Thursday, January 20, 2022

Being ‘In The Zone’


Have you ever found yourself “in the zone” while in the process of accomplishing a task or when playing your favorite sport? It’s a rare confident feel-good feeling and anyone who has experienced it knows exactly what I am talking about.

Most of my “in the zone” experiences occur at my workbench. Everything must be just right; I call them the three T’s… the temperature, the tunes playing, and my temperament. The sound of constantly ringing telephones and daily in-store drama leads to constant interruptions, make achieving the “in the zone” atmosphere next to impossible.

This means finding my “sweet spot” is only achieved before or after shop hours, and many working Sundays. It’s a time when I take advantage of the skills I have acquired over a fifty-year learning period. I could hold my own at the bench at age fourteen, and started my own jewelry repair business at twenty. I can honestly say that I can create an “in the zone” atmosphere when I deem it necessary.

Most of my “in the zone” experiences occur at my workbench. Everything must be just right; I call them the three T’s… the temperature, the tunes playing, and my temperament.


It can be while carefully restoring a delicate heirloom, or creating a one-of-a-kind piece of jewelry for a client or just something special for my showcase. It’s important to stay in the zone once in it…I’m not taking any calls, texts or accepting emails. Everything is going smoothly and everything feels just right, I glide around the workshop effortlessly with my favorite music playing and the smell of coffee brewing. Soldering this, laser welding that, the piece comes together splendidly; set a gem here and there, lovingly polishing and cleaning my creation and there you have it… a finished piece of jewelry.

The process can take weeks or sometimes only a few hours. I handmade an eighteen-karat gold diamond heart ring for my wife’s cousin who needed it last minute. I began the project at six in the morning, three hours before I left for my European vacation this past August, and hand delivered it to him the next afternoon in Munich, Germany. (How’s that for service?) Boy, was I ever “in the zone” that morning!

It begins with the choice of a gem or gems, the colors, the sizes and the shapes; will there be diamond accents?

Then it comes down to, how will the gems be secured in the piece I’m creating? Prongs, bezels or both, it’s what make the design practical, wearable and beautiful, and to dispel popular belief, gems are not glued into pieces of fine jewelry. (That would be the cheaply made but expensive “designer” costume stuff most folks purchase.) There is no magic that keeps gems and diamonds secured, that is one of my additional artistic skills, the art of diamond and stone setting. Most expensive gems are very fragile and the lack of expertise in this field can be disastrous, not to mention costly. A lesson learned while I was young apprentice, if I broke or chipped it, I paid for it. I learned how to zone in or else no paycheck!

Sure, as a young man, I used to be a little nervous setting a thirty-thousand dollar emerald or ruby. You have to understand that setting a gem, regardless as to whether it’s a diamond or not, requires squeezing or hammering metal to the edge of the gem, one small mishap and… El-Cruncho !

And yes, even diamonds can shatter or chip if improperly handled. (If you don’t believe that fact, you have been reading too many Superman comics.)

Ask one of my customers who decided to leave her three-carat ring on while helping her husband build a concrete brick retaining wall. The resulting damage rendered the diamond worthless.

Tedious handwork requires absolute concentration and being “in the zone” is more than just important to me, it is crucial.

Nowadays, the only thing that breaks the spell I’m under besides interruptions is… fatigue. (I’m no longer a twenty-year-old kid!)

Being in the groove is close to being in the zone, and can occur without peace and quiet — just watch my son Andrew and myself in the shop on a busy day; tighten this, adjust that, solder or weld these, then change a dozen watch batteries in a flash, walk Toby (our shop dog, not an employee) then wait on a few customers, all the while working on repairs and other rush projects that we took in the day before, in addition to today’s jewelry emergencies! Whew! Synchronized whirling goldsmiths in motion!

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, or visit his informative website at

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