Monday, December 6, 2021

Ghosts From Christmas Past


Submitted Photo

Submitted Photo

I had several requests from my female clientele (Gosh- am I allowed to say that without major political correctness fallout?) to republish this article from two years ago.

Just like two years ago… It is astounding the amount of fine jewelry sales that take place in just the first two weeks of December!

It may have been my column that either woke up or possibly humiliated (and most certainly embarrassed) some of the island’s menfolk by mentioning the dismal offerings to loved ones from recent Christmas pasts.

My apologies for the wakeup call, but it was time to stop the holiday trend of giving a stuffed envelope or a worthless electronic gift or cell phone that would break or be obsolete in three months. It is time to revive giving quality gold jewelry gifts of substance. (Somebody had to say it!)



So now, offering my gratitude is in order, despite the fact that since May, Island Plaza, where I am located, has resembled the bombed-out city of Berlin in 1945. Then stir in Hurricane Irma and shake and tear some stuff a bit, and it’s a wonder I’m still in business! I’m optimistic that the rest of the month will go well. I remodeled the shop just before Irma’s grand entrance, creating a dramatic setting to showcase the quality of jewelry I am offering for Christmas gift giving.

Diamond earrings of all sizes, from $995 to several thousands; once again two years later, round diamonds surrounded by a halo of smaller diamonds are in great demand, and so are simple three pronged “Martini” stud earrings. And bless my lucky stars, something I never thought I’d see in my lifetime, folks are actually buying nice quality gold jewelry again, instead of selling everything they owned in the “We buy gold” decade.

The “have-to-have” jewelry gift of this Christmas season – notice I said “Christmas” because that’s what it always was to me and my family and friends, politically correct or not. (A “holiday” tree? “Holiday” elves? I’ll spare you my comment on this subject.) Christmas Nativity, Christmas cheer! Christmas carols! Christmas trees! Christmas shopping! Christmas parties! Christmas presents! It’s Christmas… For St. Nick’s sake!

Sorry, back to the subject of “have-tohave” jewelry gifts. For two holiday seasons in a row the two-stone diamond ring has been promoted on TV. It’s the first week of December as I sit here writing this article, and I have had several inquiries about the “together ring.” I am currently putting together a very special two-stone ring, designed in 18 kt. white gold, with a fine onecarat brilliant cut diamond and a one-carat Ceylon sapphire.

And for those gentlemen who are still befuddled on what to get her, a great last minute gift is my selection of “Marco Angels” created in silver or gold, which can be encrusted with diamonds or gemstones.

And every island woman would love our special and exclusively designed “Marco bracelet,” in silver or gold or both, and my latest Marco pendant.

I am reminiscing about Christmas seasons past (my ghosts you might say) and I’m trying to relate to my son Andrew (who, by the way, is perturbed because he is slaving at the bench in the workshop, pushing out Christmas gift orders as I sit here writing). Andrew has no idea what being a goldsmith/diamond setter was like forty years ago or what I still call the “Golden Age” when I was around his age.

It all started right after Halloween, seven days a week, working at the bench twelve to fifteen hours a day, working like one of Santa’s deranged and disheveled elves. I remember one year I was too tired to leave the city (Boston) to even drive home, so I slept a few hours behind the showcase, then to my surprise the next morning appeared. I sort of bathed in my tiny shop sink, but I wasn’t looking too pretty. Thank heavens it was Christmas Eve morning!

What amazes me even today, is how my uncles and I filled the hundreds of custommade jewelry orders we received – not just from our own clientele – but also from many of the prestigious jewelry stores we serviced in the city of Boston and the surrounding cities and towns.

I can’t honestly remember my baptism by fire or my first year of getting every order done for the season, or else! I was helping at the young age of twelve, and before I knew it, I was running my own shop and business by the time I was eighteen! All I can remember was being dog tired for two months and thinking, “How am I going keep up the pace my uncles set?” (My eldest uncle was in his late sixties!) These guys were like senior energizer rabbits. How did they do it?

We created beautiful, handmade pieces from scratch out of gold and platinum set with diamonds of all shapes and sizes. I can recall several times I would fall asleep at the bench only to have a wet towel thrown at the back of my head to revive me… Fun times? Black coffee was coursing through my veins back then.

I would spend hours setting diamonds in every kind of piece of jewelry you could imagine. My hands were red raw and would on occasion cramp and become useless. It was a different time then; People did not come in a couple of days before Christmas looking for a special custom order. If they did, they would only be laughed at, because even if they offered all the money in the world for us to do it, we could not squeeze in another order. Every minute was taken, there was simply no time left. No one slept more than a few hours. I commuted more hours than I slept, sometimes not knowing if it was sunrise or sunset.

Kodak moments at my mom and dad’s house on Christmas Eve were pictures of yours truly passed out on the couch, eggnog in hand, while my kids, nieces and nephews tore open a few early Christmas presents.

I would sleep in a coma most of Christmas Day. “Oh look! Santa brought pajamas for Dad!”

A golden, Merry Christmas, a Happy Hanukkah… Good health and a prosperous New Year to all!

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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