Coastal Breeze News » All That Glitters Wed, 24 Sep 2014 03:42:02 +0000 en-US hourly 1 Viva Espana Thu, 18 Sep 2014 20:21:45 +0000 ALL THAT GLITTERS
Richard Alan

By the time this story is published, I will be back home on Marco, as I’m writing about my experiences here and now. I’m in a sad-to-leave-but-happy-to-go emotional state of mind. What may seem to many of you like aimless wandering about the southern Iberian coastline actually panned out to a memorable and wonderful experience.



The cities of the Costa de Sol dot the coast line like a beautiful set of pearls. We are currently in Almeria, Spain, which is considered the last but not least wonderful northern-most city on the Costa de Sol. This whole city knows how to party during their summer festivals as I mentioned in my previous “Glitter.”

So far we have visited Malaga, Torremolinos, Marbella, Gibraltar, Cadiz, Grenada and Seville to name a few. At first sight, they do seem similar, but each one has its own history, personality and specialities, such as the wines, cheeses, olive oils, fish, beef and pork that influence each locale’s cuisine. Just about every large city I explored has a mercado — an outdoor-indoor marketplace — that features all the exotic (to me anyway!) local seafoods, meats, cheeses and produce. The choices are endless and fun, and almost every vender offers you a bite of this or a nibble of that. This beats any food shopping experience I have ever had at home. The smell of salted cod and fresh fish reminded me of my childhood at the outdoor market on weekends in Haymarket Square in Boston.

The delicious result of these mercados is evident when dining in the surrounding restaurants; the word frozen food is nonexistent. Another tip…One should always avoid the obvious tourist trap restaurants and ask locals, such as a well-tipped bodega employee, where she or he likes to eat? Of course, it helps that your traveling companion speaks fluid Spanish. This simple method of gastronomic discovery is rarely a disappointing experience and is also easy on the wallet.

Alas, it is time once again to move on, back to our trusty and now dusty Renault. Whatever it is? I grabbed the now well-worn map of southern Spain and asked my co-pilot, “Where next?” A simple finger point, and, “Hmm…this looks good; I’ve heard of that town,” and we’re off!

Two and half hours northwest from the coast is the ancient city of Granada, the home to one of the most magnificent arabic palaces built on the European continent many centuries ago — The Alhambra. I read a little about this mystical place in high school, but I was not prepared for what I was about to behold.

Perched on a high peak overlooking the city of Granada is the most lush and grand Moorish palace I have ever imagined. The sound of bubbling fountains and water rushing by in miniature aqueducts surrounds you as you meander through centuries of manicured hedges, gardens and terraces. Even with hundreds of tourists milling about, there is a feeling of peace and tranquility. The architectural details of arches, walls and ceilings are mesmerizing. It was obviously good to be king or Sultan!

The Moors controlled this palace fortress for many centuries until they were finally expelled by the royal Spanish families in 1492, and there were many changes. Islamic influences became Roman Catholic. The Spanish even added another palace. Parts of the palace suffered earthquakes and desecration and later fell into near ruin until the French conquest in later centuries. The French soldiers appreciating its beauty actually restored parts of the jewel of Granada to its original glory, only to blow up part of the palace when forced to evacuate. It is a miracle so much of the palace has survived to this day.

While poking around the city below Alhambra, we noticed a sign pointing to the whereabouts of the ancient public baths. We expected a dry, dusty relic of what once was, but to my amazement, we found a fully functioning palace of natural hot water open to the public like the bath houses of centuries old. For 14 Euros, you got a towel (no suit) and a locker. I gracefully refused noticing it was co-ed, and bathing suits, I’m sure, we’re optional. Is my proper Bostonian parochial upbringing at work here?

Granada is a mix of the old and new. The sophisticated shopper will not be disappointed with the endless array of elegant shops and boutiques (Thank goodness my wife is not here!) that line the main and secluded alleys. Speaking of secluded, sometimes an object in plain view is the best hiding place, and squeezed between a modern shoe store and dress boutique we found Bodega Enrique. This hidden gem opened more than 140 years ago, and the 300-square-foot bodega (bar) hasn’t a single chair and serves patrons from a narrow armrest of a bar. It is a treasure discovered.

Order a small beer or glass of wine, and moments later a complimentary plate of tapas appear. Order another beverage, and there appears a different tapas. I’m liking this! The tapas can be on slices of bread and can be thin sliced cured Iberian ham, large fresh olives, garlic fish dip with potato or aged sausage. My favorite was the chorizo.

I can’t even tell you what half of the tapas were made from except that they all tasted amazing. What makes this place so special is the unavoidable camaraderie that occurs in a place so small. In moments, the place was packed. We talked to Aussies on holiday, Brits and a French couple, and when the crowd cleared, the bodega-tender, Pedro, was extremely helpful on where to go and what to see.

By and far, Enrique’s was the highlight of the trip, tiny and quaint with only one quality beer on tap and an endless array of wine choices. We signaled Pedro for the check. He came over and wrote the charges upside down on the bar in white chalk. We laughed, paid the bill and he then wiped off the total with a damp cloth. The IRS would love this method of bookkeeping back home! Who has room for supper? Enrique’s is a place not to be missed when visiting Grenada.

On a jewelry note — after all this column is supposed to be about that subject — I can’t help but notice that here on the Costa de Sol there is no lack of high-end jewelry stores, and every shop I saw was deserted. Bars, bodegas, cafés, dance clubs that’s a different story. The young and beautiful people, locals and tourists alike, wear silver and stainless steel but sparingly. The young Spanish men and ladies dress very chic especially at night. It seemed like I was the only one wearing a t- shirt. Want to leave no doubt you’re an American over here? Wear a t-shirt and a ball cap!

Well, my aimless wandering will soon be organized. We are heading back to Malaga so my traveling companion can catch his flight back to Marco. It just so happens my wife is scheduled to arrive at the same airport (coincidence?) an hour later, and we will catch a short flight to Mallorca, where Andrea will force me to follow a regimented program of strict rest and relaxation to relieve my stress. I feel fine dear; I really do.

They say there is no such place as “Margaritaville.” It’s where you make it, and I discovered the next best thing — “Sangriaville” — parking my butt on a sun-drenched, cliff-side hotel in Cala Fornells, Mallorca.

I enjoyed my seemingly chaotic rambling about the southern coast of Spain. In truth, absorbing the life styles of ancient and current cultures and the way these people live, design, create and build everything from A-Z is so different from the way we live in the States. It’s a fact they live healthier and longer than we do because many Europeans work to live and not the other way around. They eat better foods, and stay in shape. Where we would jump into a car to go a few blocks, they walk or bike, and this includes folks in their late 80s.

I have mentioned before the siesta thing would not be a bad idea on Marco Island especially in the slow steamy summer months. What island shopkeeper would mind opening at 8 AM work till12 PM close and re-open from 5-9 PM? At first, customers wouldn’t like it, and neither would my staff. Eventually, though, they would learn to love it. I sure as heck would live longer!

Oh! I almost forgot to mention the new line of jewelry that will be the hottest thing since Pandora. It’s called “Infinity,” and it will be available in late October exclusively at The Harbor Goldsmith. The Infinity line launched a success in Europe and will soon be rage in the U.S.

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

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All That Glitters Along the Costa del Sol Wed, 10 Sep 2014 01:30:49 +0000 ALL THAT GLITTERS
Richard Alan

I’m currently traveling in Europe and exploring in southern Spain to what is known to all as the Costa del Sol.

My summer trip began with landing in the old city of Malaga. I have always loved traveling by the seat of my pants, so I rented a car with a GPS and then hit the road with no predestined hotel arrangements. Sure, it’s risky; it also keeps the trip interesting.

It was my first time in Malaga, and that made for a frustrating day for even my “trusty” Spanish GPS. It was confused by this ancient city and its maze of streets, — if you can call them streets — adding to that the fact the roads are always maddeningly one way that bring you to all opposite directions from where you have to go. You can see the hotel, but try to drive up to the entrance? Even with a map provided by the hotel receptionist (I finally found the hotel by accident!), I never found their special parking garage and used a public one I stumbled on instead.

The city of Malaga was really bustling with activity due to a huge religious festival, and that happened to include a slew of special end-of-the-summer bull fights. Though outlawed in one or two Spanish cities, it is a tradition still practiced here. A sport that is not for the squeamish; let’s leave it at that.

Walking around town, I discovered its beautiful citrus tree-lined boulevard with lush gardens that provided shade and followed the ancient Moorish city walls. It’s warm here, but comfortable with no humidity and a wonderful breeze off of the Mediterranean Sea. It’s not as hot as Marco Island, I’m sure.

There are crowds of people, but the many upscale boutiques and jewelry stores are eerily empty except with salespeople who appear listless and bored to near death. It’s no wonder. Spain has one of the highest unemployment rates in Europe, and the empty and boarded up store fronts lay testament to that fact.

Only here and now it is festival, and bars, cafés and bodegas are packed to the gills. Kinda reminds me of weekends on Marco in the season.

It’s been a fun two days, but I’ve got places to go and people to see. Time to pack up the car, and mosey on down the road. The famous fortress city and the world most renowned rock is less than an hour or so away to…Gibraltar!

Wow! It’s hard to explain the sight before me, but magnificent comes to mind. I parked the car in Spain and followed the crowd toward the towering edifice before me. It looks surreal, and draws everyone to it like a moth to a flame.

Soon a British soldier asks both my traveling companion and I for our passports. Customs? Yes, for now, we are on British soil (or should I say rock?). For those of you who do not know this fact, me included, Gibraltar is a small living and breathing city, with hospitals, supermarkets, elementary and high schools, and a better public transit system than we have at home!

The beautifully tree lined streets are crammed with retail shops of all kinds. Every other one was a duty-free jewelry store or a pub that sold fish and chips. Only thing is some shops required you to pay in English Pounds, and the exchange rate for our U.S. currency leaves a money spending Yank like me not much for his money. The military presence is obvious here. There is an air base and functioning landing strip you have to hurry across before you enter the rock, and the town is embraced by tall, unscalable wall that has been a fortress city for centuries.

Control Gibraltar; you control the entrance to the Mediterranean.

Spending one night in a hotel here costs more than I wound pay for five days in a nice four star hotel over the border in Spain. That’s less than a football field away. Adios Gibraltar!

Next city we ventured to was Marbella with its beautiful beaches and promenades. We decided to stay here for the night and poke around both the city and surrounding towns. We honestly visited a half a dozen or so, but none impressed us enough to stay long.

Traveling the Spanish southern coast is a breathtaking experience for it is extremely mountainous with hair pin turns, steep inclines and roller-coaster declines. Even the road signs warn the traveler that the impending trip is not for the faint of heart or novice driver.

The thing that impresses you about these southern coastal cities is almost every one of them has ancient castles and walls built by the Moors, who obviously dominated the Spanish coast 1,000 years ago, and that kind of history to me is never boring, although my wife will tell me, “You see one crumbling wall, you have seen them all!”

This is one reason why she has not accompanied me on this part of the trip. I’ll meet up with her in a week or so in Mallorca.

The Moor’s presence becomes even more unmistakable with our the next destination — the majestic city of Seville.

The city is a mixture of ancient Arabic and Christian architecture for Moorish and Spanish kings and queens alike, with a river flowing thru the center crisscrossed by both antique Parisian style and modern, flamboyant, high-tech bridge designs with huge castle walls as a back drop. The result is an eclectic jumble that somehow works, and that’s what makes this city so awe inspiring. Many of the female inhabitants, including small children, wear traditional costumes such as the bright and colorful, polka dot-design Flamenco dancing outfits. Some will join friends and perform in the streets. The music they dance to can simply be just the clapping of hands from onlookers. This city will invoke memories for many year to come.

The coastal towns are revelling in religious celebrations — that include obligatory bull fights — all day, all night, all week long. There is partying in the streets in Almeria, the last northern coastal city on the Costa del Sol. This is where we decided to stash the car for a few days and enjoy a wild and crazy Spanish festival first hand, and this city did not disappoint us.

Throughout the city, there were small roving “marching bands” literally invading a courtyard, bodega, outside bar or even an indoor restaurant. The bands stand on chairs or counters dancing and blowing all kinds of horns and beating drums. This crazy, unbridled, wild performance brings the patrons, wait staff and even chefs to an out of control frenzy of communal singing and dancing! It was impossible not to join the madness!

Then in an instant, there is silence, and they disappear into an alleyway to the next destination. What a hoot!

The seafood here at the festival is the best I have ever experienced, a tapas of simple bread, cheese and olives with aged thin sliced ham is heaven on earth.

Speaking of heaven! I found a line of jewelry that is now selling here in Europe that will be the next big thing since Pandora, and I will be the exclusive dealer of that new sensation on Marco Island this coming holiday season. More on that surprise later.

Adios amigos, for now!

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

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How to Avoid Being Swindled – Part Deux Tue, 26 Aug 2014 14:06:59 +0000 ALL THAT GLITTERS
Richard Alan

This is sort of a part two of an article I wrote a year ago regarding the wonderful world of jewelry scams, as well as some hard knock personal experiences and advice on how to avoid getting bitten by one.

Ah! The cruising vacation. It’s the excitement of being on the open seas — sun, fun, food and cocktails. Beware of venders hawking loose precious gemstones and gold chain-by-the-inch, especially if you have had a few. Sure the prices seem cheap because they are. The so-called gems you are purchasing are mostly rejects from the jewelry industry: poor color or badly cut irregular size gemstones that don’t fit any type of setting what so ever. Most require a custom-made setting created by a goldsmith, such as yours truly, and that can make that seemingly inexpensive purchase cost you a bundle later when you want to set your purchase into something you can wear. A large 10-karat blue topaz purchased aboard ship for a couple of hundred dollars can easily cost a thousand or so because you have to set it in an enormous ring or pendant setting.

Another on-board ship scam is the gold chain-by-the-inch. This gold chain-by-the-inch is the most misleading of scams. First of all, anyone with six inch rolls of “gold” is certainly not selling you real gold; it is simply gold plated brass or some other worthless metal underneath. When I questioned a chain-by-the-inch vendor, he outright lied and said it was gold or silver (also plated) chain. They will skirt around the truth on what you are actually buying and size you up on how ignorant you are about the subject. That way they can charge a little or a whole lot per inch. Now, he or she cuts it to size; slaps on a couple of jump rings and a worthless catch on one end; and there you have it.

A couple of seasons ago, a woman asked me to appraise such a chain she bought at a fair right here on the island for $299 from such a vendor; the plated chain’s value was $10 at the most. The handwritten receipt with the vendor’s name and phone number described clearly as a 20-inch, 14kt gold chain. We called the phone number. You guessed it. Not in service. He drove off into the sunset to another fair to do exactly the same scam in another place in paradise.

If you pay around $10, it’s worth it. Only down side is if you wear it, in a couple of weeks, the plating comes off, and it will eventually turn your neck green. Great deal! What do you expect for a gold chain that costs $10 bucks? It’s when you pay hundreds that it really hurts.

And speaking of cocktails, in foreign countries don’t shop for fine jewelry while intoxicated. That’s when the scammers smell green — namely your green backs. You are more likely to wind up being a victim of one of the oldest scams on the books; the bait and switch. I have seen the results of this scam performed in even “trusted” jewelry establishments. (Those include the ones sanctioned by the cruise ship companies.)

It involves being shown a really, really nice diamond set in a ring of her dreams, a bit of haggling while in the fog of a half a dozen mojitos, and the cost of the ring becomes the deal of the century. Only problem is while the salesperson is congratulating you on a wonderful purchase, another salesperson ringing up the sale is switching the ring you thought you bought with another that is exactly the same ring, only it has a really, really crummy center diamond.

Unless you are really sharp, the switch will go unnoticed until you get home and the ring gets appraised for a third of its purchased price. The result is a buyer’s remorse hangover.

The most prevalent scam is the so called “private jewelry auctions” you see advertised almost every weekend. They usually take place in major hotels for “two or three days only.”

My advice: Don’t go! In my 40-plus years in the business, I have yet to see a single piece of hotel auction jewelry worth anywhere near the purchase price, not to mention the horrendous quality of the diamonds and so called gemstones. Despite my warnings and advice, islanders still are drawn to this weekend nonsense that more often than not always ends badly for the buyer.

Under-karating is a problem both domestic and overseas. It involves buying gold jewelry that may be illegally stamped 22kt, or .750 (18kt), and even .585 (14kt), when in reality it is 10kt gold or even lower.

The up side is at least it has some gold value, but it does not have the purity you thought you paid for and will tarnish easily. Just multiply this scam times 50-100 duped tourists a day, and the dubious gold vendor will be racking up a very pretty profit per month. I have seen numerous cases where the purchases were purity stamped gold and not have a single gram of gold at all — just a heavy gold plating on the surface.

Purity stamps should be on any gold item purchased. The following may help if you buy gold abroad:

• 24kt: 99.99 percent pure gold

• 22kt: 91.6 percent pure gold

• 18kt: 75 percent pure gold with 25 percent base metal, such as brass, silver or copper alloy

• 14kt: 58.5 percent pure gold with 41.5 percent base alloy metal

• 10kt: 41.7 percent pure gold and the alloy dominates the piece of jewelry

• 9kt: only 37.5 percent pure gold.

In some European counties 9kt and 10kt gold jewelry is considered costume because of its impurity. Another tip: High karat jewelry, such as 22kt or 18kt has a noticeable heft. The more pure the gold, the heavier it feels. Look at the catches and connections. If they seem flimsy or of poor craftsmanship, the piece is most likely fake, or as we in the business call cheap jewelry used in a scam, “a gaff.” Also glued in gemstones are a sure sign of crummy quality.

And remember the old saying, “If it is too good to be true, it most likely is!”

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

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It’s Just Another Summer Day Mon, 11 Aug 2014 20:11:13 +0000 ALL THAT GLITTERS
Richard Alan

B8-CBN-8-8-14-8featureAh, the glamorous daily life of a goldsmith! It dawned on me after what should have been a slow month was in fact uncannily busy. A kind of nothing seems to get accomplished busy.

The day usually begins around 9 AM, when I usually encounter a single person or small crowd milling around the front door when I arrive. I then have to politely apologize for the fact I can’t let anyone in until 9:30 AM for security and insurance protocol — 9:30 is when I actually open. Try convincing your bank to let you in an hour earlier than the posted time on the door, and if they wouldn’t mind supplying the firearm, ski mask and two duffel bags.

My morning ritual before unlocking the door involves making coffee I never get to drink and feeding Toby, our shop dog. If I don’t feed him now I may not remember to after I open the door. My first hour or so will usually involve replacing powerless batteries in watches that stopped telling time the night before.

The fact that it is summer may require me to politely refuse to change batteries in non- jewelry orientated apparatuses, such as garage door openers, remote controls, keyless car keys, hearing aids and — my most unusual yet — a battery backup system to a pacemaker. (I dared not ask. What’s up with that?) I try to change watch batteries while the customer waits, but when one customer plunks down 10 or 12 dead watches in a freezer bag and there are more folks waiting in the wings, it’s not always possible.

It’s no secret we run with a skeleton crew in the summer. Most of my sales staff are classy ladies who sun themselves on Cape Cod or enjoy their cottages on Lake Winnipesaukee. What’s wrong with this picture? I’m here stuck on the rock! I may have to review the salaries of my sales entourage enjoying life like retired rock stars.

My point is I’m required to wear more than one hat at the shop in the summer while the majority of my “help” is summering. Yes, my mother helps out a couple of days a week, and then, there is my son, who is a valuable asset in the shop and Tom my accountant, who does his very best helping out on the showroom floor. Where’s my wife you might ask? She’s presently vacationing with friends in Long Island. This is right after she participated in a benefit tennis tournament in Martha’s Vineyard as I write this. I’m a self-proclaimed tennis widow. Let’s leave it at that.

It’s lonely at the top. Every year, I plan my summers to work on new designs, create new things, and also plan what merchandise I will be carrying for next season. I also hope to fish or motorcycle on my weekends. That hasn’t happened yet. This summer also involves (in theory) some new store fixtures, paint and reorganizing the shop for ultimate efficiency.

Only problem is the store is pretty darn busy, and there are some days I never even sit at my workbench. (My son never fails to remind me of this fact)

Want to see a slow day in the store fill up with people? Pull out a ladder, open a can of paint, and it’s a virtual Mardi Gras. Change 20 or 30 watch batteries, engrave this, design that, adjust those tight earring clips, tighten that diamond in a ring, verbally appraise six or seven pieces of jewelry, go through the motions of cleaning Mrs. So & So’s costume jewelry even though I just did it all two days ago. I just don’t have the heart to tell her.

There are some days my son and I won’t lay our hands on a real piece of quality jewelry all day, and then lose another 15 minutes explaining to Mrs. Smith (not her real name to protect the absentminded) that just because she cannot find her favorite neck chain and pendant at home does not necessarily mean I have it in my shop, especially if there was no reason for it to be here. (I save every used repair envelope for reasons such as this, sometimes to prove it was picked up already. If there is no used envelope in storage with Mrs. Smith’s name describing a chain repair, it was never here.) It’s my 20th summer on Marco Island, and I haven’t been committed yet!

Case in point: One summer week, we went on a wild goose chase “searching” for a customer’s repair. She could not produce a receipt and wasn’t sure when she left it, but insisted and berated every one of my staff on the phone and in person for days that we had her jewelry and that we had better find it or there would be legal consequences. Swell!

There was absolutely no paper trail on this customer’s repair. Now believe me, my staff and I went berserk searching for days and nights for this repair envelope to no avail. When my mom called the customer to regretfully inform her that in our 40-plus years in business we never “lost” a piece of anyone’s jewelry, there is just no trace of her repair in our store and you have to produce the original receipt, the “customer” replied, “Oh I found it; I left it at another jewelry store on the island, and I’m not happy with the quality of the repair. I’ll bring it to you next week!”

Needless to say, I had a few things to say to her negligence about not informing us that she found her repair. After I told her I was happy she found her “lost” article, I then told her it appears an apology is in order, as she caused needless drama and disruptions in my establishment in front of my real customers on at least two occasions while accusing my staff of negligence and thievery, not to mention the lost hours wasted searching for something that was not here in the first place.

She hung up on me! And, without an apology! I know, I know. Most of you proper business folk would say let it go. It’s all part of working with the public. Chock it up to experience. The customer is always right. Blah, Blah, Blah. Well, you don’t know me that well, do you? You can blame my Boston, inner city upbringing if you want to psychoanalyze my next reaction. It’s no surprise to those of you that know me…Yeah I lost it!

I immediately called her back; it’s not necessary for me to inform what words I exchanged with her, but let’s just say I don’t expect she will be in with the botched repair she left at that other jewelry store anytime soon.

Sorry mom, I’ll say at least 20 Hail Mary’s and 30 our fathers! I know, you taught me better.

Now, this summer, it seems every time the phone rings its nonsensical cold sales calls from telemarketers and what seems like every diamond dealer in the continental U.S. Apparently, the wholesale diamond business is very slow in the summer. No kidding? What’s next? No, I’m sorry sir; I don’t repair flashlights.

Is that Espana in the distance calling my name?

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

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Thrill Her Fri, 25 Jul 2014 16:41:02 +0000 All That Glitters
Richard Alan

I’m not sure if is part of our sixth senses or if it is an additional one. Being thrilled is a feeling we have all experienced at one time or another in our lives, maybe more so when we were younger. Remember the feeling you experienced on a Christmas past when you got that special toy or bicycle you were wishing for? Excitement and exhilaration come to mind. I expect your first ride on a roller coaster provided the same incredible experience.

Well, believe it or not jewelry can create the same feeling of excitement —a thrill.

The thrill of getting a nice piece of jewelry is not a new emotion. It’s been around as long as goldsmiths such as myself have been on the planet. Oh, I’m guessing we have been around 2,000 years or so.

The way to a man’s heart may be his stomach, but I know for a fact the way to any woman’s heart is a piece of gold jewelry, or better yet throw some diamonds and precious gems in there for the ultimate shock and awe effect! Any guy, or better yet any gentleman, with a half of brain knows what a gift of gold or a simple silver bauble can do to break the ice in a new relationship.

I don’t mean to be crass or risqué, but I’m convinced that jewelry would thrill most women even 2,000 years ago over an offering of a mangy chicken, skinny goat or muddied pig.

Just my convoluted theory, but give any women today a gift of a goat over jewelry on the island today and see how you make out!

In my humble establishment, which is only a simple family business involving my son Andrew, myself and a retired gentleman, Ronnie, who helps us out in the workshop during the busy season.

The back-room goldsmith workshop is where all the creative juices, skills and experience combine, and the resulting pieces of finished original or restored jewelry create the thrill.

Thrills happen regularly at 680 Bald Eagle Drive. My mother and cousins, who work on the showroom floor tending to customers, can attest to this, and its that combination of gold and precious gems — and a human touch — that provides the catalyst or ingredients that creates that emotion, a thrill to loved ones day after day.

My last article mentioned the “add-a-pearl” necklace one would start even at the birth of a baby girl, and a loved one or loved ones would begin the necklace with a single pearl and then progress with additional gift pearls on special occasions. The necklace would slowly approach completion as the years pass. The necklace is wearable for the young princess on special days providing the thrill each time she wears it. The final thrill is when the completed necklace is presented to her when she becomes a lady.

I’m not implying that jewelry is the only way to create a thrill for the fairer sex. I’m quite sure the gift of a new car, a new house or a European vacation would invoke the same result, but jewelry is far less expensive in most cases.

The thrill does not have to be expensive. A simple $15 chain repair or bracelet can invoke a thrill — now wearable and polished like new — brings that joy especially if it is a sentimental piece.

I have performed innumerable restorations of precious family heirlooms over the years. My most memorable was the restoration of the exact diamond engagement ring that Civil War General William Tecumseh Sherman presented to his wife, now belonging to her great-great-granddaughter. The thrill created was intensified the moment I presented the completed piece to the family, and it was equally experienced by yours truly. That included the honor and pride of being trusted to perform the restoration on such an important artifact.

I discovered the way to encapsulate the emotion of a thrill. I experience a certain intensity of a thrill with every stunning piece of jewelry I create. Then place that completed piece of jewelry in a simple velvet container and add a little gift-wrapping, there you have it! Now, you can also enjoy the thrill created when she feasts her eyes on the contents upon opening the lid on a small ring or pendant box.

Practice random acts of kindness.

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

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Some Things Should Just Stay Broken Tue, 22 Jul 2014 15:00:42 +0000 ALL THAT  GLITTERS
Richard Alan

I fix this, repair that. A solder here, a laser weld there, and lately the use of quick set epoxy glue and enamels have their merits.

You already know if you enjoy or dread reading my column that I have acquired an excellent reputation repairing or restoring almost any piece of jewelry that enters my establishment. (Not to mention household objects, such as statues, dog collars, ladies shoes, belts, electric razors, Rolls Royce and Bentley interior parts, sunglasses and numerous ceremonial pieces from all religious denominations.)

News of my expertise also has crossed the Atlantic ocean for a lot of my clientele hail from Great Britain, Ireland, Scotland, Finland and Germany to name a few.

I’m flattered but the problem is…I’m a goldsmith not an all-around handyman, and some of the broken things presented before me are baffling as to why a person would bring them to a jewelry store in the first place?

I tried to explain to a gentleman that I have no idea why his garage door opener refuses to function. Try the sandwich shop next door. Maybe he can help you! Take broken electronics to a goldsmith? First place I would go?

Just last week a guy handed me a bunch of watch parts in a box, as if it was a wounded sparrow. It was — and I mean WAS — his favorite watch. “Can you put this back together?” It was the same brand of watch I wear, a Tag Heuer; only he has been wearing his for 30 years or more. Problem was the watch runs fine, but the bracelet is a basket case in a box. All the watch’s links have separated from each other. Every connecting pin is worn out. Even the snap catch no longer snaps closed. It’s time for a new bracelet.

Last time I checked for a replacement bracelet for a gent’s Tag Heuer watch, the cost was more than $900, and I doubt they would have one this old in stock. Even if they did, this guy isn’t going to pay me nine Benjamin’s for a watch strap.

So I have made up my mind — even with help from above — there is no chance on earth I can repair this thing. Problem is I can sense this guy is not going to accept no as an answer. I caved in (Yet again!), and told him to leave it. I will see what I can do.

What an Idiot I am. I have a better chance putting a smashed crystal Humpty Dumpty back together! A week later, while enjoying several nights of insomnia, the answer to repairing the impossible hit me, and I finally fell asleep repairing the watch bracelet in dreamland. Well, believe it or not, I figured out a way I could fix it, but three or four hours of a goldsmith’s time is going to be costly. So I called him to let him know the cost. He said out of the question; I said come get it broken because I am not charging $10 for three hours of my labor. I guess it wasn’t so important once he understood I have to get paid for the impossible and even more for a miracle.

The saving grace and miracle maker is my shop’s laser welder. My uncles who taught me the business are probably rolling in their graves and could not imagine a newfangled space laser-ray contraption to make or repair jewelry in their lifetime.

Same goes for some older watches. Sometimes they just go kaput, dead or just plain give out. A new battery won’t change anything. If you are lucky enough to find a talented watchmaker who can install a new movement, there may be a chance, but that can sometimes cost as much as a new watch. That to me is foolish because it will still look worn out and beat up, but it will tell time.

While we are on the subject of watch battery replacement, while I rarely get a complaint of my services, there are some who complain about the cost of “a simple battery replacement.” Sure, I always hear the flea market will do it for $1. I can assure you, I don’t do anything for a buck.

There are several things to consider. First, the quality of the battery. Cheap Korean batteries cost $1 for six of them, but who knows how old they are? Plus, they will corrode and leak battery fluid in your $20 Timex as well as a $20,000 Omega, and it’s guaranteed to render it worthless.

Next is putting your trust in some inexperienced Cretan who is gouging and scratching away at your precious watch like he’s shucking an oyster, trying to figure out how to open it. By now, your waterproof gaskets have surly been ruined, so after installing the junk battery he throws away the gasket cause it no longer fits due to damage and expansion. (In many cases, a new gasket has to be installed along with the battery change.)

Now you have it, a new battery for next to nothing you savvy penny pincher…a $1 flea market battery change. Only now, the back of your wife’s beautiful watch looks like it took a ride in the garbage disposal. The waterproofing is non-existent, and you are now the proud owner of a guaranteed-to-leak, cheap-a#@ battery.

There are millions of different kinds of watches and hundreds of battery sizes and voltages. The wrong one can ruin the movement or make the watch run irregular. There are also several important and expensive tools required to open many high grade watches and inexpensive as well, without damaging them. No proper tool; no new battery.

Although I change hundreds of batteries a week in season, there are a few makes — like most Ebels or many Omega models — that have to go back to the factory or an official repair facility for “a simple battery change,” and that is that; end of story. I guess it is to keep the warranty intact, or they purposely design the watch so only the factory can do it. That can get expensive due to insurance and shipping back, so on and so forth.

When it comes to repairing fine jewelry, there is very little my son and I cannot repair like new. Costume jewelry is another story. Every piece is a challenge.

Costume jewelry is just that. It can only give you what it can, and then it breaks apart or the faux stones fall out. The plating comes off. Most are made out of gold or silver plated lead or slush metal that melts at the temperature made by an ordinary match stick.

It’s a jeweler’s nightmare. There are times I get inundated with the stuff. Most I can repair and some I gracefully refuse to do, but not because I can’t fix it. It is because honestly most folks won’t pay me for the time it takes to repair pretty much a worthless article: “Oh, I understand it’s a sentimental piece of costume jewelry. It’s going to cost $15 to repair.”

“You’re kidding $15 to fix that! I only paid $5 at the church sale.”

I guess it’s just not sentimental enough? It saves a lot of wasted time for me to just say it can‘t be done.

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


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Keeping Old Traditions Alive Fri, 27 Jun 2014 14:59:03 +0000 ALL THAT GLITTERS
Richard Alan

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

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Drama-less Jewelry Inspections Fri, 13 Jun 2014 09:54:49 +0000 ALL THAT GLITTERS
Richard Alan

It’s something most people rarely think about… the present condition of your fine jewelry; and that can include that expensive watch you have been wearing nonstop for a couple of decades or so.

I am the first stop when something goes terribly wrong. For example, the loss of the important and highly cherished center stone in your engagement ring or the metal or leather strap on your favorite watch falls from your being during the frenzy that occurs at airport security or the luggage carousel.

I’ve heard it all… Folks will tell me again and again, “I have been wearing it for over 50 years and I’ve never had a problem with it before!” The key words here folks are: 50 years of wearing it every day! Gold prongs, ring shanks, jump rings, catches and connecting links on diamond tennis bracelets wear severely in only 10 years of consistent wear.

I annoyingly preach to my clientele to have me inspect their important jewelry at least every 6 months to catch any problems before they happen. Replacing one or two worn or missing prongs is far less expensive than replacing a missing one carat diamond!

Jump rings or bails are the gold or silver ring components that connect catches or charms and/or pendants to your chain or charm bracelet. They wear to a certain degree as time marches on; if you ignore them they can wear through and fail and fall off whatever they are connected to.

Chain catches or clasps such as spring rings or the common lobster claw catch have a very short lifespan here in Southwest Florida due to the constant bathing in salty Gulf of Mexico water or chlorinated swimming pools – they all contain steel springs that corrode and fail. They have to be replaced constantly if you wear them while swimming.

Did you know swimming in heavily chlorinated swimming pools with your fine jewelry is the worst thing you can do to it? Chlorine is beach and is extremely corrosive; it literally dissolves and weakens every piece of jewelry you are wearing. You may look stunning in your new two piece, laden with baubles galore, but it’s not worth the damage it does.

It severely affects earring posts, wires and thin chains, What’s worse is it compromises the strength of the prongs that hold your important gemstones by making them weak and brittle, thus accelerating the wearing process.

Hey, don’t take my advice, half of my business is repairing or mostly replacing the pool bound corroded jewelry. And the money is good!

Diamond stud earrings should have either screw safety backs or heavyweight friction backs – especially if you swim with them for security – but even they have to be inspected periodically. The threads can become worn or stripped causing the backs to fall off, and there goes one diamond earring into the Gulf. Standard light weight friction backs are a sure way to lose an earring; friction backs should be tight or snug when taken on or off. It is a simple adjustment to tighten or invest $30 or so to upgrade to better quality backs. Better to be safe than sorry!

Expensive solid gold watches, such as Rolex or Omega, have wear and tear issues too. The gold screws or connecting links wear out and eventually fail; spot checking these areas are important. Ignore it and you could lose it overboard while fishing or leave it in the rough on the golf course. The all18-karat gold bracelets with years of wear require pin replacement or reinforcement.

With current economic conditions affecting the high price of gold many large jewelry manufacturers need to control their bottom line, so they are always trying to find ways to cut costs. I have noticed horrendously light weight clasps and catches on multi-thousand dollar pieces where no amount of tweaking or adjusting causes them to function properly and loss of the piece in the near future is inevitable if not replaced with a good quality catch.

Pearls and expensive beads need to be checked for the integrity of the thread or silk cord they are strung with. Most good quality pearls are strung with knots between each pearl to prevent every pearl from hitting the floor and resulting in 52-pick-up if the strand breaks. If the knots are soiled and fraying or the pearl slides back and forth or over the knot, it’s time to get them professionally restrung.

Another great thing you can do for your jewelry is get them professionally cleaned and polished like new every once in a while.

In my shop we offer our Primo cleaning service for a small fee; your pieces are thoroughly inspected for wear and tear, gemstones tightened if necessary, then ultrasonically and steam cleaned. All scratches and nicks are removed and the piece is carefully hand buffed and given a high polish. The result is a brand new out of the showcase look. A simple while you wait inspection and ultrasonic and steam cleaning is always complimentary!

In my 40-plus years in the jewelry business it saddens me that a lot of pain, suffering and anguish from loss could have been avoided by just having one’s jewelry inspected every now and then. This includes the paranoid psychos who give me the, “I never let my diamonds out of my sight!” story. (I simply offered to check and clean their disgustingly scum-caked ring for free.) They will always insist on coming behind my counter and stand behind me at my bench while I perform the tightening or cleaning their precious diamond… Not gonna happen!

They don’t trust me? What makes you think I am going to trust these two perfect strangers behind my counter? My reputation and honor has been untarnished for more than four decades, I know nothing about them! These untrusting breed of humans believe every jeweler in the world is a drug crazed terrorist and diamond thief just hiding in the shadows waiting to steal their… What in many cases is the worst looking diamond I have ever laid my eyes on. I don’t even have a diamond half as ugly as theirs! What do they think I’m going to do? Switch it for a better one? These types should lighten up and understand their jewelry is going to need cleaning and maintenance too, and these untrusting souls can save me the pain, suffering and unnecessary drama they bring into my world by simply avoiding me and my establishment. Clean jewelry is happy jewelry!

The names of untrusting souls were not mentioned to avoid hurting their feelings and making them uncomfortable around that tiny circle of friends that they imagine actually exist.

Live, love, laugh!


Richard Alan is a designer/goldsmith with more than 40 years experience in the jewelry business and is the owner of The Harbor Goldsmith of Marco Island at the Island Plaza. He welcomes any questions you may have about “all that glitters” at 239-394-9275 or

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Change: It’s a Way of Life? Mon, 19 May 2014 12:58:41 +0000 ALL THAT GLITTERS
Richard Alan

Change is supposed to be good, but for many, even the suggestion of change can be downright traumatic for them. Change has been my way of life since I read that seemingly silly book “Who moved my Cheese” by Spencer Johnson. You can read the whole book in about an hour, but what you get from it can honestly change your life. It was that book that motivated me to leave a steady job in someone else’s jewelry store, sell my small condo, pack up the wife and kids in a U-Haul and leave my family and friends in Boston. I headed to Marco Island not knowing what the future would bring. My results were life changing, and now my family and I are living the dream.

CHANGE… To become different or to make someone or something different, or to become something else and or replace with another.

I spend my whole day changing things; not a day goes by that I don’t change a dozen watch batteries, a broken clasp on a chain or bracelet and the sizes of dozens of rings every week.

Customers are always changing the jewelry they currently own or alter what I have in my showcase to suit their needs; different color gemstones, bigger diamonds, etc. I also spend my days making it longer, shorter, wider, thinner, higher and lower. (Alter also means change.)

CHANGE… Here’s a recent scenario in my shop where change was a painful experience for one gentleman.

“I need a replacement metal watch strap for my watch,” he said.

During my examination of the perfectly running watch with a dilapidated strap, I realized it was a 40 year old Japanese make; a Seiko. Well, they simply don’t make replacement straps for these and haven’t for over 30 years. I looked at the back of the watch and I noticed it was personally engraved for the gentleman, thanking him for the 25 years of service for working at some company.


I have plowed this field a dozen times or more so to say… the watch meant a lot to him. He simply would not accept the fact that I could not find a replacement nor give him an answer to his problem. My only way out of the situation was…

CHANGE… Sir you need to buy a new watch, which was simply out of the question. Deadlock.

I suggested he try eBay; maybe he could locate the same 40 year old model and use that strap and save the watch for parts! I would have gladly put the strap on for free if he could find it.

His reply: “I don’t have a computer why can’t you locate one for me on E-Bay?”

How do I tell this guy he has a better chance of seeing polar bears sunning themselves on Resident’s Beach than finding that strap? This going-nowhere-conversation went on for what seemed like eternity. He finally left – disgusted as if the 40+ years of wear and tear on his watch bracelet was my fault. He refused to accept change.


“Mrs. Smith, the prongs on your diamond ring are nonexistent and the shank is as thin as a hair. You need to move your diamond to a new setting or risk losing it!”

“I’ve been wearing this ring since 1946 and I never had a problem with it before. Can’t you repair it?” asks Mrs. Smith.

My reply: “It would require a new head to hold the diamond and a new shank which added together is, unfortunately, a whole new ring.”

“I’m sorry, I could never change this ring. I will just wear it the way it is!” (Four months later Mrs. Smith lost the diamond out of her ring and has been devastated by the loss.) She refused to accept change.

CHANGE can also be fun… at least for me.

Years ago, a guy walked in and asked what I charged to change a watch battery. It was an expensive, high-end watch with eight tiny gold screws holding the back cover on.

“Twenty bucks,” I replied.

“Twenty Bucks! You’re a thief! I can get it done up north for a buck!”

My answer: “So bring it up north and get it done. I hope you figured out the air fare.”

He went on and on that he would only give me a dollar for my service. It was a quiet summer day, so I figured I’d lock horns with this guy. I relented and told him “how about if I change your battery for free, will that make you happy?

“Well that would be nice of you.”

So here I am in the long careful and complicated process of changing his watch battery when he starts bragging about the new house he is building on the island! Blah, blah, blah… his brand new boat… Blah, blah, blah… His new trophy wife… I couldn’t help but notice the new Porsche he pulled up in parked out front.

I handed him the completed battery change, and he immediately caught that the second hand wasn’t moving.

“Hey? The watch is not running?”

“I know,” I said. “I changed your dead battery and put in someone else’s dead battery all for free! Now, if you want a fresh new battery, it’s still gonna cost you twenty bucks! (My Boston urban upbringing at work.)

He frowned, then he smiled. I got my twenty bucks.

CHANGE… On the other hand, can be wonderful.

I specialize in restyling (also a form of change), making old jewelry into new exciting jewelry, and I love the look of joy on people’s faces when the dull and boring becomes an exciting piece of wearable jewelry.

For me, change is a way of life. If something doesn’t work or function in what I consider a proper fashion, I have no problem improving or replacing it. This tends to keep my current and third wife on her best behavior.

Richard Alan is a Designer/Goldsmith… Blah, blah, blah!

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

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Shoulda Woulda Auwtah Coulda Thu, 01 May 2014 14:44:02 +0000 ALL THAT GLITTERS
Richard Alan

Yes, my title is a true massacre of the King’s language, but no other words I can think of can better describe the topic of this column.

Most everyone has experienced a missed opportunity or, in extreme cases, like waiting for your ship to come in while sitting at the regional airport.

Lots of other sayings come to mind such as “he who hesitates is lost.” Or, completely the opposite “don’t jump in with both feet.” or “I’m just getting my feet wet.”

Lost opportunities abound in the jewelry business, why did I buy this? Or, why didn’t I carry that? The Pandora bead craze comes to mind; boy did I call that one wrong. A passing phase I told everyone. You remember the denomination bracelet with its little square sections you would clip charms on to? That one came and went just like the “Beanie Baby” craze.

So why would the Pandora bracelet be any different? WRONG!!!! The Pandora bead bracelet is as strong a seller as it was 10 years ago and is still in great demand in nearly every country on this planet.

There are dozens of companies producing knock offs of the beads, yet sales of genuine Pandora beads are still #1 in the bead market.

Scores of folk have been disappointed that I did not carry the beads, but here in the states the Pandora franchise is very strict about territory. And for years only one jeweler was allowed to carry the genuine Pandora bracelet and beads on Marco Island.

That was strange because in nearby Naples there are scores of places to buy them. I was amazed by how easily attainable they are in Europe; you could buy them almost anywhere – pharmacies, hair salons and nearly any department store.

I recently hired a new employee and her first question was “why don’t you carry Pandora beads? Hmm? After explaining why I didn’t have them she said you should still make compatible beads with a Marco theme.

So Now I’m at the designing board creating my versions of Marco beads that will fit the popular bracelets. I will have many styles to choose from in the near future… Better late than never.

Then, there is the other side of the coin. I have a handful of customers who have admired my original designed “Marco Bracelet,” and I mean admire for more than a decade, only thing is they have not yet purchased one. When I first created the bracelet it was $125. It now costs almost triple the price due to current precious metal prices. Supposedly these customers are waiting for the price to come down. I don’t see that happening any time soon unless gold plummets to $100 an ounce and silver back to $3. I have a redesign Marco Bracelet that is a silver and rubber combination that is very reasonably priced… Shoulda woulda coulda done it then.

While I certainly missed the boat with Pandora, I was right on the money with the jewelry trend of Venetian Murano glass jewelry six or seven years ago. I brought it back from Italy, and no one in Southwest Florida even knew about it let alone sold it. It was incredibly popular but soon ran its course. After all, it is glass – pretty but not durable. Now you can’t even give it away.

Supposedly, one of the original founders of Pandora left the company and is trying to launch a new bead trend only with colored leather bracelets; and guess what? The current Pandora beads won’t fit on the new leather bracelets. It will be interesting to see if it takes off.

The same goes for large diamonds. Even though the economy is (in my opinion) slowly getting better, it’s still basically far from being out of the woods so to speak. You would expect diamond prices would have come down. That is far from the truth; large-sized, high color, quality diamonds demand the highest cost per carat that I can ever remember. And guess what? I’m selling a respectable amount of them, more this season than the last five or six… go figure. It’s true that smaller sized diamonds are more reasonably priced, only I have no real demand for them. It will be interesting to see what the off-season will bring.

An inquiry from cyber space…

A gentleman from Naples wanted to know why is it impossible to find a replacement metal strap for his twenty year old Seiko wrist watch.

Part of the problem is the age of the watch. I had a Seiko that I loved, and 10 years later the strap was kaput. I called the factory and to no avail could or would they replace it. I was told they simply do not stock parts for any watches over five years old. Period!

Most watch companies follow suite on this policy.

Because of the unique designed cases it was impossible to even put a leather strap on them. I had to toss a perfectly good running watch for lack of a replacement strap. Nowadays, if you are lucky enough to find a cheap but used same model watch on Ebay buy it and get it just for the strap. Otherwise it’s now a pocket watch.


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

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9-55-3-7-5 Wed, 23 Apr 2014 18:21:53 +0000 ALL THAT GLITTERS
Richard Alan

These are the winning numbers to the quest of the $10,000 Green Marco Diamond Ring. A blindfolded drawing consisting of 40 chart holders in the lottery pick with the correct co-ordinate numbers was held, and only one was chosen. The lucky winner of the Green Diamond Ring was Ms. Darlene Canton of Marco Island.

Congratulations Darlene!!!

The following is a feeble effort to explain the method of my madness. Many found my quest difficult, but it also caused many to become dazed, confused and utterly confounded. Then, I can say, “Mission Accomplished!”

The numbers:

9 – A white and turquoise light house has been our logo for more than 10 years, and is right out front with the No. 9 written on it and the No. 9 in Roman numerals — IX. There also was an additional clue about feral cats having “9” lives.

55 – This number confounded most folks. To the left of The Little Bar in Goodland, there is a fenced-in house boat (a salty lady) dry docked in a cradle. The number that appears twice in a four digit number directly in front of the boat is the number “5” to make “55.” There was an additional hint from a rock and roll song by Sammy Hagar “I can’t drive 55!” recorded in 1984.

3 – The Roman Catholic Church on San Marco Road has a belfry with two bells. “Campana” is bell in Spanish. There is room for “3” bells in the belfry.

7 – There is an ancient saying: “I sailed the seven seas.” Besides being a magical number, “7” will appear when shooting dice in a one and six probability or a six in 36 chance is the number “7.”

5 – The restaurant I referred to is the Famous Snook Inn. In the parking lot, the sign is plainly marked “5 MPH.”

Congratulations to the 40 quest seekers who figured the quest numbers out.

The feedback has been positive, and we met and gained a lot of new customers and folks we had not seen in a while. I will consider doing something similar in the future. (That is unless my mother has me committed.)

I have been getting a lot of inquiries and requests for ancient Spanish coin jewelry. This can be a sore subject, especially when it involves informing the customer that the coin(s) they bought “in the islands” are a fake or better a forgery. Even the so-called official authentic certificates aren’t worth the cost of the paper they are written on. Any deceitful person can print up bogus paperwork and claim to sell the fakes as genuine.

Just last week a couple insisted I was wrong about their purchase. I pointed out that stamped plainly on the coin was the word “copy.” He then handed me another coin identical in every detail to the one in my hand. Duh? I know this much about Spanish coins they don’t have the word “copy” stamped on them, nor are two coins ever identical.

Even a well-known salvager — I dare not mention — was in hot water for “minting” old coins complete with certificates from the silver bars found on a famous wreck. The federal government was not amused.

Counterfeiting old coins is nothing new. Even the ancient Norsemen (Vikings) figured out how to dupe thousands by passing off fake silver coins as real. They have even found Roman “gold” or “silver” coins made of bronze and nickel alloys.

I am not an expert on old Spanish coins. Still, there are telltale ways to distinguish a genuine coin from a replica. I do have a fine eye for detail, and most fakes are obvious to me especially under 20x magnification.

I wore a replica coin with a custom gold frame that I created from an original (with the customer’s approval). While cruising antique jewelry shops in New Orleans years ago, a shop owner noticed my “Atocha” and commented on how beautiful a specimen it was. I replied it’s a fake. He said I must be mistaken. He was an expert. “That’s worth at least $2,000,” he said. I replied, “Okay, how many do you want at $100 each?” After I explained I made them in my shop from an original, he was dumbfounded by how good they looked. Some expert he was?

While owning my shop on Marco for 20 years, I have seen hundreds of Spanish coins, and only maybe 10 or 12 were the real thing. That’s pretty scary considering the serious money the other folks shelled out for fakes.

My advice is seriously do research on the coin or coins you intend to buy. I can spot a fake immediately if I see traces, casting marks, seams or especially traces of air bubbles on the sides or surface of the coin(s).

Spanish coins were not created by a casting process. They were melted into roundish ingots, sliced like baloney to weigh a certain amount, and then stamped with a heavy hammer in a crude stone or metal die.

The experts have their ways I’m sure. They can date the metal in the coins and even tell what mine the silver or gold came from.I’m always skeptical when one is presented to me, and then I have to listen to sordid stories about how the coin(s) were acquired and how they practically stole them. I just don’t have the heart anymore to look too carefully. “Wow! That’s nice!” I say. The fact it’s a fake, I now keep to myself. Why should I be the wet blanket?

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

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Diamonds on the Soles of His Shoes Wed, 09 Apr 2014 16:53:47 +0000 ALL THAT GLITTERS
Richard Alan

I believe it’s a verse from a Paul Simon song, and it’s something that can occasionally occur by accident in a jewelry shop that happens to work with really tiny diamonds. It can happen.

Crazy you say? I guarantee shoe soles and heels impregnated with industrial diamonds would last darn near a life time or better than that. Imagine how long car tires would last?

Diamonds… Just ordinary carbon created by Mother Nature that becomes transformed into something so beautiful and precious with a little help from we mere mortals.

Diamonds are an incredibly hard material, but contrary to public belief, they are not unbreakable. I am usually the giver of bad news when accepting a diamond ring for cleaning or repair. I always carefully inspect the ring from every angle, and then inform the customer what the current state of their cherished diamond ring is in before I let it in the shop for any reason. So that involves pointing out small abrasions, large chips or even burned stones (more on that later). The customer in almost every case never noticed the damage before.

I’m not doing it to ruin anybody’s day. I’m doing it to inform them before the damage gets beyond repair. Plus, it is to protect yours truly. Anyone who has ever rented a car knows you inspect it for damage before you leave the lot or you will get blamed and billed for the damage later. Every diamond ring that enters my shop for repair leaves the shop like brand new. It gets boiled out, hand polished, an ultra-sonic bath and a steam cleaning. Any prior damaged diamonds will show like a sore thumb when the ring is repaired and refinished.

Yeah, diamonds and most precious gemstones can get burned, and it is rarely done by the ring’s owner — unless you are really a spazz around a barbeque. A non-professional jewelry repair shop is usually the blame for burned diamonds. The cause is simple, any repair requiring a jeweler’s torch to complete the task. It is imperative that the piece is surgically clean. All soaps, hand creams, food and any form of dirt or debris must be eliminated, or these contaminates will burn onto the outer skin of any diamond or fire resistant gemstones, rendering what were once bright, happy gemstones in to toasted gemstones. Sad part is it is virtually impossible to reverse the damage without replacing smaller gems. On large gemstones, it requires removal be sent to a diamond cutter. Sometimes a re-polishing of the diamond’s facets can save the unhappy gem.

Using simple common sense, or “S.C.S.,” is another way to prevent damage to your precious gems. Don’t wear them gardening or building a retaining wall. I guarantee any encounter between a diamond or gemstone ring and a cinder block will result in major damage to the ring, leaving the block unscathed. Even washing pots and pans wearing your rings is risky.

And ladies wearing your rings to the gym is a disaster waiting to happen. An environment full of free weights and hardened stainless steel? You do the math. Certain professions keep my shop busy with ring repairs, such as nurses, bartenders, landscapers, fish captains and rock climbers. (I’m not kidding about the last one!) My point is if you do heavy work with your hands it is best to remove all rings. Leave them in a safe place, and put them back on when the work is done. S.C.S.

And don’t get me going about the damage and wear that results to all prongs and what ever else holds your gems in the settings. This past season, I inspected more than a half dozen rings that by only some miracle the customer’s diamond wasn’t lost due to prong loss or excessive wear. Catching or snagging prongs are a first sign of loss or wear.

Just remember my staff and I are happy to inspect and clean your diamond ring. We will point out any present or future problems, or even better, give your diamond a clean bill of health. I suggest doing just that every six to eight months. It only takes a few minutes, and the service is complimentary.

It is only days until I surrender the $10,000 Marco Green Diamond Ring to the winner of the weeks long island quest. All authorized charts with the five correct coordinate numbers must be returned to The Harbor Goldsmith, 680 Bald Eagle Drive, by 5:30 PM, April 10. The correct charts will enter a lottery, and one winner will be chosen by blindfold at 3 PM, April 11.

It is not too late to acquire a chart, figure out the clues and be on the $10,000 Green Diamond Quest! A lot of folks have been struggling to get the second course number. An additional hint: It’s a two digit number (“I can’t drive __!” – Sammy Hagar).

GOOD LUCK, and happy hunting! 

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

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Diamonds are Still a Girl’s Best Friend Fri, 28 Mar 2014 10:56:13 +0000 ALL THAT GLITTERS
Richard Alan

B17-CBN-3-21-14-15A remarkable comeback is underway, and that is a renewed desire for nice diamond jewelry. I’m not talking about the blasé quality stuff (a nice way to say it) offered to the public for the past six years or so, but a true emergence of quality and fineness.

I admit I’m guilty. For reasons of survival, I was forced to carry jewelry that customers, in fact, really did not demand but could only afford, such as alternative metals that were in fact not precious and not the highest quality.

I kind of felt I was letting my clientele down by offering such things, but I’m the owner of a jewelry store during a decade in which not only the price of gold went through the roof but silver also followed suit. The result eliminated 98 percent of my customers, who before the upward spike, bought nice quality gold jewelry —thus forcing me to lower my core values — and I reluctantly started carrying what was affordable jewelry.

That was then, and although gold is still not exactly a bargain, there is a renewed demand. Just like we griped about paying more than $2.50 at the gas pumps, now we pay $3.00. We pay more, and gripe less. I think folks realized that nothing feels like real gold.

It’s the same for diamonds. The bigger, the better: stud earrings and placing a single gemstone in the hottest style in a long time “the halo.” Put any size diamond in a halo ring or pendant, and the result is dramatic. I can’t keep them in stock.

It feels good to sell quality again. I am slowly phasing out my alternative metal jewelry, and going back with what worked in the not so distant past — real diamonds, precious gemstones, real nice quality gold and sterling silver jewelry.

I was reminded about a simple lesson I learned as a young goldsmith: stick with nothing but quality. Change a fair price, and you will never go wrong.

Although the term “roll with the punches” comes to mind after surviving a brutal economic downturn, things now are looking better, and my jewelry-made-to-order-business has more than doubled over last season.

The $10,000 diamond ring quest is now gaining momentum, and as of this issue, the odds of any seekers winning the ring are very good (1 in 150). This low number of participants in the search surprises me because I’m sure if I had a promotion for free watch batteries for a day the line of people would span across the Jolley Bridge! Go figure?

Speaking of figuring…Just figure out the correct coordinate numbers and submit your completed chart with your name and phone number to my shop — The Harbor Goldsmith — by 5:30 PM on April 10, and you could be wearing the $10,000, 1.43-carat Marco Green Diamond Ring.


The first four clues are published in this issue, and I am about to reveal the fifth and final clue:


• A famous watering hole is a hustle and bustle all afternoon and night.

• One can eat and drink while sea-going vessels pass and dolphins play with the utmost delight.

• Upon a sign in its lot, the fifth number is posted for the advised safe-moving speed.

• And that number for speed land roving vehicles seeking parking must heed.


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

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To be or not to be… Enhanced Wed, 12 Mar 2014 01:50:09 +0000 ALL THAT GLITTERS
Richard Alan

I may have touched on this subject in the past but the increase in popularity on Clarity Enhanced (C.E.) diamonds have piqued the interest of many that are unaware of the product and process in my shop the past couple of months.

Yes, it’s true some jewelers won’t even consider selling them in their stores. I have been dealing with all kinds of diamonds since the tender age of 15 and have been involved in buying from dealers and cutters all over the world. Israel, Amsterdam, Belgium, Boston, New York City, L.A. and beyond!

What makes clarity enhanced diamonds stand out is very simple… More bang for your buck! Who would not want a larger and brighter diamond for less money? So what’s the catch? This is where technology comes into play. The clarity enhancement technology is not exactly brand new, it has been around for over 30 years or so. Since 1982, by inventor Zvi Yahuda, to be exact.

The Yahuda Company bought nice high color diamonds that other buyers would not buy because the inclusions were noticeable to the naked eye. Zvi discovered a way to laser drill into the feathered inclusion, add a special microscopic material and virtually make the feather or flaw appear to disappear. Thus making the ugly duckling, so to speak, become an attractive swan! The process is quite amazing; the fact that the diamonds are high white in color make the results even more dramatic.

When I first came to Marco Island in 1994 and opened my retail shop a couple of years later I found that there was a market for C.E. diamonds here. The first year I sold over a hundred carats of Yahuda diamonds mostly as pairs of stud earrings and large important rings – two, three and five carats each.

Why? Because back then, C.E. diamond products made sense. Ten years ago a mediocre pair of two carat total weight earrings could cost you an easy $8,000. By mediocre, I mean dark gray in color and full of visible flaws. My Yahuda diamond studs were ten times brighter and flawless to the naked eye, and cost 30% less. It was a no brainer even for those with a half a brain.

There were some who walked away and bought the non-enhanced, poor quality, “discounted” diamond studs elsewhere and realized later they purchased a pair of “dogs” they could not return.

Well, here it is ten years later and many of us have finally begun clawing our way out of the worst recession I can honestly remember. Many want to buy some nice things again, and I’m thankful one of those nice things are my diamonds – enhanced or not, I sell an equal amount of both.

Want to know something cool? Compare them side by side – I bet you won’t be able to tell the difference except by the price tag.

Ethics do come into play here. It is imperative that the customer knows what he or she is purchasing. A C.E. diamond is basically a diamond with one or more laser holes drilled into it. The process does improve the appearance but does not improve the clarity grade, they are available as certified diamonds and must state that they are in fact “Clarity Enhanced.”

Yahuda engraves that fact and a serial number on every C.E. diamond it sells. Any questions you may have about C.E. diamonds may be answered on their website at


Fair Tidings to my Green diamond seekers. Here is a crumb, a morsel, a tidbit… A clue to slot # 2:

In the land of good, where buzzards lope, they come from near and far.

A big salty lady sits silently by a minuscule bar.

Safe and dry while she’s cradled high.

Your second numbers appear twice to even the sober eye.


Not yet an authorized seeker to the $10,000.00 Marco Green Diamond Quest? Just show up at: The Harbor Goldsmith at The Island Plaza, 680 Bald Eagle Drive and request an authorized chart and rules to begin your quest. The date of the drawing is April 11th 2014


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

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The Quest for the Marco Green Diamond Ring Fri, 21 Feb 2014 19:54:33 +0000 ALL THAT GLITTERS
Richard Alan

Want to have some fun and intrigue? While experiencing a rare idle moment, I came up with the idea of why not give something valuable away for free to generate (instigate) some controversy, get people talking, and who knows, I’ll also get some new faces and former faces I have not seen in the shop for a while.

My staff, which includes my wife and shop dog, Toby, finally decided my cheese had totally slipped off my cracker, to give away a $10,000, 18-karat gold, 1.43-carat oval green diamond ring for free!

I decided to bounce the quest thing off the wall, and while talking to my friend Valerie — who happens to be the publisher of this fine community newspaper — she thought my request for an island quest hunt would be a great idea!

Funny thing, though, apparently in the state of Florida one cannot just have a contest and give something valuable away (such as a 1.43-carat green diamond ring). The original plan was to award the treasure of the quest on this coming St. Patrick’s, but due to purchasing a permit and waiting for permission, I was at the mercy of the state’s approval of my insane idea.

And for those reasons I have been forced to postpone the drawing to April 11, which is fine for it will give anyone out there who is interested in joining the quest more time to solve the riddles and limericks. More folks will have a chance to win the prize: the green diamond ring.

The ring is truly unusual, an oval-cut, kelly green diamond weighing 1.43 carats set in a beautiful 18-karat yellow and white gold diamond-encrusted four prong mounting.

The whole gist of this quest is quite simple, but not really. First of all, participants will actually have to get off their couch and physically arrive in person at my humble establishment — The Harbor Goldsmith of Marco Island — located in the Island Plaza right between Beall’s outlet and CVS Pharmacy.

Once there, you can request a numbered and certified chart (map), and who knows, you might accidentally buy a nice piece of jewelry? Rules and regulations to the quest will be included with the chart.

The final result of your quest — the green diamond ring — is on display in my showcase window. It is up to you to solve the correct five numerical course coordinates by following the clues that will lead you all over the island and could include hunting for numbers in Goodland.

Now the hard part. You didn’t think I was going to give away a $10,000 ring away without a challenge, did you? The clues to the five correct numbers will include puzzles or limericks that will only be found in this award-winning newspaper, Coastal Breeze News, and even tidbits of clues in this column you are presently reading.

Bottom line: Figure out the five correct numbers in their proper order. Write them down on your chart, and bring it back to me or my staff before 5:30 PM, April 10, for the final drawing at 3 PM on April 11.

All charts with incorrect coordinate numbers will be discarded. All charts with the correct numbers will be placed in a lottery, and one single chart will be chosen randomly by blindfold. There will be only one winner, one drawing and one ring. No if’s, and’s or but’s.

All returned, completed charts must be numbered, and have the authentic Harbor Goldsmith certified seal to qualify. Any copies or counterfeit charts will be immediately disqualified, meaning the bearer is not eligible for the contest, and the non-qualifying document will be destroyed. The perpetrator could risk being keel hauled.

A riddle for solving the first coordinate number on your chart:

Many Island feral felines roam at will, 
Climbing trees and structures with utmost skill,
While the humble human roams the earth, only one lifetime they’ll see
Whilst our felines supposedly live lives three fold times three.
Good luck and happy hunting!

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

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