First and foremost, my heartfelt condolences to all my fellow Marco Islanders, Goodlanders and Neapolitans who suffered hardships these past weeks. I also wish to praise our island’s small business community who without hesitation or outside help stepped up to help our citizens in an unprecedented time of need. God bless you all. I’m also impressed at how many of you rolled up your sleeves and helped your fellow neighbors or perfect strangers. It just shows how we as Floridians will step up and persevere to restore Marco Island, our precious jewel to the island paradise we all love and cherish. Once again, God bless you and God bless Marco Island!
I am asked a lot of questions in the course of a single day. They can begin with “Why” or “How come,” or my absolute favorite, “How do you know that?” Let me begin by saying, by profession I am a tradesman in a unique artisan/retail community that has been around for two thousand years or so. I’m a master goldsmith and have been involved that trade since the tender age of twelve when I began my apprenticeship. ( For you unknowing Millennials out there, an “apprenticeship” is a long tenure requiring years of learning a particular trade or skill set, requiring working long hours, low pay for six days in a row. In other words…it requires you to actually put down the cell phone or gaming controls and get your butt off the couch and learn how to make a living.
I am now at a tinder-box age of sixty-three and to use an insurance advertising saying, “I’ve seen a thing or two!” Please don’t confuse me with a pompous jewelry salesperson in a three –piece suit sporting an impeccable manicure and coiffure standing behind a showcase full of expensive baubles. Most sales persons can only read price tags, and their knowledge is limited to the info printed on them.
My experience with “jewelers” who wear solid gold diamond studded loupes around their necks is that they know next to nothing about the jewelry they sell or the business. And that’s all that I have to say about that.
Standing in front of my showcases you will notice I’m dressed in my best boat shoes, khaki shorts and a well-worn denim apron with a magnifying optic-visor on my head that scares most little kids. Heck, I’ve never even had a manicure.
A true goldsmith is hands-on. We actually make the jewelry by old school means (handmade) or latest state of the art lasers, oxygen free casting machine and cadcam computers.
Most goldsmiths are not only proficient at creating jewelry but also designing, repairing and appraising the finished results. Who would know more about the value of a beautiful piece of gold jewelry than the person who created it? Seasoned goldsmiths have decades of experience procuring and selling diamonds and precious gemstones and know the difference between stocking fine jewelry and refusing to sell not-so-fine jewelry. Our fingers are constantly on the pulse of the industry, the cost of precious metals is noted several times a day in my shop.
A working goldsmith will rarely be dressed to kill; they are likely wearing a slightly charred and well-worn apron that protects the clothing and flesh beneath from molting metals, flames, flying sparks and sharp objects. The strange-lensed contraption on our heads is to magnify the work that in many cases are diamonds that are the size of a fire ant’s kneecap. In my case, I’m blind without them.
In a nutshell: A talented goldsmith is an artisan who works with gold and other precious metals and gemstones; he or she can create and hand fabricate all kinds of jewelry and adornment pieces that can include intricate repairs or restorations of antique or modern jewelry; skills can include diamond and stone setting, and even hand engraving (though this is very rare). A fancy, schmancy salesperson? Never.
I have only met one goldsmith in my life that was also a watchmaker. (Or was it a watchmaker who was also a goldsmith?) Thirty-some odd years ago it was always a separate trade.
In the last century, the jewelry trade had specialized trade facets of the business: goldsmiths, bench jewelers, casters, diamond setters, watchmakers, engravers, polishers, and precious metal platers. They did all the dirty work, no clean and manicured fingernails here. Today many of these specialists are nonexistent, except maybe in a couple major cities such as the Big Apple.
Learning the business at a young age I was immersed in the whole of it. I can still name many of them; Mr. Walter Kelly, Boston’s most talented hand engraver, Mr. Carmine Fuchetti, even at the age of eighty he was still considered the best diamond setter the city, and Mr. Carmine Oliva, a master watchmaker who serviced all of the city’s fine jewelers. They have all passed on, but some left their legacy with me, for I have many of their tools that I still use today that they demanded I have in their last will and testament.
So when I’m asked the question, “How do I know that?” It’s because I do! I think fifty-one years experience as a goldsmith/jeweler and being involved in nearly every facet of the jewelry business should speak for itself.
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 firstname.lastname@example.org, or visit his informative website at www.harborgoldsmith.com.