Tuesday, June 15, 2021

Quality Counts




My job has become more difficult with time, and considering the many years I have been a practicing goldsmith you may be thinking sure, he most likely lost his eyesight looking at minute articles for over forty years and it took its toll. That would be incorrect. I admit I have bumped up my eyeglass prescription a few times and with my head magnifiers I can still see just fine.

The difficulty has been dealing with horrible quality jewelry over the last decade, a category my son and I have coined “Gara – barge.” When the second Great Recession occurred is 2008 gold became ridiculously expensive. No one can forget the “We Buy Gold” era, for many jewelers buying from the public was the only way to keep from going under.

The jewelry industry had to adjust to the fact that the heavier the piece, the further out of reach it would be for the public to afford. I have endured many downturns in my career, but this last one was a doozy. Most folks don’t buy expensive jewelry when things are tough and South Florida was no exception. The fact we had a great reputation for expert jewelry repair and restoration kept me busy. Most of my competitors that were on the island ten years ago did not survive and are no longer in biz here. Yet, they are still listed in the latest phone books… strange?

Many well known designers, manufacturers and big box jewelry stores refused to see the writing on the wall and continued business as usual, only to find the cost of their products (jewelry) had often quadrupled in price at the wholesale level. On that note, many long established companies nearly went out of business or did completely.

Sadly, in most cases the jewelry itself suffered; it had to be made lighter to keep the cost down, so that meant making gold jewelry thinner or extremely hollow. Jewelry was being created out of non-precious metals because even silver prices went skyward. I found newlyweds could not afford simple gold bands and were purchasing wedding bands made from sterling silver or new alternative metals such as stainless steel, titanium, and even cobalt steel. All basically worthless metals, impossible to size up or down or to work with; try cutting or filing cobalt or titanium based metals, they make engine blocks from this stuff. Yet these metals become popular jewelry for men and women for almost a decade.

The problem is that cheaply made gold jewelry (even if bought recently, let alone a few years ago) is now falling apart. It is next to impossible to solder without it melting away, and a laser welder blows through it like tissue paper. A bench jeweler’s nightmare, working on hollow jewelry requires intense skill and expertise. I’ve seen amateurs do more worse than good trying to repair the stuff.

I used to pride myself that I could repair anything that came across my bench. Now, I refuse to accept cheaply made jewelry for repair in my shop. No one wants to pay me for the trouble it takes to patch it up, only to have it fall apart somewhere else days or weeks later. My only remedy to the problem is “bring it back where you bought it.” Maybe they will give you a new one. That’s pretty sad.

On a good note, I have seen that the demand for fine gold jewelry is alive and well, and this past holiday shopping season proved it; not a single demand for stainless steel junk jewelry.

I also sold out my diamond and gemstone custom crafted jewelry that is solid and designed to last forever. It is the only way I ever made it and will continue to do so. Real nice gold jewelry is back!

Richard Alan is a designer/ goldsmith and the owner of the Harbor Goldsmith at the newly renovated Island Plaza and welcomes your questions and comments about all that glitters.

He can be reached at 239-394-9275 or harborgoldsmith@comcast.net. Visit the website at harborgoldsmith.com.

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