Sunday, April 11, 2021

Saving New Jewelry


Hollow does not hold out. Submitted Photo

Hollow does not hold out. Submitted Photo

As I write this column, Christmas Day was exactly a busy month ago, and despite the fact that the parking lot at my place of business was a chaotic maze challenge for the entire months of November and December, our customers still came in. (A helpful hint: parking at Island Plaza is plentiful and less stressful after 3 PM). I wish to thank those of you who continued to patronize us through the months of construction and inconvenience during the mall facelift. It shouldn’t be much longer until final completion and a brand new look.

One thing that jewelers around the world fear most, are the returns that result after the holiday gift-giving thing. I close the shop the day after Christmas for an additional day of just deserved R&R for both my staff and myself. (I, aka “The Boss,” actually take three days off and leave my son and the staff to endure the onslaught of elsewhere-purchased watch strap adjustments and ring sizings, and the dreaded “returns” until I return.) My short chill period has become necessary, for I personally have experienced close to fifty holiday seasons and they tend to knock the stuffing out of me the older I get.



On my return to the shop, to my surprise they only had two returns that were actually upgrades, good news, but son Andrew had to adjust the usual umpteen watches an hour for three solid days.

We were fortunate to still be busy with sales between Christmas and New Year’s, guess there are lots of disenchanted gift receivers and holiday gift cash.

Around a week after New Year’s my repair business increased significantly, only it wasn’t old jewelry, it was brand new stuff. In most cases, jewelry was worn only once and then it broke, or stones fell out; there was missing prong here and there, or faulty chains that disconnected. I even had a rash clasps that didn’t clasp… WTH!

While most “repairs” were simple adjustments, many were just un-repairable brand new “jewelry”(I use the term “jewelry” loosely); cheap, base metal plated stuff with glued in colored glass that either bent, cracked, snapped or broke in half and was impossible to solder or weld despite our many sincere, but futile, attempts. We were constantly told, “I paid a lot of money for that!” After hearing that for a while, my reply to that remark was, “Well, bring it back where you bought it.”

Even new gold jewelry was falling apartthe thin, flimsy and hollow constructed junk that dented after a week’s wear, posts that would break off earrings, and super lightweight chains that dented or came unraveled.

I was forced to do something I haven’t done my whole goldsmithing career – refuse to accept a great deal of it, for it only proved to be a time-wasting and money losing experience for both of us. I’m proud to say that not a single new, wounded piece that flooded my shop was purchased from me, not one!

You have to understand, not all jewelry stores can carry good quality because it’s expensive. Most big mall chain stores have to carry less quality merchandise or low, low price point jewelry. Short and sweet… that’s what the majority of their customers are looking for. I call the stuff simply cheap and effective. As a gift? In this case it truly is the thought that counted, because cheap jewelry is not a thoughtful gift.

I have been repairing jewelry since I was a teen, the good the bad and the ugly. I’ll steal a saying that I hear on TV a lot, “I know a thing or two, because I’ve seen a thing or two!” Besides my forty-plus years of jewelry repair experience, I also design and create it, so I know what holds up with daily wear and what doesn’t. For example, hollow gold chains don’t hold up… period! They dent, flatten out and fail days after purchase. I don’t sell them, never did, never will. I even hate fixing them. The mall stores sell them by the kilo, total waste of your and folks buy them; a money. Buy only solid chains, they cost more but last for years. Lightweight gold gemstone rings that bend and flex also have flimsy prongs that are too short or thin and will never hold the gem in the setting, soon to become a bad investment.

There is a reason my business card says “fine jewelry;” it is because it is.

Maybe now you have questions? I am also happy to give advice or answer any questions about future purchases you may have. Contact me at

Richard Alan is a practicing designer/ goldsmith/appraiser and owner of the Harbor Goldsmith, Marco’s Island Jeweler since 1994. Phone: 239-394-9275.

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