Coastal Breeze News » All That Glitters Thu, 31 Jul 2014 17:18:45 +0000 en-US hourly 1 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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Web…site unseen Wed, 29 Jan 2014 14:30:34 +0000 ALL THAT GLITTERS
Richard Alan

Billions and billions of dollars are spent by folks using the internet, and there is no doubt a good percentage of that dough is generated right here in my household between my wife’s tennis addiction that involves ordering tennis shoes and trendy outfits that match the shoes let a lone the latest rackets and accessories.

I also have two sons who order car, truck and motorcycle parts as if they are stocking their own parts warehouse. Yep! You can buy just about anything online.

Ordering what you see on a screen and what shows up in the box on your doorstep can sometimes be another story all together. I once got a heck of a deal on two cases of laser lights for my retail shops. Only problem was when they arrived each one came equipped with European 220 watt plugs, which are useless here in the U.S. Such a deal! Guess I missed the fine print.

Well, it might be okay to order tennis equipment and auto parts. Now to the point of my story, and that is buying expensive diamonds, gems or jewelry online sight unseen. Crazy?

Yes, I know the facts. Millions of people do it every day, but just because tons of folks do it, it doesn’t make it right. Sure, I’m biased. I own a jewelry store where a shopper can look, touch and even try on my jewelry and ask questions. Heck, they can look me in the eye and even offer less money than I’m asking for the article — a little haggling and some negotiation. That is the way I have always done business in my business.

But geez, buy a $10,000 diamond ring online without seeing it — to me as professional jeweler — that’s just nuts! Look, I have folks bringing in the dreck they ordered from late night television shopping channels, informing me how rare and wonderful their purchase is. Heck, the lady on T.V. told her it came from a special mine in Togiabito, and it is very rare. If it is so rare, why do they have 1,000 to sell?

Too bad I can’t size the T.V.-purchased rarity down from a size 11 to a 5 without having every single stone fall out. What a great deal? Now, you can try wrapping a band aid or duct tape around the shank so you can at least wear it.

Let’s get back to the internet thing; I still cringe when someone walks in with reams of paper on a particular diamond’s size and quality that they are in the market for. They have researched and surfed from site to site for hours on end. Then they enter my establishment, walk past my numerous showcases containing my diamonds for sale and have the audacity to whip out their sheets of research papers and ask my professional opinion on which one I think is the best deal for him or her. My answer: all of them! And then I move on to one of my customers.

Look, you don’t walk in to a Realtor’s office and ask them if they will take a ride and look at a house you are buying from a competitor and to let you know if it is a good deal or not. Of course, you don’t, although I have a realtor friend who tells me there are plenty of morons who find their way onto the island that try to do just that.

My last internet customer experience was a guy who purchased a non-refundable gent’s 14 karat gold, one carat diamond ring. It seemed like a good deal for a good sum of money. The ring showed up in the mail as promised three days later without any diamonds in it; plus, it wasn’t the best quality ring I ever saw. He misread the deal. The empty ring setting accepts one carat of diamonds, which will cost him at least another $1000 to supply and set them. That ring don’t seem like such a great deal right now, do it?

Most jewelry buying experiences I have experienced first hand were…well, remember those heaping bowls of hot remorse I mentioned two weeks ago…well, there you go.

I have customers who can’t make a decision when it is right there on their finger, and you are going to fork over $10,000 on your credit card to who knows who for who knows what? Call me old school if you want, but I wouldn’t do it.

I had an interesting experience when buying a classic 1973 VW bug a few years ago. I saw it on the internet. I told the owner I would drive four hours upstate to see it. I let him know I was seriously interested in purchasing it and the price seemed fair. Heck, the post on the internet said it was almost totally restored: new paint, stock air conditioning, new clutch, brakes. You name it. When I got there the car looked great. There was only one problem. All the new parts, including the A/C, were in a box in the garage. I wasn’t pleased, but I bought it anyway paying less than we agreed on. Did I mention the car broke down twice on the way home, and a year later I trashed the useless A/C and had to buy a new engine? Another great internet deal!

I’m not inferring that everyone is trying to rob you on the world-wide web, but I believe there are many that will. It is all they live for. So, use the brain that momma gave you, and avoid the pain and anguish that can result from an unwise and expensive transaction purchased site unseen.

Folks you have to see, touch and romance the stone, and most importantly, fall in love with it. Then, if it feels right, you purchase it. There is nothing more beautiful than a high-quality diamond or precious gemstone, and knowing you had choices and advice before the purchase.

Face to face. It is a good, old-fashioned, no-nonsense way to buy fine jewelry.

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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Buyer’s Remorse 101 Fri, 17 Jan 2014 02:59:28 +0000 ALL THAT GLITTERS
Richard Alan

I heard the term “buyer’s remorse” the other day, and it is not a subject most care to discuss especially when they have experienced it first hand. Being an appraiser of diamonds and fine jewelry for more than 35 years, lets just say I can unleash the unpleasant emotion more often than I care to mention.

First of all, what exactly is “B.R.” — as I will now call this high level state of monetary emotional disappointment? Buyer’s remorse. I think it is many things: emotional, physical and, of course, monetary to name a few. We have all experienced B.R. at one time or another.

Emotion is one of the first symptoms. It begins with the realization of being duped and the loss of your hard earned money. Physically, you may break out in a hot or cold sweat. For those of you with high blood pressure, such as myself, the predominant blood vessel on your forehead appears as though it is about to burst, and you get really, really angry.

In rare occasions, some may awaken to the fact, and have the savvy to realize instead of getting a gold mine, you got the shaft. If the opportunity is still available to remedy the situation (like getting your money back), you race back to the origin of your dismal purchase (yes, you run). If you bought it from some street vender in Timbuktu, that person is now long gone, relishing his good fortune. You lose.

If you purchased the item from an actual land-based business, with any luck (and this is rare) you might get your money back, or chalk it up to one of life’s learning experiences.

I have been in many such situations. I purchase merchandise for my stores all over the U.S. and Europe, but many times, I was fortunate to smell deception was in the air before being stupid enough to lose my money.

It happened to me in Venice, Italy. My wife and I had made arrangements to visit a high-end glass factory on the island of Murano. They picked us up in an elegant teak water taxi, and offered us glasses of Prosecco in a plush private showroom. Little did these slick operators know that Andrea and I did our homework in the city of Venice first by comparing prices from the retail and wholesale shops.

The proposed “special wholesale prices” offered at the factory were outrageous — as much as three times more than a retail shop in Venice. When I called them on it, we were immediately dismissed as if we had a contagious disease, promptly whisked off and dumped off at the public water taxi stop. They were not happy with us. They were preparing to rip us off for thousands of Euros and failed. Years later a shop tried to sell us cheap Chinese glass as genuine Murano. Experience taught us to know better.

In many cases, especially the jewelry-orientated variety, the average Joe or Joan doesn’t experience B.R. until a schmuck like myself has to give them the bad news about their “fabulous purchase” when it is presented for a reassuring piece of mind appraisal.

Oh, what fun that is! I could just look at the purchase in question and say, “Oh, it’s very nice. What a great souvenir!” But he, she or they will always push it by asking, “What do you think it’s worth?” My first questions are where and how much did you pay for it? Most of the time their answer is: “You tell us, after all your the expert appraiser.” Now, I have to be a mind reader? They have stepped into my world…REALITY.

Now, my reputation as a professional appraiser and jeweler is at stake here. Here comes the brutal truth and a hot steaming bowl of buyer’s remorse: On first glance, the yellow gold diamond tennis bracelet in question is in fact a mass-produced Chinese gold-plated base metal piece of dreck. They insisted it was solid, “layered” gold. The diamonds are low-quality white sapphire, and the bracelet’s cheap a@! catch doesn’t work at all. Wholesale value…$100 a dozen. They paid $1,200 for one, and have all the documentation and certified appraisals to prove it’s value. I, of course, must be mistaken. Fine, don’t believe me. Bring it somewhere else for another opinion.

To add insult to injury, I am about to hand them a bill for $150 for my time and the two copies of the written insurance appraisal they insisted I sit down and do for them. If I lied about the bracelet to save hurting their feelings and avoid the huge heaping serving of B.R., I would compromise my integrity as an appraiser. That’s not going to happen.

More often than not, there is no reassurance; only remorse. So how did I become the bad guy here? Many times, it can be one of my regular customers. Sure, it hurts my feelings that they didn’t make the major purchase with me. Why now does the inferior piece of jewelry become my problem to make it right? Sorry folks, take it back to whoever pocketed your money. I can’t fix a bad choice or inferior quality.

Remember the emotions I described earlier? It occurs before me at my desk, in slow motion, it begins with, “That’s not possible we paid much more than that!”, or “You can’t be serious!” and “Are you sure your not mistaken?” My favorite is: “The jeweler store was approved and recommended by the cruise line.” Blah, blah, blah.

Bottom line…you got taken. Call the credit card company and cancel the transaction, return it if possible or you have to live with it.

Also, beware of so-called special drug lord confiscated merchandise auctions that pop up at all the major hotels. The value of the bargain-priced jewelry purchased never ever appraises anywhere near the money spent. Nevertheless, there are auctions on the island and in Naples almost every other weekend during season. Guess it has to do with the sucker born every minute thing.

I get inundated with requests for “free verbal appraisals” the day after the auction blows town with everyone’s money. I have gotten very tired of wasting my valuable time dispensing large doses of B.R. to the many suckers that fall for these deceptive purchases, nor do I want to appraise them anymore. The sobering fact is: if the price was too good to be true, it was. Salt and pepper with that bowl of B.R.?

I apologize to those of you who may be offended by my brutal honesty. I just find it very frustrating to be a witness to what has become almost epidemic. If only one couple heeds my warnings before spending their hard-earned money on near worthless jewelry here or abroad, I did a good thing.

Several things you should know before any major jewelry purchase:

1. Find a known and trusted jeweler or goldsmith. Things like quality of craftsmanship and fair prices are paramount. It’s simple. Ask around. Being in business for many years is a good sign. It’s no different than having a trusted dentist, lawyer or car mechanic. Are there any complaints about the jeweler with the Better Business Bureau? In my establishment, loyal clientele receive V.I.P. cards that reward their patronage with a lifetime of perks and special discounts on services and merchandise.

2. Do your homework on the item. I educate my customers on the piece before the purchase. For example, there are rubies, and there are beautiful rubies. I spend the time showing the difference between qualities and why they cost more or less. This holds true with large diamonds and any precious gemstones. Just because it is large, does not mean it is valuable. As a practicing goldsmith, I point out what to look for to ensure the jewelry is well made, and that adds to its wearability and thus its longevity.

3. Buying jewelry on impulse while vacationing and under the influence of three or four rum runners is probably not a good idea. Unscrupulous salespeople will note this and most surely rake you over the coals.

4. One can simply e-mail me with any questions about jewelry or gemstones.

With more than 40 years in the business, I have certainly learned more than a thing or two about things that glitter.


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 Pleasure of Sea Life Jewelry Wed, 01 Jan 2014 19:21:08 +0000 ALL THAT GLITTERS
Richard Alan

I love the quote “if you’ve got it flaunt it,” and that holds true for those of us who live here in paradise either full or part time. Besides being truly fortunate, I think we also are smarter than the average bear; I still have lots of friends who tell me over and over how miserable it is “up there.”

I cannot fathom how I spent a good part of my life in the great white north. It simply became old to me — the gray days, the long cold winters that lead into a nonexistent spring and then the summers became shorter and shorter and it was winter again.

One day during a typical insane daily Boston commute to work, I just snapped. I read the famous book Move Your Cheese in 1994 during yet another New England recession, and I actually moved my cheese: sold my house, quit my job, packed up the wife and kids in a U-haul and headed to Marco Island.

All that, and without a clue on how we would survive. It’s been an interesting 20 years; I have achieved much more here than I would ever had if I remained up north. ‘Nuff said.

I love it here! And I flaunt it! My relatives up north are burning cords of wood and wearing layers of clothing to stay warm. My brother-in-law uses his boat two months a year, if he is lucky. I can go boating 300 days a year. Not that I do, but I could.

Which brings me to my topic…Sea life jewelry.

The South Florida wildlife. It just seems endless. Just wearing the sea creatures of the Gulf of Mexico in gold or silver. I create snook, sea bass, redfish — to name a few — pendants for the angler crowd, and the turtle-loving community on Marco loves my pendants portraying both the mother turtles and the brave little hatchlings. Our birdlife here is outstanding. On any given day, you can see eagles, osprey and owls here on the island and in the mangroves. I have many pieces of island birds.

The most popular selling pieces in the shop by far are the jewelry portraying the exquisite and gentle dolphins. There is nothing more exciting than encountering them while boating. It never becomes boring.

It could be a solid gold diamond encrusted flip-flop or a palm tree pendant with diamond palm fronds that sends the signal to the beholder that there is some warm, sun-drenched place the wearer would rather be.

My life time friend, Jeannie, who is a nurse in Boston, bought a condo in Naples a few years ago, and visits it a few times a year. She is counting the days until her retirement, but for now she flaunts the fact it is only a matter of time until she will be here full time by wearing my sea life jewelry for all her patients to see. Jeannie is awash in gold tropical flip-flop jewelry while at work — earrings, pendant, bracelets and even a flip-flop anklet. It brings her joy to know that soon flip-flops will be the only footwear she will ever need.

Sea life jewelry is a large part of my business. For more than 15 years, my famous “Marco bracelet” with two kissing dolphins as the “M” in the word Marco has been my best selling bracelet. We hand craft each one in either gold or silver or combinations of both metals and now in durable silver and rubber which makes the bracelet more affordable.

Islanders and tourists alike love sea life jewelry. It is meaningful and more than a conversation starter. It proclaims I have been to or I own a piece of paradise.

A question from cyber space: Nancy from Marco asks, “What can I do to keep my aquamarine ring from looking dull and dingy?”

You are not alone. Both aquamarine and blue topaz share the same problem. A simple shower or even washing dishes while wearing the ring can cause residue to dry underneath the stone, leaving it dull and unattractive. That is because the bright blue color reflects what is on it. A good quality jewelry cleaner and an old soft toothbrush will remove the soapy film, and will render the gem bright and happy. Also removal of the ring is advised when doing household or garden chores. Because aquamarine also scratches easily, that will dull the stone considerably, and fixing that problem requires a costly polishing job by a professional lapidary shop.

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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A Goldsmith’s Tales of Christmas past Mon, 23 Dec 2013 15:35:28 +0000 ALL THAT GLITTERS
Richard Alan

While working yet another long day and burning many evenings worth of midnight oil in my workshop with my 21-year-old son, Andrew, I tried to ignore hearing his complaints about working late. I came to the realization that this was to be my 44th Christmas season in this crazy business. If he only knew what I had to endure when I was his age.

Forty-four Christmas seasons as a bench jeweler! Even Santa’s head elf would have been impressed with the volume of work I would push out in those days and in a short period of time.

Thirty years ago, it seemed a little easier. I worked in the jeweler’s building in Boston with family and friends, who were also in the business, and back then, it was expected to work long hard hours each day. Morning began by waiting on customers that were sometimes three or four deep, and selling out what was in the showcases. At night, create what did not yet exist. We made an incredible amount of jewelry by hand in those days (my uncles and I) — all pieces custom made to the customers’ specifications.

If waiting on Christmas shoppers all day wasn’t enough to knock the stuffing out of you, working in the back room shop until the wee hours of the morning would be the coup de grace. Even if you had the flu or some other knock-you-down-and-out ailment, you better show up to work and keep up with everybody else. No if’s, and’s or but’s.

There were days I was so exhausted I swear I saw myself coming in the shop as I was leaving. One year, I even kept a sleeping bag behind the counter to save time because it took an hour to commute home and back. Oh yeah, I remember that season. When I finally made it home for a decent shower and a change of clothes, my wife said I looked like the first original walking dead — a zombie goldsmith.

Did I mention our Boston workshop also did the work for many of the city’s prestigious jewelry stores. Personally in those days, I also had 30 or 40 retail jewelry stores I had as accounts that I had to cater to. I could never keep up that pace today.

In November and December, the volume of incoming work was like drinking from a fire hose. You are darn right we made tons o’ money. In my late teens, I made more money than most Boston lawyers did, and I worked for every penny.

Those were the days, my friend! We thought they would never end. My uncles and I would sell diamonds as if we owned our own diamond mine. In the 70’s, you could buy a pair of gem-quality, two-carat stud earrings for under $1,000 or a three-carat diamond ring for under $5,000. I set so many large, fabulous diamonds, rubies, emeralds and sapphires that my hands bled and my eyes blurred. I was afraid to look in a mirror, and what about lunch? Who the heck had time for lunch? There was no rest for the weary. Must resist closing my eyes. More coffee, please!

Back then, gold was cheap, really cheap; less than $100 an ounce. I bought and sold gold chain and charms by the kilo. The shop was a hotbed of activity in those days. My Uncle Ernest was in his late 60’s. You had to admire his patience and stamina; he was a virtual war horse.

Many a Christmas Eve — what am I saying — every Christmas Eve, I would crawl home around midnight, just as my entire family would be cleaning up after a lavish Italian-style Christmas Eve dinner with Maine lobsters and fresh seafood. I’d walk in and settle for what was left over. Cold lobster, you shouldn’t have! I’d have a half-glass of wine and promptly pass out on the couch while everyone opened presents. Christmas day, I would not wake up until it was dark.

That was Christmas Past. “The good ole days.” Today, my son, Andrew, would never understand what it was like back then. Now, it’s kind of the same but different. I’m working seven days a week, twelve hour a day, even before Thanksgiving. Diamonds and gold are no longer cheap so the customers are not exactly three or four deep at the counter. My two uncles have passed away, and are probably making gold halos for Saint Peter as I speak. Plus, I can also cancel the armored truck to pick up the daily receipts. I honestly cannot complain about the holiday business so far. It’s better than the years past. It will be interesting to see if the pace continues. My ever-popular Marco angels and bracelets are selling like crazy, and to my amazement, so are diamonds!

So forgive me if I look like a deer staring into the headlights. I’m tired and grateful at the same time, and I have not yet reached the zombie stage of the game just yet.

And please, to prevent triggering an ugly outbreak of the zombie goldsmith during the month of December, I beg those of you who think now is a good time to leave your ridiculous repair requests, such as Cracker Jack surprise quality jewelry, lawn sculptures, car parts, home furnishings, worn out shoes, knock off handbags, cheap designer sunglasses and basically anything that is not fine jewelry, orientated at home until after, let’s say, New Year’s Eve 2075.

Back to a better place. Here I am listening to Christmas carols performed by Elvis as I deck the halls with holly and diamond studded styrofoam fish decorations. I pray the holiday spirit transfusion administered to me will take effect. I will also reflect on the past as I finish my second can of red bull and espresso combo. Cheers!

Happy Holidays! Merry Christmas! And a Happy New Year from all of us at The Harbor Goldsmith!

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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