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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. 

Tuesday, May 10, 2016

Shop Local. Again.

Blue sheen moonstones in 18k and 22k gold
When even my wife Kathy says that it's been too long since I've written a new blog article I know I've been absent from the pages here.  My apologies.  I don't have a regular assistant these days so I'm forced to do pretty much everything and I've been working 7 day weeks most weeks so if it seems that it has been awhile, it's true, but you'll just have to forgive me.  I'm returning to a topic I've discussed before because it cropped up again recently.  I am always unsure how this topic is viewed as it is, by necessity, self serving but it's a fact of life these days. 

So I had a gentleman come in my shop a few days ago and he asked me if I would look at the inscription on a diamond to see if it was the one he was actually sold.  The first thing I said to him was what I always say to these visitors.  Why oh why would you buy a product from someone you don't trust????  And he said what they all say when I ask them this.  Oh no, I trust them but could you just please look at this and tell me if it's the stone on the certificate.  I'm sure I'm not the only one who can see the fallacy in this statement.  If he trusts them, why does he need me to confirm it?  And if he doesn't trust them then why did he buy from them?  Now I'm a nice guy most of the time so I was going to look at his stone for him anyway so I figured I might as well go all the way and bring up the second part of this article. 

I then asked him where he got the stone (and ring).  I already knew what he was going to say but I just wanted to make sure. Of course he got it online.  I then pointed out to him that people like me (you know, the bricks and mortar small retailers) were going to go out of business and not be here anymore to verify his purchase if everyone just bought their products on line.  I asked him what he would do then?  What would he do the next time if there were no more jewelers on the street like me that he could go to for this kind of thing?  I got the usual, well everyone else was too expensive.  I looked at him and said, look I know I'm expensive, but I also know that there are plenty of bricks and mortar jewelers who will match the price of stuff bought on line because they've been forced to in order to stay in business.  He was very apologetic but being apologetic doesn't solve the larger issue here.  The larger issue is that you all need local shops for something but by shopping exclusively on line you are driving many of them out of business.

Everywhere I look I see things about "shop local".  I'm curious then why there are so many, who when faced with making an expensive purchase, throw away this option?  Remember, next time there may not be that hands on, actual person there to help out. 

And now I have a question for my readers.  My wife thinks I should charge for this service even though it only takes me a few minutes.  I have mixed feelings about it.  What are your thoughts?  And if you think I should charge for it, how much do you think would be reasonable? I'm also taking suggestions for topics you'd like to hear me address.  As always thanks for reading and please feel free to share my blog articles on social media.

P.S.  You can now find me on Instagram too so become a follower!