Tuesday, December 7, 2021

Why no becomes the only option


Richard Alan


It’s a sad day for me anytime I have to refuse service to certain clients. No, I’m not a bartender, although I am often asked what my opinion is about jewelry and certain subjects about life in general.

The major way I make a living is with my hands busy at my work bench and on any given day, the things that appear before me can be a bit confusing to any other goldsmith or bench jeweler or any one else for that matter.

Confusion? Just the other day I started with a malfunctioning strap clip on an expensive Coach handbag, followed by attaching an aiming sight to a black powder hand gun. Oh, great! Here comes a guy wheeling in a floor lamp in a CVS shopping cart. It’s no wonder I’m behind on my craft duties that require me to actually work on jewelry.

Jewelry repair has become more of a challenge than I can ever remember. Although my counter staff is well trained and several have been in the business for decades, the one fault they have while accepting customers’ repairs is their limited use of the word… no! Or we don’t fix that! 

I’m the only one to blame for this. Seventeen plus years on the island I have acquired the reputation that I can fix, alter or re-design just about anything on this planet that is precious metal and has diamonds or gemstones. What possesses people to cart in lawn sculptures, wind chimes, firearms and electrical fixtures, and not to mention the occasional footwear is beyond me. And believe me they do.

So, as of January 1st 2012 the word “no” has been implemented in my store vocabulary, and more so, due to the fact that world-wide jewelry manufacturers keep creating the most deplorable selection of merchandise I have ever seen in my 40 plus years in this business super light weight hollow chains that break when simply trying to put the article around one’s neck, my attempt to repair usually results in a twenty inch chain that shrivels up from the heat of a torch to 18 inches and is no more secure that it was before.

No.. I no longer repair them because they never remain fixed and I’m now blamed every time it falls apart from that day on. The other week, what appeared to be a fraying light weight gold omega necklace was in fact braided gold tinsel on a silicone rubber form. You have to be kidding me….No! “But I paid a lot of money for it.”

I explained it’s not that I don’t want to do it, it’s impossible to repair it, the gold is as thin as a butterfly’s wing. Silicone? And a hot open flame? The end result doesn’t look too promising. The major down or up sizing of an invisible set or micro set pave’ diamond rings …No, Thank you!

The customer’s reaction is always the same. “Why not? Aren’t you competent enough?” I’m more than competent, and so confident that most of your diamonds will fall out during the process that would require so much wasted time and my money to make it right.

Ever try to put tooth paste back in the tube? That’s kind of like what happens when you bend that ring down three or four sizes. The diamonds don’t bend, they either break or fall out and will never go back into the original location, once altered.

I have plenty of experience in getting the tooth paste back in the tube so to say, and over the years have successfully accomplished complicated feats of magic on my bench that other jewelers would say was impossible to do, but lately it’s just not worth the risk if something expensive goes terribly wrong.

A ten dollar piece of costume jewelry, sentimental or not can take an hour or more to repair. It’s ten times more difficult than fine jewelry, so try charging more than ten dollars for your time and watch them holler “highway robbery”. Now, I just say no and avoid the unnecessary drama and complaining.

It never ceases to amaze me how some people will tell me how to perform impossible repairs and how they could do it themselves “if they had the right tools”. Only the day before I wrote this column, I heard a customer tell my mother she needed a couple of inches removed from her double strand pearl bracelet. Mom explained it would have to be restrung because it was knotted between the pearls and you can’t just cut off two inches and re-attach the clasp.

This is not an inexpensive alteration. The customer insisted my mother was making a big deal out of “a simple thing” and told her she had a friend who would do it for two dollars! You got to love my Mom, she replied “So why did you bother bringing it here in the first place, you expected we would do it for less? And please give me her name and phone number, we could use her services if it’s a professionally done job and is not drowned in super glue.” (Warning to the misinformed, don’t mess with Mom.)

As I get older and wiser and begin to realize I can’t repair everything, I can now quite honestly live with it most of the time. I still appreciate a challenge, but give me something I can sink my effort into without the piece falling apart during the repair process. You know, the way fine jewelry used to be made.

I remember a marketing ploy my uncle and mentor used. Although it is not very profitable, it does prevent unruly comebacks. When he realized no amount of his skill could properly repair the basket case before him, without hours and hours of restoration he would never certainly get paid for, he would simply patch up the article the best he could, which was more than an improvement of its former sad state, and not charge the customer a cent. When I questioned the reason for not charging for his effort, he simply said. “Customers can’t complain if they paid nothing for the repair!” To this day I have done that more times than I care to mention.

I wish to offer an open invitation to my readers, customers and friends for our official grand opening at our new location: The Harbor Goldsmith, 680 Bald Eagle Dr. – The Island Plaza, Sat., March 10th, 2012, 10:00 AM- 5:00 PM. Featuring fabulous sea life jewelry from the designer Denny Wong. Refreshments provided by Davide’s Italian Cafe.

Richard Alan is a designer/master goldsmith with over forty years of experience creating fine jewelry and is the owner of The Harbor Goldsmith at his new location in Island Plaza on Marco Island. He welcomes your questions about “All That Glitters” at 239-394-9275.

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