k yellow gold bracelet with looping wire design and bezel set round orange sapphires
18k gold loop de loop bracelet with orange sapphires
I read an interesting article in the paper the other day about how some of the mainstream, larger retail outlets have started teaching their employees how to bargain with their customers.  In other words they were giving them permission to have an ongoing sale all the time basically for anyone who asks for it.  Unfortunately this type of practice leads to a plethora of ethical issues.  First of all it means that everything is basically on sale all the time.  But if something is on sale all the time, then there is no "real" price anymore.  The sale price becomes the real price and it would require further deductions for anything to be considered on sale.  Secondly it's unfair to customers who don't know to ask or are too timid to ask for a discount.  They end up paying more than anyone else is for exactly the same item.  These people also end up supporting the sales prices for the other customers because without some of the people paying full price, the stores couldn't afford to give the discounts they are to the ones who ask for it. Third, and most importantly, it means that most stores will raise their prices to cover the discounts they are being asked for. This is both unethical and again punishes those who can't, or won't, ask for the discount.

My question goes back to one I brought up recently (in this article about the airline industry).  Why is it that we have such a big problem with charging a fair price for a product and sticking with it?  Admittedly a lot of this issue falls on the heads of the retailers out there because they encourage this kind of behavior and we seem to fall for the hype and the idea that we are getting some kind of a "deal".  Unfortunately usually we aren't getting a deal, for a variety of reasons.  Often the retailers simply mark their items up more knowing that they are going to be negotiated down, so it's not really a deal. 

Or sometimes stubbornness on our part may also lead one to think they're getting a deal. I have a very good friend who hates to pay full price for anything (despite the fact that he can afford pretty much anything he wants---in part it might come from when he was a lot poorer).  He told me a story once of spending three hours driving around town to get a better deal on a set of tires.  I think on that search he managed to ultimately save himself a hundred or a hundred and fifty dollars.  Sounds pretty good on a $600 purchase.  But let's say he paid the full price at the first place.  He'd have three hours to do something far more productive with, whether that would be more time at work (where he would get paid), or with his family, or just going to see a movie and relaxing a bit.  Now I know we don't think along exactly the same lines (my idea of a vacation is to go somewhere for awhile and do nothing---his is to go do everything possible in the area he's vacationing in) but in three hours I could have: 1) made up a beautiful new piece of jewelry worth way more than $150 2) caught up on my sleep so that I could actually see straight most of the time, 3) spent some time with my wife doing something we like to do together, or 4) gone out to get some needed exercise thereby increasing my life span a bit.  All of these things are worth far more than the money I would have saved if I had pursued the same exercise in tire purchasing. 

So in my store I believe in putting my pieces out at a fair price for the value you get.  I have an advantage over many retailers in that you can't get my work anywhere else but that doesn't mean that I sell my goods for more than they are worth.  I price it in a way that lets the customer get something of value with stringent warranties, that is creative, made locally, often with recycled materials, allows me to make a modest living, and allows the customer to have something that very few other people have. People know what to expect when they come in my shop and that's exactly the way I like it.

The bracelet at the top is a piece I just put out. It's one of my loop de loop chains but I have added some of the orange sapphires I got from my new German connection that I also got the jellyfish earring carvings from.

Wednesday, December 11, 2013

Jellyfish Earrings

carved bluish grey moonstone pods with dangling 18k wires and 22k gold caps
22k and 18k gold moonstone "Jellyfish Earrings"
I am now open every day until Christmas so if you want to stop by anytime please do.  My hours are Monday-Friday 11-6, Saturday 11-5 and Sunday 12-5.

The earrings pictured above just went out in the cases yesterday.  In this blog article I talked about my new source from Germany for the drusy moon faces and a few other goodies. Well this pair of bluish gray carved moonstones are some of the other goodies I got from them.  I had altogether different plans for them to begin with but they kept evolving as I spent time with them and this is what I came up with.  I think they're really pretty fun!

"S" Shaped links in 18k yellow gold
18k yellow gold "S" link chain
The chain pictured here is a custom job I just finished up for one of my best customers.  In fact I had made a chain similar to this years ago and you can see it near the end of the YouTube video you can click on at the side of the page here.  He saw that one and decided he needed one too for his wife. 

I also just got in a strand of some beautiful natural color aquamarine crystals that are quite striking as well as a strand of tumbled tanzanite beads that I have never seen anything quite like before.  They are strung up and ready to go.  I hope to get a picture of them up here in a few days.

It's the holidays after all so I'm trying to make sure the cases are stuffed.  And now I'm off to keep working on some more new things I have rolling around in my head.  Look for new pictures later this week.

Oh and one last picture. This was my wife's Christmas present this year with a pink tourmaline and sapphire accents:
She loved it and I can make one just like it for you too!

And as a last minute addition here is the new moon face pendant:

Tuesday, December 10, 2013

I'm Churning It Out But It Keeps Selling

Working seven days a week does wonders for my production.  I made this mokume gane pendant on Friday:
diamond shaped pendant in different colors of gold with diamonds
22k, 18k palladium white gold, 18k pink gold and diamonds
It sold on Saturday. 

I also sold my new watermelon tourmaline bracelet on Saturday.  That one looked like this:
Watermelon tourmaline link bracelet in 18k and 22k gold
22k and 18k gold bracelet with watermelon tourmalines
Suzy, if you're reading this I'm sorry but it's gone to a new home. 

And I made these garnet earrings up recently and they've also left the premises.  
triangular purple stones with dangling rectangles with wire and beads in 18k yellow and white gold
18k yellow and white gold earrings with garnets
However this doesn't mean all of the good stuff is gone.  I just made these up in white gold:
18k white gold pendulum style earrings with diamond accents
18k palladium white gold and diamonds

And tomorrow I'm going to have some pictures of another pair of pretty wild, new jellyfish earrings for you.  I'm sorry I have to run and make some more new stuff.  Enjoy!

Saturday, December 7, 2013

The Holidays are Coming and Some General Comments and New Pictures!

Carved moon face in black agate with sparkly drusy
Black Drusy Moon Face
I hope you all had a wonderful Thanksgiving this year.  This is always a fun time of year.  You get to eat a lot and not feel too guilty.  You get to spend a lot and not feel too guilty.  And in my case, I get to work a lot and make up some new things for the cases, which quite honestly is the thing I love to do the most.  I have some assorted comments today and some pictures of some new things out in the cases.

The first comment has to do with the piece pictured above. I was able to get another carved drusy face from my new German source.  It's a black drusy this time and it's a bit larger than the last one.  And don't get your hopes up---it's also already sold.  I think I'll have to start buying more than one at a time but I am fussy about the ones I pick so I'm not sure it's possible.  There definitely won't be any more of them this year unless someone wants to special order one (and even then I'm not sure there's time to get it in and made up before the holidays if that's the intent).

round disc earrings in 22k gold with granular surface texture
22k gold disc earrings
My second comment goes back to an old posting I made that had to do with alexandrites.  For some reason this particular article is the single most viewed article I have ever written. I think, in part, this has something to do with the search engines and that there isn't quite as much information about alexandrites out there as a lot of the other topics I cover. What is interesting however is that I continue to get emails from people who read the article and then want to know if the stone they have in their possession is a real alexandrite.  My latest inquiry even sent me pictures of the stone in question.  So let me restate something I thought I made clear in the original article.  If you have a large stone in your possession and it changes color the odds are extremely, extremely long that it is a natural alexandrite.  Finding alexandrites in sizes over about 3 ct. is nigh on impossible unless you have a vast amount of wealth at your beck and call.  And unless your mother/grandmother/great aunt/great great grandmother was extremely wealthy they didn't have one to pass down either. If it is a large stone you almost certainly have a color change synthetic corundum (sapphire) and, yes, they have been around for a long, long time.  I might also point out that when you attempt to research your stone on the web you are going to get confused because there are both synthetic alexandrites and synthetic corundums that have been misidentified as alexandrite for years.  Synthetic alexandrites have all the properties of natural but they are man made.  Synthetic corundum is an entirely different material.  Synthetic alexandrites have not been around for anywhere near as long as the corundum, which many find confusing because they assume that their grandmother couldn't have bought one because it was so long ago. But that is synthetic alexandrite  not synthetic corundum. And incidentally you really don't need a gem lab most of the time on this.  Any jeweler who has a gemology degree will be able to immediately tell you if your stone is a synthetic corundum.  It is one of the easiest separations to make.  I have one customer who owns a number of alexandrites that I sold her.  If the timing is right the next time she comes in for a cleaning I'll see if I can get some pictures of the pieces so that you can see what the real material looks like.
18k yellow gold pendant with carved moon face and emerald
Labradorite moon face with emerald accent 18k yellow gold

In the next few days I'm going to rerun my favorite holiday blog article about engagement rings as Christmas presents. I'll update it with some new pictures. Pictured immediately above is a new pendant that is out in the cases. I'm running out of these moon faces as my source retired about the same time he ran out of this quality of material. The pair of earrings in the middle of the article are also in the cases.  They are 22k granulated gold.  There was no solder used on the 22k gold disc (although the posts are 18k gold and are soldered onto the back).  I always love the way the granulation technique leaves a nice texture that makes the earrings look really old.

Saturday, November 23, 2013

Know Your Jeweler

Tear drop shaped pendant with blue stone and diamonds
18k yellow gold, blue tourmaline and diamonds
I'm not sure I've gone this long between writing posts before.  I'm not sure what happened.  I must be distracted with working.

Last week I fielded a call from a woman wanting to know if I set stones.  I answered in the affirmative but then asked what exactly she needed.  She told me that a "craftsperson" was making a ring for her but didn't know how to set the stone.  So the craftsperson told the woman she would give her a couple of stones that she could take to someone else and they could pick out the best one that would work in the setting and they could set it.  Am I the only one to see something wrong with this scenario?  How can you even agree to take on a job if you aren't capable of actually finishing it?  Of course the other question is why would the customer commission someone to do something they weren't even capable of?

This goes back to a topic I've discussed in the past.  You really need to know who you're working with when commissioning jewelry pieces.  If the person isn't able to show you work consistent in the technical level you want in your piece, then they aren't a good fit for you.  If their style isn't something you like, they aren't a good fit for you (although there are some people like me who, while having a particular look that is representative of their work, are also capable of producing pretty much anything).  And if you aren't able to communicate effectively with them, they aren't the right person for you.  Frankly I know, and have known for quite some time, that I'm not going to be able to please every person that walks in my shop.  Either my look isn't good for them, or the communication level isn't right, or they just don't feel comfortable working with me and these things are fine. I would much rather see someone working with someone who they are completely comfortable with than struggling to work with someone they aren't comfortable with.

The holidays are coming and I need to remind people of a few things.  First of all don't look at your credit card statements on line in the middle of the month. It's possible to ruin any surprises your significant other may have in store for you. Secondly (and this is mostly for the women out there), if there is something you really, really want this year, it's always best to be direct with your husbands.  Men are notoriously unable to fathom (for a variety of reasons) what it is you want unless you actually tell them.  Often it is even necessary to drag them into your favorite shop and say: "See, I like that and that!"  Third I hope that everyone has a very happy and pleasant Thanksgiving.  Do yourselves a favor and spend it at home with your family, not out shopping at the plethora of large chain stores that have now decided it is no longer a real holiday.
Moon shaped and star shaped pair of earrings with orange stones
18k palladium white gold, orange sapphire earrings
The photo at the top is a pendant I made up for my wife using a blue tourmaline and diamonds.  The photo at the bottom is a new pair of earrings I just made up in 18k palladium white gold with orange sapphires (from the new batch I got from my new German source previously mentioned). 

Tuesday, October 22, 2013

Just Some Pictures and a Few Words

Yellow gold pendant w/ carved white drusy moonface and diamond
18k yellow gold carved quartz drusy moonface and diamond pendant
Happily I survived my hernia operation without any lasting effects, and apparently not much of a scar either.  I was also back at work quite a bit faster than my doctor had anticipated but that's kind of typical for the self employed I believe.  The moon face drusy that I wrote about in my last posting is finished up (as you can see in the accompanying picture) and I'm quite pleased with the result.  I'm in touch with the supplier about getting another one but I believe she is still out on the road and hasn't returned to Germany yet where she said she had more stock.  So I can't tell you yet that I will actually be able to get another one I'm as happy with as this one, but there is a possibility.  In the meanwhile if you're desperate to get a new piece of mine I just put out these earrings with sapphires and diamonds:
Oval 18k yellow gold earrings with blue sapphires and diamonds
18k yellow gold, blue sapphire and diamond earrings
And I'm sure you are all desperate to get something because jewelry is such an important part of your lives!  The sapphires in these earrings were particularly nice.  They are a little darker than they appear in the picture but they are quite lively and a very rich color. 

I'm just going to let the pictures speak for themselves in this posting.  If I write anything about what I feel like writing about (dysfunction of our government) I might get too many people upset.  Actually I would just get myself upset too so I'm not going down that path. 

I'm always looking for feedback!  Anyone want to hear about something in particular in my business?  Please let me know.

Sunday, September 29, 2013

On Hernias, Gemstone Shopping and Carved Drusy Moon Faces

white drusy with carved moon face on one side
Carved drusy moon face
I'm at home today (it's a Saturday) because I just had a hernia repaired yesterday so I figured I would catch up on some of my blog writing.  But be forewarned there might be a few ows! scattered around this article.

One of my favorite things to do is to buy gemstones. By now, my regular readers should know that I love to because I have such a love for colored stones.  Plus I love to spend money and I can do this guilt free because, after all, it's for business!

I have been in the business for so long now that I have focused down to some very trusted suppliers.  This is in part because they are excellent sources for the quality of goods I believe in selling.  It's also because with all of the new gemstone treatments out there I like to know who I'm actually working with so I know that the goods I get are exactly what I am told they are.  Because of this I don't often buy from new sources but when a gem dealer does stop in, I will always take a look because you just never know what someone might have.

Invariably I start out every conversation with a new dealer telling them that I'm not buying now.  Sometimes it's because I really am not buying at the time.  But it also makes them work a little harder to sell me something! And I can often cut through the chafe a little quicker.  Instead of showing me all the junk first, they'll usually pull out the better stuff.

So this past Tuesday I had a woman come in pulling her wheeled bag and she pulled out her card and introduced herself to me.  She was a family member of a 100 year old firm operating in Idar-Oberstein in Germany. Idar-Oberstein is actually one of the oldest (if not THE oldest continuously operating) gemstone cutting capitals in the world.  It has been a center for gem cutting for hundreds of years.  When I first started out on my own making jewelry I had one primary gemstone supplier and everything they sold came from Idar-Oberstein. They liked the material from there because when they bought a 7 mm x 5 mm stone, it measured 7 mm x 5 mm not 7 ish  x 5 ish.   The quality of the material (this was mostly agates, amethysts and other less expensive materials) was also always the best of the type out there.  Also for those of you who have some of my pieces with carved spectrolite, labradorite and moonstone faces, you know that they were all carved in Germany.  The Germans, if nothing else, are always precise and, like most Europeans (and Asians too--it seems only here in America that the dominant issue is price), tend to appreciate quality over any other factors.

So I was perfectly happy to look at her goods for awhile (even if my CEO---that would be my wife who pays the bills---has been clamping down on my spending lately) even though I didn't think I would buy anything.  And then, you know how it goes from here.....she had some things I simply had to have.  They had a lot of drusy quartz, including some largish round ones with moon faces carved into them. There was one white one with black spots that was just beautiful that had to stay with me (picture is above).  They also had some very unusual carved bead like pieces and I had to have a pair of the grey moonstone ones.  And then they had a stunning parcel of smallish (3.5 mm) fancy colored sapphires that I cherry picked all of the orange and orangey-red stones from.   Some of you may be familiar with my untreated smaller orange sapphires, which tend to be muted in color somewhat.  The oranges I got from this dealer are heated stones but they are incredibly intense, fiery, true oranges.

So all in all, I had a fun time working with this dealer and got a few nice things to boot.  Now I'd like to be able to say that the drusy carved moonstone face will be out in the cases soon but the second customer to look at it (I had shown it to one person a few days ago and Kady pulled it out to show someone today) bought it.   Sometimes I do just kind of know when the piece is the right one! But now that I have this new source I'm hoping to be able to get some more similar material in the future.

Oh and by the way,  ow, ow, ow.

Wednesday, September 18, 2013

New Store Hours

Rectangular 18k gold earrings with triangular garnets at the top
18k yellow gold and garnet earrings
I have talked about my new summer hours a couple of times already but now I want to announce new permanent hours.  But first, a little background:

When I decided to make my Thursday evening hours by appointment only it was actually for two reasons.  The first, of course, was because it was the summer and I felt like I deserved to get out of here a little earlier to enjoy the extra daylight and warmth.  The second reason, however, was because for the three months prior to the summer no one seemed to be coming in during my late hours on Thursdays.  I felt kind of ridiculous staying here late all the time when no one seemed to come in.  After all, I was doing it for my customer's convenience, not because I like to work late (not that I don't do that a lot anyway).  So I changed my hours to make 6-8 pm on Thursdays by appointment only.  And a funny thing happened.  Suddenly people were calling up every week to make appointments for Thursday night.  I have actually only managed to close at 6 pm on a Thursday two times since I started this.  Apparently people like to make appointments to see me.  Or they just don't really want me to go home early ever.  But for whatever reason, it actually seems to be working better for me. At least this way if I have to stay late it's for a reason. 

Consequently, effective immediately, my new permanent store hours will be as follows:

Tuesday, Wednesday, Thursday, Friday   11-6
Thursday evenings from 6-8 by appointment only
Saturday 11-5

The new earrings above have some nice rhodolite garnets in them. 

Tuesday, September 10, 2013

Retailing in America

18k gold green boulder opal and green garnet earrings
18k and 22k gold earrings with boulder opals and green garnets
Imagine you walk into a jewelry store on a Saturday looking for a pair of earrings as a gift.  You see a nice pair you like and they are priced at $1000.  You want to spend a couple of days thinking about it so you leave and come back the following Wednesday.  There are the same earrings only they are priced at $500.  Okay so the price of gold has not dropped 50% in those five days.  Actually it's gone up a little.  Not wanting to forgo the deal you pay for them right away, but don't take them home that day because you don't want them in the house until you're ready to give them as a gift so your wife is really surprised.  You come back on Friday to pick them up.  While they are bringing out your pair from the back, you see another pair just like them (no one said they were one of a kind so you're not surprised).  And there on the price tag is $450.  You don't know what to say, but you figure that maybe it's an error so you take your earrings home and give them to your wife.  The next day (Saturday) your wife goes into the jewelry store for a slight adjustment and she sees the exact same pair of earrings and they are marked at $1000.  She's impressed by your largesse and comes home to tell you how much she's impressed.  Surprised by this you run back down to the store and sure enough they are priced at $1000 again.

Okay now imagine another scenario (as usual I'm working my way up to a point so bear with me here).  You walk into a jewelry store and you see a lovely ring you want to give to your wife.  You ask how much it is and the clerk says $1200.  You say, okay that seems fair, but you point out to the clerk that the ring doesn't have a final polish on it.  The clerk looks at you and says, yes.  A final polish is $50 extra.  Well you can't buy the ring without a final polish so you say okay.  When the clerk comes back with the now polished ring, she asks if you'd like a box for it.  You say, of course I want a box for it.  The clerk brings out three boxes and says okay, you can have this cheap paper box for an extra $25, you can have this nice cardboard box for $50 or you can have the super duper wood box for $100.  You hem and haw.  After all the $1200 ring is now at least $1275 and possibly $1350, but you go for the midrange box.  Then the clerk looks at you and asks if you'd like gift wrapping on it and comes out with another range of wraps at assorted prices.  The same thing goes for a bag to put it all in.  By the time you come out of the store the $1200 ring has become a $1450 ring.

These things sound really pretty stupid don't they?  I mean why should the same pair of earrings cost more or less on a daily basis unless gold is really wildly fluctuating?  And why should you have to pay for a bunch of extras that really should be included in the total price to begin with?  Would you shop at a jewelry store that did these kinds of things?

My wife and I are trying to plan our upcoming trip to California in January (it will be our 25th wedding anniversary trip!) and we've started looking at airfares (I see a few of you have suddenly caught on to my scenarios here).  Late last week, on the same airline, we could have paid TWICE what we could get the tickets for yesterday (Monday).  That's double the price!  Nothing changed but the day.  Nothing.  Oil prices didn't go up or down. The world was no more nor less in a crisis mode than it was last week (or ever it seems).

But of course then we had to also go down the list of "extras" as well.  Did we want extra legroom (in my book that's an absolute necessity these days)?  Did we want early boarding?  Did we want to bring luggage with us?  Bring in carry on bags?  Were we aware of the surcharges for assorted things? So even that half the price figure we were looking at wasn't quite accurate (although it was still half the price of the higher ticket with the same extras). 

Why is it Americans are so willing to put up with this nonsense?  You wouldn't tolerate it in a jewelry store.  As a matter of fact you would be fuming.  You wouldn't tolerate it in a toy store.  But for some reason, in certain businesses, we happily go along with this madness.  I can't imagine putting my customers through that.  What ever happened to establishing a fair price for the value and sticking with it?  An occasional sale is fine.  Even, in the case of airlines, lowering the fares slightly on less desirable flights (the ones at 6 am that you need to get up at 3 am to get to on time), but basically charging the same until market conditions change in general (rising costs for aviation fuel, labor, etc.).  Just imagine a world like that where you might actually be able to budget things with some idea of realistic costs.

Unfortunately Americans are so into the "deal" and have become so fixated on always finding the lowest possible cost on everything that they feed this insanity all the time.  Regrettably this works in a negative way as it forces companies to find ways to reduce all their costs to the point that jobs go overseas, our money goes overseas and suddenly everyone is wondering why their pay is shrinking and they can't even afford those "bargain" airfares.  Perhaps it's time to just stop and look at what we do to ourselves with this kind of nonsense.  And demand more accountability and more sane pricing from the companies we buy from.  Okay that's my soapbox speech for the day.

At the top are some new earrings I just made up with boulder opals and tsavorite garnets.  Kady got a really good picture of the colors in the opals and yes they look just that beautiful! And trust me. No matter what day you come in to my shop to see them, they'll be the same price. 

Wednesday, August 28, 2013

Extended Summer and Extended Summer Hours!

Due to global warming, I have decided to extend my summer hours as long as I can keep wearing my Hawaiian shirts in to work.   It looks like that is going to be at least through September at this point.  I'd like to add that this is one distinct benefit of global warming (actually it's probably the only benefit but that's another story) and I'm going to take full advantage of it.  So until further notice (or you seeing me wear long sleeve shirts) we will be continuing to have the following hours: Tueday, Wednesday, Thursday and Friday 11-6, Saturday 11-5 and I am open by appointment only Thursday evenings from 6-8.  I'm partly doing this as the first four Thursdays I never got out of the shop before 8 anyway (because people kept making appointments) so I'm trying to get back a few of those hours.

The ring pictured (badly---I apologize, Kady's not in to take a picture, I just finished it and the customer is coming in to pick it up right away and my finger was the only one available)  is a custom job I just completed for a customer using his 3 ct. blue sapphire and some diamonds made in 18k yellow gold and 950 platinum.  I'm always happy to use a customer's stones to make up one of my signature rings!   And isn't my pinky cute!

Saturday, August 17, 2013

More on Security (But This Time it's Mine)

Not too long ago I wrote a series of pieces on your security and safety.  Today I want to write about MY security and safety. 

18k triangular shaped earrings with Ethiopian opals.
18k Ethiopian opal earrings
Yesterday I was soundly berated for having terrible customer service by a customer calling to complain that her husband, who was coming in to get her ring cleaned, was turned away from the door because he came by before I had opened (he was 40 minutes early).  She was furious that he had traveled a distance (which he had) and she couldn't understand why I wouldn't let him in since 1) they were customers--and therefore I should have recognized him, 2) he had traveled so far to get here and 3) since I was on summer hours, which she inferred were different than my normal ones in the morning, and therefore I should have allowed him entry. A number of years ago I got a complaint on Yelp from someone who was irritated I wouldn't let her in after closing hours even though I was obviously still in the store. And more recently, a customer on Yelp also complained I had too many security signs up on my door and that they were intimidating.

So let me first discuss her actual complaints and then I'm going to explain exactly why I do what I do.  Yes these people were customers but I have thousands of customers and I have well over a thousand who routinely come in to have their rings cleaned and checked.  So unless you're in my store with some frequency you can't expect me to recognize every person who comes to my door.  Maybe when facial recognition programs get better, and I can afford one, this won't be such a problem.  I also have customers who come from all over Massachusetts, and other states (one from Chicago who never misses a cleaning) and they all are pretty much aware of my normal hours, and on the rare occasion when they show up early, they are usually fine with having a cup of coffee down the street while they wait for me to open.  As for the summer hour thing, I have a sign posted on my door with my slightly reduced hours, however they were only shortened on the closing end, not the opening end.  For thirty years, I have never opened my doors before 11 am.  This has never changed.  It is posted on my door, every cleaning reminder that goes out clearly has our hours on it, it is all over my website, and there is always that old concept of calling up to check on hours beforehand.

But all of these things are really moot.  What is important here is the REASON I won't open my doors before or after my normal hours.  Every single jewelry related security organization and insurers KNOW that most robberies occur either just before or just after your opening and closing times.  Criminals like to gain access before you open because no one else is in the store besides the employees so it makes their job easier (if you can call it a job).  Additionally jewelry is usually exposed during the set up process and not in either the cases or the safe.   They will often come in just before closing time for the same reason.  Criminals have been known to routinely dress up as delivery men specifically to get in before opening hours.  For this reason, my insurance company, does not allow me to let people in then.  It is just too dangerous.

Okay, so I hear yourselves saying, well I'm not a criminal and I know that so why shouldn't I be allowed in?  First of all, because if I don't know you well, I have no idea whether or not that is the case.  Even if you have been in my store and bought something from me it doesn't mean you are still the same type of person who bought from me originally. (Here are two cases in point: I was passed a bad check for a replacement wedding band from a customer who had gotten his first one from me. We were never able to collect on it because he had become a drug addict and was on a rapid downward spiral in his life.  And then we had a young woman once who bought and paid for one pair of earrings and stole a second pair at the same time.)  Secondly, and more importantly, I can't tell who might be behind, or off to the side of you.  As soon as I open the door for you, it is possible someone out of my sight can slip in behind you. 

And this is the real problem here.  If a criminal comes in somehow, not only is my life placed at risk (as is yours if I let you in and they come in behind you), but all of my livelihood is at risk and all of the pieces that my customers have entrusted to me are at risk as well.  How would you feel if something you had in for repair with me, or a stone of yours that I was making a new piece up with, was stolen, because a customer insisted on me breaking protocol to accommodate their needs?

Now you're probably thinking, oh this kind of stuff doesn't happen in places like Cambridge.  But it happens everywhere.  And it's far worse than most people think.  Did you know that total losses from jewelry industry thefts are higher than losses from bank robberies almost every year? While I have never, knock on wood, actually been held up in the store, we have had incidents of thefts (including one almost 30 years ago when we weren't set up yet and we allowed a customer in and he got away with an entire bag of jewelry) throughout our 30 years on the block.  We have had grab and runs, sneak thefts and even had a set of keys stolen. 

And besides all of these issues, when you come in before I open and I have to stop my set up process to help you, I can't always get set up on time, which either means I'm back to letting people into my store before I'm properly secured or I'm delaying other customers who do come by at the appropriate times. Additionally, my cleaning equipment takes time to get warmed up in the morning so routinely it isn't even ready before my opening time. 

So if you come to my store before I open, please expect to be turned away. Even if you see me in the store I cannot, and will not, let you in.  This is for your safety, and to be quite frank, more importantly to me, my safety as well. 

Wednesday, August 7, 2013

Tax Free Day is Really Happening

The governor signed the tax free day bill last Friday so our sale is on (as those of you who are existing customers should already know since you should have gotten an email about it---if you haven't please let me know and I'll get one out to you).  And again for those of you who aren't already customers, you can at least save the tax on anything up to $2500.  I've already had people in putting stuff aside so if you are interested in taking part in our one day event, you should come in sooner rather than later.

The picture above is a quick phone snap I took of a new necklace (since my trusty assistant and blog photog, Kady, isn't in today to do it) I just put out this morning. It's a new chain link I designed and it looks better in person than in my lousy photo. My wife Kathy had been complaining that I hadn't put any new chain designs out in awhile, so I got to it.  She loved it, but then said it needed big diamonds all around for her to wear it!  My moonbeams necklace that was out (see a picture of it here) was claimed yesterday by one of my regular customers, so this new one is kind of a replacement. 

I think (although I'm not sure) the first tweet of some of my bands went out recently.  These were the nerd bands shown in this blog article here.  Apparently they were so thrilled with them they had to tweet them to all their friends.  The tweet was under the customer's name so I can't tell you where to find it but I found it amusing that they were doing it. 

I am a bit under the gun this week with some complicated custom jobs but I'll get back to writing again next week.  Come on by!

Saturday, July 27, 2013

Tax Free Day is Coming (Maybe)!

triangular amethyst earrings in 18k yellow gold with diamonds
18k yellow gold with amethysts, diamonds and freshwater pearls
There was a short blurb in the Boston Globe this week that the state legislature is considering authorizing another tax free weekend (August 10-11) sometime in the upcoming week.  In the last ten or twelve years they have only skipped the tax free weekend once, so I'm pretty certain that they will push the bill through again this year. Unfortunately the governor usually likes to wait until the last minute to sign the bill into law but there doesn't seem to be any reason for them not to have it this year so I'm pretty certain it will be a fact. 

And along with tax free weekend Daniel R. Spirer Jewelers, has their annual one day sale!  So it's sale time again.  Please note that you must be an existing customer to take part in this sale so if all you've ever done is read my blog and you haven't been in before the sale won't do you any good. However you can still take advantage of the tax free part of the weekend (and then next year you can take advantage of the sale).  Sales up to $2500 are tax free (but if the piece is $3000, you still have to pay tax on the entire amount) and if you want to place an order and pay for it in full on tax free day, that is also tax free (again up to $2500).  For my regular customers who are readers here, we are again offering that you can come in the week ahead of time and pick out what you would like, leave us a credit card number and we will just run it through on tax free day (since it seems like everyone is away every weekend this summer).  So if you're thinking your husband or wife should be buying you a nice Christmas gift from me this year send him in, or if you have been yearning for a pair of my earrings to match one of your rings from me, or if you're just fed up with not having any new things to wear in your life, then come on in! Details will be sent out on our email list as soon as the law is actually signed by the governor. 

The earrings pictured above have amethysts and diamonds in 18k yellow gold. 

Saturday, July 20, 2013

Danwardian Style Earrings

18k and 22k yellow gold earrings with South Sea pearls
18k and 22k gold earrings with South Sea Pearls and Garnets
I had a customer come in recently whose wife apparently is watching some show on television now that takes place during the Edwardian period and for a 25th wedding anniversary present he wanted to give her a pair of earrings reminiscent of the period.  He wanted it to be a pearl drop but we went around a few times about the other stones he wanted to use and finally ended up going with tsavorite garnets.  As always the design kind of evolved as I was working on it.  He wanted the top piece as you see it here (a little commercial looking for my taste, but it did seem to be used during the period) but the rest was up to me.  The pearl caps came next and making the garnets work on them properly was a bit challenging as I didn't want the settings sticking out too far. Then I was originally going to do two straight links connected to each other but I couldn't get them to look right doing that so I threw out that idea altogether and used just the one link and made up some 22k gold balls to go above them.  Et voila! Danwardian earrings! If you're all lucky some day I'll stop making all these bad play on words!

Wednesday, July 10, 2013

I'm Back (Again).

I am back to work at the shop again after taking a week off. This year we didn't go anywhere so we had a staycation but we did manage to get to a couple of museums.  We went up to the Peabody Essex Museum in Salem to see the Faberge exhibit there.  Unfortunately there were only three eggs on display, and none of them were shown open, however there was a lot of other work that came out of the Faberge house that was interesting as well. It is certainly worth a trip and the museum itself is beautiful and has a number of other interesting exhibits (the Chinese house is quite something although I recommend you don't go when it's 95 degrees out as we did as the house is outside and they didn't have air conditioning in them when it was built).

We also got back to the Museum of Fine Arts in Boston.  I can't remember if I wrote about this previously, but the last time we went, I was excited to see a special jewelry exhibit they had up.  Unfortunately it was one of the worst jewelry exhibits I have ever seen in a museum, with virtually nothing of interest worth looking at.  However on this trip we went into the Egyptian section and had a chance to see the jewelry on display there (all the time).  Now this was a great exhibit. There are a number of Egyptian, Etruscan and Roman pieces there that are excellent examples of the amazing work that was done in those periods, with none of the tools that we have available to us today.  They had one Etruscan piece in particular that had an amazing example of the fine granulation work done during the period. The beads on the piece were so small they looked like dust, but they were most definitely individual gold beads.  When these pieces were made they had to use blow torches, they had no steel so they couldn't pull wire but had to make it either by twisting thin pieces of sheet together or hammering it out, and absolutely everything was done by hand (no Cad/Cam in those days!). 

In the meanwhile, back at the ranch, I'm working on some interesting custom pieces and a new chain link design that I hope to have out in the next month or two.  Please note my new summer hours: Tuesday, Wednesday, Thursday, and Friday 11-6 and Saturday 11-5, Thursdays 6-8 by appointment only.  The piece pictured above is a custom job I did for some customers a number of years ago which came back for a cleaning recently.  It's 18k yellow gold with sapphires and diamonds. 

Friday, June 28, 2013

I Kind of Cover a Wide Range and I Work Near MIT

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

Summer is Here and More On Why I Do What I Do

Summer has finally arrived, both technically and in reality.  We're in the middle of a short heat wave here and my faithful employee came back from a trip downtown for me complaining about how disgusting it is outside.  Fortunately we're well air conditioned here.

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

I'm back!


To my regular readers (one of whom was in yesterday and reminded me that I hadn't written anything in awhile---thanks Dawn!) I apologize for being remiss in my writings lately.  I have gotten myself entangled in another jeweler's news group on the web lately and I find I only have so much time (and energy) to write.  The problem with the news groups is that once you write something people respond to what you've said and then you're forced to write again and by the time the thread has ended you're pretty much written out (I'm not sure that's proper English, but it's how I feel sometimes).  Of course it wouldn't hurt if a few of my readers would actually respond to what I've written on here once in awhile.....and the end of this posting asks specifically for just that!

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:

 Pictured above a two sided clasp with a diamond and a green tourmaline made up for a customer using her diamond.   

Saturday, May 11, 2013

Jewelry Safety Part 3: Insurance

Tourmaline earrings made in Cambridge MA
18k gold and blue/green tourmalines
No matter how much you do to protect your possessions it can still be the case that someone actually manages to steal something (or that you lose something).  And that is why you should always carry insurance on your jewelry if you have enough value.  Usually you can get coverage on your jewelry with any home owner's or home renter's policy. There are also companies like Jeweler's Mutual that offer coverage only on jewelry (I'll get back to them in a bit).

The problem, however, with many jewelry policies is that you won't be paid any money if you have a loss. Most of the time the insurance company insist that you work with a jeweler that they have an agreement with to get a replacement. This can be problematic for a number of reasons, The first is that if you have a unique and/or designer piece, the jeweler may not be able to truly replace it. The second is that you are somewhat dependent on what that jeweler sells quality wise.  Not all "E" color, VVS1 clarity diamonds are created equal.  Some are better cut than others.  If the jeweler doesn't specialize in better cut stones you may end up with something that doesn't look nearly as good.  Additionally, different grading labs issue certificates with somewhat different standards.  The European Gem Labs (EGL) routinely overgrade almost every stone they give a certificate to.  For this reason, an "E", VVS1 diamond with an EGL cert will invariably be priced lower than one with a cert from the Gemological Institute of America (GIA).  So if the jeweler you are being forced to use buys mostly stones with EGL certs you won't necessarily be getting back what you originally had.

Despite the idea that insurance companies are supposed to "make you whole" in the event of a loss, they are really in existence to make money. That means that they will do everything possible to pay out as little as possible on any claim.  And that means that you have to have a clear understanding of what they are agreeing to do in order to make you whole again.  I run into very few people who actually read their policies (or at least more than the first page or two), and I think sometimes the insurance companies write their policies the way they do in order to make sure you don't read (and fully understand) them.  However, if you have a lot of jewelry it is critical that you do actually read the applicable parts so you understand what the companies are willing to do.  If the only thing that will make you happy is a cash payout, you may have to change companies to find one that will actually do that, or pay more with your company so that they will.  If you want to make sure that you are allowed to use your own jeweler, then you'd better make sure that they allow you to do that as well.  

Jeweler's Mutual is the company I am insured with and the only product they sell is insurance on jewelry.  Consequently their knowledge of the field goes far beyond what most insurance companies have.  They guarantee that you can go to the jeweler of your choice in the event of a loss. This can help tremendously if you have designer pieces as it means you can go back to your original source.  They also are a mutual company and have routinely over the years paid out rebates on their policies to policy holders (although there is some restriction on how they do this on individual policies so please make sure you read the fine print on that).

There is also a peripheral issue that is a little less frequent now than it used to be but still occurs.  Often jewelers, in an attempt to make you think you're getting a bargain, will give you an appraisal on a piece that is much higher than what you paid for the piece.  This is actually unethical (except in the case of a "true" sale and by true I mean one that really is only an occasional event, not a department store type sale where everything is permanently on sale) and it happens to be bad for your pocketbook as well.  If you buy a piece for $10,000 but the jeweler is hustling you and says this piece is really worth $15,000 so that's what I'm going to put on the appraisal you have to understand what is going on.  If you went back the next day and bought the same piece again, the jeweler would sell if to you for the $10,000 again.  And if the insurance company comes to the jeweler and asks for a replacement piece, they are going  to pay less then the $10,000 because they have deals cut with the jewelers to get large discounts based on their volume of business with them.  In this case you end up spending more on your insurance than necessary because the value has been inflated on the appraisal.  Appraisals of new pieces should ALWAYS reflect actual prices paid (except in the case of a true sale or occasionally when the metal markets are as wild as they are right now and a piece was purchased at older metal prices).

The earrings above are 18k gold with some beautiful blue/green tourmalines.

Saturday, April 13, 2013

Jewelry Safety Part Two Alarm Systems

18k gold wedding bands boston
Alarm systems are generally a good idea these days, not just to secure your valuables, but for personal protection as well. There are a plethora of alarm companies out selling their products these days and many of them can provide decent protection, however you should generally look for larger firms to deal with.  This is because they will have both better response times (i.e. staff on duty all the time)  and better resources to deal with alarm problems.  Some fly by night guy who comes in and sets up something and you never see again just isn't going to give you proper service no matter what.  I normally (as my regular readers know) encourage you to buy local and buy small but this is one time where it is much better not to. There area local alarm companies that are larger than most (I use one at my store) and they can be fine but make sure you're dealing with a company that can meet your needs. 

The first question is how sophisticated an alarm system do you actually need.  This, once again, goes to what you are trying to protect.  If, from a jewelry standpoint it's a relatively small amount then a more basic system is fine.  If you are trying to protect a lot of stuff including jewelry, artwork, electronics, etc. it's better to have a higher end alarm system. 

A basic alarm system will usually have sensors on doors and windows that will trigger an alarm.  Add motion detectors in and the system is much more reliable (albeit problematic if you have pets).  Add cameras and you are going to have more protection.  Add things like motion sensitive cameras, digital recorders, etc. and you're dealing with a jewelry store quality system.  The alarm system world has been growing by leaps and bounds lately as the technological advances have made things possible that never were before, both in terms of recording incidents and notifying people (since everyone now has a cell phone).  Again the more you have to protect, the better system you'll need.

 If you're are concerned with personal safety as well you will need things like panic buttons and you will have to make sure you have a system that will allow you to be in the house with it on.  The problem with these systems is that you need to remember about them constantly as you can set them off by accident quite easily.  And if you make too many mistakes in setting them off, you tend to stop using them regularly and then you're right back where you started.  So if this is something you want your system to incorporate you need to think long and hard about how careful you are going to be in using the system.  And again, if you have pets, or kids, these types of systems get vastly more complex to use and stay on top of. 

There are, as I said, great advances being made in the security world.  Here is a link to an alarm system using your iPhone: that has raised its funding through a crowd sourcing venture but looks like it would be an excellent reasonably priced alternative for someone who wasn't trying to protect a lot of stuff and wants to be able to control their alarm system themselves.

One other note. Most alarm companies give you a sign to put up outside your house saying that the house is protected by their system.  The thinking goes that if the criminals know you have an alarm system they will be less likely to try to get into your house. (The alarm company has the additional thinking that it is a great, and free, way to advertise.)  I am of two minds on this topic.  The first is that when you put a sign like that up it immediately says "I have something valuable to protect" and will make you more of a target.  On the other hand criminals tend to look for the easiest opportunities and the more barriers in their way, the better you are protected.  I think using the signs depends somewhat on where you are located. If you live in an obviously expensive area, the criminals are going to know you have valuables and you might want to use the signs. If you live in a dangerous part of town, it will also help as you want as many barriers as possible.  On the other hand if you live in a somewhat typical middle class neighborhood, it might just draw the wrong kind of attention.

Next article will be on insurance which is the third (and sometimes most important) part of jewelry safety.  The rings pictured above are some of my 18k yellow gold wedding bands.  

Saturday, March 30, 2013

Jewelry Security

Men's wedding band with diamond boston
I have, unfortunately, talked to more and more customers recently who have had to deal with thefts at their homes, so I thought I would write a couple of articles about this issue.  The first thing of course is that you should have insurance, but I'm going to leave that issue for the third article in this series. In this one I'm going to talk about some practical measures for safeguarding your property.

As a jeweler I've always had to deal with issues around security. It is simply a part of my job at all times. The entire idea behind creating a secure environment is to have a layered approach, incorporating different security measures, some of them being redundant.  A little paranoia is necessary to truly act on the issues of security and in this case it's not a bad thing.

So what can you do at home to create a secure environment for your valuables?  Well first of all, you can take some rather simple, basic steps in your daily routines like always closing and locking your windows when you leave the house (for those of you in a high rise this may not be necessary, but for those of you living in 2nd or 3rd floors (especially with easily accessible fire escapes it is still a necessity).  You should also make sure you don't ever leave your doors unlocked, even when you are out working in the back yard or running up the street quickly.  Criminals look for EASY opportunities to ply their trade and there is nothing they like better than an unlocked door they can slip into.

The next step is to hide or secure your valuables (and these days this would include things like documents that have detailed information about you that could be used for identity theft).  Hiding things is better than leaving them out lying around, but trust me, most of the places you would think about hiding your stuff has already been thought of by the bad guys.  But the harder it is to find something, and the more things you put up in the way (like locked doors inside your residence), the longer it will take for the thieves and, trust me, they don't want to spend any more time there than they absolutely have to.  You can also separate out your better jewelry from the costume stuff and leave the costume stuff more visible, making them either think that is all you have or at least forcing them to look further for the better goods.

A better solution is to get a safe to keep your valuables in.  However you need to think about safes.  Any small safe that can be picked up and carried out is worthless, as that is exactly what the criminals will do (and then they will open it at their leisure).  There are ways to permanently secure safes to beams in the house (many contractors will do built in, hidden safes for a cost) or concrete floors, but if you have a bunch of stuff and it has a high value you really need to consider a safe that is not easily moved to begin with. There are then different levels of safe security as well. Gun safes are usually just about useless as most of their doors can be peeled back with a crowbar.  However, when considering safes you have to consider the amount of value, relative to the cost of the safe.  If you have one ring worth $1000 to secure and you spend $5000 on a safe it really doesn't make much sense.  On the other hand if you have a hundred thousand dollars worth of jewelry you really should invest in some decent protection for it.  Of course if you have a safe you have to remember to use it properly. I have some customers who have a built in, fairly secure safe, but they would only lock it when they went away for a trip.  Consequently, they got robbed when they were out for the day and the safe was open and it was pretty easy at that point for the crooks to know that anything actually in the safe was the valuable stuff.  So if you have a safe you need to keep your valuables actually in it and you need to make sure to keep it locked at all times. 

You can also get a safe deposit box and keep the more valuable items in there when they are not in use. Admittedly this is a pain in the neck because you have to go and retrieve the stuff and then make sure you put it back, but if you have some very high end pieces that you don't wear often, this minimizes your risk. 

So, for starters, keep your doors and windows secured, hide your valuables, preferably in separate, locked areas, and think about a safe and/or a safe deposit box.  The next level of security has to do with alarm systems and I think I will deal with that in the next article and then the insurance issue in the following one. 

The ring at the top of the page is an 18k yellow gold and platinum men's wedding band with a diamond in it.