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Keeping Old Traditions Alive

Keeping Old Traditions Alive

ALL THAT GLITTERS
Richard Alan
harborgoldsmith@comcast.net

I recently celebrated my 60th birthday. (Wow! Where did the years go, though I’ve been told I’m still a puppy by Marco standards!) Enough said about that. From now on, I stop celebrating every year.

Traditions involving jewelry are a subject I still remember. I may be a baby boomer from the 1950s, but I’m not totally senile. Today’s generation hasn’t a clue about traditions of any kind. It’s a shame.

I’m talking about presenting a delicate solid gold signet ring engraved with graceful interlocking script initials to a daughter or granddaughter for her 16th birthday or a gift for graduating from high school.

Remember the “add-a-pearl necklace?” This tradition would begin at the birth of a daughter. The necklace would begin with as little as three pearls of any diameter; some chose to build a graduated strand or all pearls the same diameter. The add-a-pearl tradition was very simple. On every special occasion — including birthdays, holidays or just because — a pearl or pearls would be added to the strand, and depending on the time frame, by the time the young princess reached the age of 16 or so you would have a completed strand of pearls.

I just completed an add-a-pearl necklace for a customer. The finished necklace was exquisite. Even though it took years to complete, the shape and color of the pearls were a perfect match.

Whether it was 100 years ago or the present, no young lady should ever be without a set of beautiful cultured pearls as part of their jewelry adornments. Nothing oozes class more than a strand of fine pearls on graceful neckline accented with matching pearl stud earrings.

And what ever happened to gold or silver birthstone rings or pendants? I can remember my sister’s reaction to receiving a birthstone ring on her 12th birthday. The word thrilled was an understatement. She still wears that ring on her pinky finger to this day.

Jewelry traditions for young men also have seemed to go by the wayside. Tn the 1960s, my uncle Richie, also a goldsmith, presented all his nephews magnificent solid gold signet rings with our initials carved into them. I will never forget how proud I was to wear that ring. For the life of me, I can’t remember what happened to it. My cousin Rocco still wears his to this day.

I have actually done three men’s signet rings this past season. One was a family crest; the other two initials. Guess the tradition is not totally forgotten. Who can deny that a heavy square or oval gold family crest ring does not look regal and elegant on any gentleman?

Remember when identification bracelets were all the rage. This tradition goes back to World War II. Many combat troops were concerned about not being identified if they fell in battle, and the gold or sterling bracelets they wore would have their name, rank and serial numbers.

I recently restored a sterling I.D. bracelet belonging to a customer’s grandfather, an Army Ranger who survived landing in Normandy on D-Day. He wore that bracelet on his wrist his entire long life. It was presented to him by his wife in 1943 the day he left the states to train in England. Besides being engraved with his name, rank, etc., it also read “make sure you come back to me!” Needless to say, it was a very emotional moment, when the granddaughter came into pick up the restored bracelet.

All these years as a goldsmith I sometimes have to remind myself how much emotion and love can be absorbed into a simple piece of jewelry and the story it could tell if only it could talk. The historic WWII I.D bracelet I just mentioned purchased in 1943 probably cost less than $20, and now 71 years later, to the family of that brave Army ranger, that simple silver bracelet is priceless.

Well-made jewelry can last for generations, and can be passed from father to son from mother to daughter — leaving them a legacy.

More comments from cyber-space:

Apparently I ruffled a few feathers (what a surprise?) of some folks reading my column in the Breeze last issue regarding the paranoid ones out there who think every jeweler is just waiting to pounce on their precious diamond jewelry and switch their “perfect blue white flawless diamonds” or steal the jewels out of their watches while we perform a simple battery change.

Rather than answer the “comments” individually I would like to reiterate what I wrote that obviously insulted what apparently is a coven group. In the many decades I have been a goldsmith/jeweler, not a week goes by where my staff or I do not sense hesitation from a client or clients regarding the relinquishing of their precious valuable jewelry for whatever reasons.

I have taken in single pieces of jewelry worth hundreds of thousands of dollars, and the customer would walk out not even asking for a receipt, which I insist they must take. In the 1970s, my uncle and I restored priceless historic jewelry for the Museum of Fine Arts in Boston. If that means anything to anyone? On Marco, my customers have left bags of jewels for cleaning or appraisals without a second thought, but all this does not add up to a gram of trust if you do not know me.

I don’t blow a gasket when a stranger questions my integrity; I ask them, “what is the cause of their distrust?” If they are concerned that the diamond they leave will not be the one they pick up a few days later, that is easily remedied.

No two diamonds are alike — ever! Under magnification especially, other identifying features include inclusions, precise measurement and how the gems are cut. The precise means of identifying your diamond or diamonds is called a plotting. This can be performed by any professional jeweler.

I will blow a gasket, though, when a pair of paranoid psychos causes an unnecessary scene when I have a store full of trusting customers that have known me for 20 years! No words of assurance will convince them that nothing sinister will happen to their jewelry while we perform whatever service they require. Sorry, you are not coming behind my counter, so I can do it while you watch my every move right then and there! Here take your ring, goodbye and have a nice day! Is that rolling shopping cart heading for your Lexus?

I’m blessed that the customers I currently have and who trust me keep me busy year round, so quite honestly I don’t need the work or the drama. Quite honestly, I once was ordered to have the customer come behind the counter and watch me re-set her diamond. What a nut-job she was, sticking her fingers in my face and on my bench, and she still accused me of wrong doing while cleaning the completed ring. I had the manager fired when I called the boss. So bring your stuff and the grief to someone who needs the money and will put up with you.

Oh! You could have that priceless diamond laser engraved with your social security number for undoubtable security! Oh! I forgot; who would you trust to do that?

About The Author

Richard Alan is a designer/goldsmith and owner of the Harbor Goldsmith at Island Plaza and welcomes your questions about all that glitters. Contact him at 239-394-9275 or harborgoldsmith@comcast.net


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