At a young age I learned only the proper professional way to perform all kinds of jewelry repair. This included flawless results on even the cheapest piece of costume jewelry. This is near impossible today, since they don’t make costume jewelry like they used to in the old days. Trying to fix the junk jewelry they make today is as difficult as nailing Jell-O to a tree.
My masters (uncles) taught me the “old school” or old traditional approach when it came to learning the goldsmith trade. I was young and did not know any other way. As technology in my business progressed my uncles would still refuse to accept anything but the old way, and I would catch their wrath if I tried to do anything other than how I was taught.
As a rebel without a cause I saw and wanted to use the new technology to be more efficient, thus save time (and money) and still achieve the same “old school” results. This caused some heated arguments, and you want to know something? Eventually one of my uncles came around to at least trying something new.
My uncle Ernest used an old torch you could weld the Marco Bridge with to do repairs, (1930s tech…a step up from his ancient blow pipe with an alcohol lamp flame). I introduced him to the current jeweler’s mini-torch with interchangeable tips from a hair-like flame to bridge welding. He loved it. Gee! What a surprise, the results were the same!
Uncle Ernest is probably rolling over in his grave since I bought my state-of-the-art laser welder. He would never get his head wrapped around a Star Wars laser that repairs a ring crafted in the 1800s, something that would be impossible to weld with a traditional jeweler’s torch.
The point of the article is that in almost everything in life there is a right way to do things and a wrong way. And every time you try to do something the cheap way it is, in the long run, the wrong way. How did that duct tape repair on your plumbing problem work out?
Only recently a customer asked me to use silver to repair her antique platinum and diamond ring to save her money. I politely refused and explained my shop uses exactly the same metal the piece was created with. If the ring is 14kt. pink (red) gold we use pink gold in the sizing or repair, white gold on white gold, and platinum on platinum. Most other repair shops either don’t know the difference, or give a rat’s derriere, or just don’t bother. It’s that right way thing that’s embedded in me. Do it right or don’t do it at all.
My son Andrew and I come across many pieces of “Frankensteined” jewelry – it’s our way of saying botched, or Mickey Moused by highly unskilled or moronic bench people.
Here is this once beautiful, handcrafted antique gold ring that has had its prongs replaced with brass instead of gold, or the repaired joints welded with sterling silver, or worse, dirty lead solder. I feel its sadness and despair. Why in the world would anyone ruin this original thing of beauty, only to save a few bucks? Idiotic! I have said this many times: Ladies, if your husband or significant other trots off to the garage to repair your favorite piece of jewelry, I suggest you follow him with a baseball bat or his nine iron and clock him on the noggin before he destroys it! He will survive the blow, your jewelry will not.
To me every piece of jewelry has a soul, especially my creations. Beautiful diamonds and gemstones speak to me before I design a piece of jewelry around them. (Yeah, maybe I’m ready for the funny farm, but it’s the truth). You can call it what you like, I call it pride and principal. Doing things the right way is rarely the least expensive way, and proudly I have never compromised the quality of my work. The result of that disappointed many who went elsewhere then came back expecting me to right the wrong that resulted in a sad Frankensteined piece of jewelry.
I no longer have sympathy for those who seek the wrong and cheap way out, and then ultimately regret the final results. Please don’t bother me, I’m too busy doing it the right way.
Richard Alan is a designer/goldsmith and owner of the Harbor Goldsmith Marco’s island jeweler for over 24 years. He welcomes your questions about “all that glitters” Call 239-394-9275, email firstname.lastname@example.org, or visit www.harborgoldsmith.com.