Last updateWed, 18 Oct 2017 12am


The way it used to be: Dear Jobber… Dear Retailer… Sincerely Yours

Across The Counter
Reprinted from June 1991


Dear Jobber… Dear Retailer… Sincerely Yours

Dear Jobber: Please rush one yellow gold-filled identification bracelet, No. 1756/4. BOY’S ID.

Dear Retailer: Please be advised that our item No. 1756/4 is not a stock item and must be special ordered from the factory. This could take six to twelve weeks and the item is not returnable.

Dear Jobber: Okay. Send special order for ID.

Dear Retailer: What ID?

The way it used to be: Being extra nice to customers can get you over the bridge


Across The Counter

Reprinted from May 1991

A while back, Pat made a speech at Paris Junior College concerning the things a watchmaker jeweler never learns in school. For the benefit of you who didn’t hear the speech, our friend Pat portrayed us jeweler-watchmakers as being sometimes not to tactful human beings.

Pat said he once took his mother’s antique Elgin watch in to be repaired. The watchmaker refused to repair it , but offered to trade it in on a new one. But he didn’t want a new watch; he wanted the old one repaired. So, not satisfied, he took it elsewhere where another watchmaker also refused to repair the “old relic.” Finally Pat found a “professional” watchmaker-jeweler who restored his mother’s watch to working condition and “mended his broken dreams.”

The way it used to be: Jeweler’s Tax Dodge – ‘Donate’ Personal Papers to the Trade


Across The Counter

Reprinted from April 1991

During my life, I must have registered for at least three thousand giveaways. I’ve purchased countless chances on cars and merchandise and registered for so many “free drawings,” I’ve suffered from writer’s cramp.

I finally came to the conclusion that the odds are so overwhelmingly stacked against a person winning anything it is useless to try. At least I felt that way until a few days ago when I received a nice letter from the IRS.

The way it used to be: Trade Shop Problems With The Ice Machine

Across The Counter
Reprinted from March 1991

Trade Shop Problems With The Ice Machine

Everyone should attend their state jewelry convention. It’s always beneficial to talk with others who are in the same boat with you. For instance:

At the last convention RB and I met Herb. He owns a store in the great state of Texas, but it might well be in your hometown! Herb confided in us that he was forced to send all his work out to a trade shop since he wasn’t able to see well enough to do the work himself.

“After all,” he joked, “When you can’t see with a 20x you’re in pretty bad shape!”

Herb related to RB and me the following story about his problems with his local trade shop:

“You know, I was lucky to locate this Sabastian fellow - he’s a top notch jeweler. Only has one problem however, can’t seem to get the work out on time. Let me tell you a typical example:

“About two months ago a fellow came into my store with an old ring of his mother’s and selected a nice mounting for his wife. He said he wanted to be sure to have it for her anniversary, which would take place in about two months.

“Well, I assured him we would definitely have the ring by that time, no problem at all.

“So, I took the job to Sabastian myself. ‘Now, Sabastian,’ I said firmly ‘this customer needs the ring in two months… are you sure who you can have it for me?’

“’Of course,’ he promised, confidently. ‘No sweat.’

“He glanced over the job.

“Well, a week went by and I went to check on the mounting job. ‘No, I haven’t started it yet,’ he alibied. ‘My mother-in-law died and things have been pretty upset.’

“I sympathized with him, naturally. With such a gloomy event, who could blame him? ‘Do you think you could have it by next week?’ I asked.

“’Oh sure, no sweat.’

“So I left confident he’d keep his word. Another week went by and I dropped in to check on the job.

“’Oh, Herb, I’m so sorry. I sprained my ankle and just haven’t been able to get the work out. You understand?’

“I was pretty upset but tried not to show it. ‘How about next week?’ I prodded.

“’Oh sure, no sweat.’

“Later in the day, my customer came by to check on his ring. ‘It isn’t ready yet,’ I had to tell him. ‘Sebastian fell and sprained his ankle. But he assures me he’ll have it next week…check then.’

“I was sure Sabastian would have the ring ready next time I called him, but I was met with more explanations.

“’I’m sorry, but my soldering equipment is acting up. Call me in two weeks. We’ll have it for sure!’ I left feeling we were cutting it very close.

“Next time I saw the customer he was starting to develop a long face, I carefully explained about Sebastian’s faulty equipment and suggested he return in two weeks for his ring. We would definitely have it by then.

“I called Sabastian twice during the two-week period, but he was out both times. Once he was playing golf and another time he was down at the corner tavern relaxing… and who could blame him? He works so hard – most of the time.

“I was really starting to worry when it came within a week of the crucial date. But my doubts were swept away by Sebastian’s assurance: ‘I’m going to start work on it this afternoon for sure!’ His voice was so strong with authority I really didn’t doubt him.

“’Now remember, Sabastian, the anniversary is next Saturday so I’ll be by at 4 pm Friday,’ I reminded him.

“’Don’t worry,’ he replied. ‘No sweat!’

“So Friday rolled around and I picked up the phone and dialed Sabastian. ‘Say, you do have my remounting job finished, don’t you?’

“’Well, not actually,’ he replied. ‘I had intended to start on it this afternoon, but my wife’s ice machine broke down and I had to stop work on your job to fix it. You see we are having a party tonight and she’s simply got to have the ice machine working to make frozen daiquiris.’

“Well I had to say to my customer: ‘I’m sorry about your wife’s ring, but Sabastian had to stop work on it to repair his wife’s ice machine. She has a party tonight and if Sabastian remounted your wife’s ring, his wife couldn’t make any frozen daiquiris. Understand?’

“My customer stood there, his face turning from pink to red and then finally to flaming crimson. I guess he didn’t understand. So I went to the phone and called Sabastian once more.

“’Sab couldn’t you put the ice machine aside for a while, after all you’ve had my job almost two months?’

“’No, I am afraid, not,’ he groaned.

“I returned to the customer, trying to smile. ‘Could I interest you in something else for your anniversary? I don’t think the ring will be ready.’

“’But you promised! I gave you two months! Tomorrow is the anniversary! I WANT MY RING!!!’

“Back to the phone again. I begged Sabastian, ‘Please, oh please! Just this once, and I promise I’ll never rush you again!’

“So he finally agreed to get the job out by 11 am Saturday. ‘After all, the anniversary isn’t until Saturday,’ he sounded sorry. ‘What’s the big sweat?’

“My bewildered customer left with the idea of coming back at 11 am. I didn’t sleep a wink last night and this morning at 10:30 I called that. that Sabastian to check on my job.

“’Well Herb my mother-in-law’s clock isn’t striking, I’ll get on your job just as soon as I adjust her clock’”

Herb’s voice trailed off and I saw the hopelessness that clouded his eyes. “What happened Herb?” I prodded. “What happened when the customer came in?”

Herb shrugged his shoulders. “How would I know? That’s when I suddenly decided to come to this convention.”


The way it used to be: Translations for the Jewelry Trade

Across The Counter
Reprinted from February 1991

Translations for the Jewelry Trade

Customer: Isn’t this a lovely ring? It was my grandmother’s.  At least 60 years old. You’ll notice the 18K gold mounting and genuine ruby.  I’ll bet you don’t see very many like this one!

Jeweler: Ah, yes, it is very lovely isn’t it? There are even some spherical bubbles inside that would seem to indicate man’s scientific ingenuity, and it sure is pretty.  Here take it with you.

Translation: Glass. 10K gold mounting.

Customer: I paid you to repair this watch only last week. Now it stopped dead. What kind of work do you do here anyway?

Jeweler: Just a moment, please. Let me check the record.

Translation: Customer paid for a new watchband and had a new battery installed.

Customer: I have Aunt Hattie’s old watch here. It is very valuable so I wouldn’t trust it with just anyone. I brought it clear across town for you to look at because I know you’re honest and wouldn’t steal the jewels.

Jeweler: That’s very nice of you to say, and this certainly is a beautiful old timepiece. Haven’t seen one exactly like this before. Unfortunately, though we simply cannot get parts to fit those valuable old antiques. I’m sorry. Why not display it in a treasure dome so you can continue to enjoy it?

Translation: Rolled gold plate & jewels.

Customer: I want you to see my diamond I got at a Seedy Discount Store. It’s blue white and perfect! And I’m so-o-o happy with my purchase. Didn’t I get a fantastic buy?

Jeweler:  Wow! Now that’s really a ring.

Translation: Coal mine.

Customer: I’ve just returned from the Orient where I picked up some lovely jewels for practically nothing. Let me show you my genuine Persian turquoise ring and Imperial jade ring.

Jeweler: How lucky can you get? These are very interesting. You sure can’t buy anything like that in most independent jewelry stores.

Translation: Dyed turquoise matrix, aventurine quartz.

Customer: The diamond I purchased here just ‘fell out’. I didn’t do nothing. It just fell out.

Jeweler: Then let me look at it, please, to see what damage has been done.

Translation: One prong missing. Two prongs bent. Diamond gone.

Customer: Just put it back together and I’ll get my uncle to fix it. He is an expert watchmaker and never charges me for anything.

Jeweler: (forcing a smile) If your uncle can’t get around to it, bring it back we will be happy to serve you.

Translation: ‘Unk’ started a correspondence course in watch repair back in 1949, and quit when the lessons got too difficult.

Customer: I can get it from my brother-in-law. He’s in the retail jewelry business and therefore buys wholesale. He sells to me for the same price jewelers have to pay, so why should I pay you more?

Jeweler: Since you are already another jeweler’s regular customer and both you and he are completely satisfied. I’m sure he will appreciate your business.

Translation: The brother-in-law is in the dry goods business and there are certain wholesale jewelers who will sell to him. However, the two families haven’t spoken to each other for 15 years.

Customer: I know a great deal about diamonds. I’ve been studying up so I can buy with confidence in my own technical knowledge.

Jeweler: Then I’m sure you recognize the superior cut and clarity of this magnificent diamond and realize the extraordinary value we are offering you.

Translation: Customer watched a “Mr. Wizard” TV show about prisms about 3 months ago. Now he’s a diamond expert.

Customer: Would you be kind enough to install this watchband? My husband picked it up someplace - maybe here.

Jeweler: We will be delighted to lady, and the charge is only a dollar.

Translation: I’m absolutely overjoyed to install your discount store watchband that you purchased across the street 20 minutes ago.

Customer: Can’t understand it. Last time this was worn, it ran fine. I put it on yesterday, though, and now it won’t run at all.

Jeweler: These things are mysterious, aren’t they? But it does need some cleaning and adjusting now and we will be happy to restore it to good working order.

Translation: It was last worn by the customer’s deceased grandmother who died 29 years ago.  The inside is a mess.

Customer: I’d like to wear a wristwatch. Really I would. But I just have so-o-o much body magnetism I can set off blasting caps if I don’t control it.

Jeweler: Yes, ma’am.  Anyone can tell from your bright personality that you have tremendous personal magnetism. May I interest you in one of these new solid-state models? There’s nothing about these beautiful watches that can possibly be affected by body magnetism, and a lovely lady like you deserves a fine wristwatch.

Translation: Vain old biddy. With a face like her’s, she could stop a clock at 20 paces.

Customer: I’ll have to ask my husband before I have it fixed. He always makes the decisions about things like that.

Jeweler: I understand perfectly. And may I say that I truly do admire you for trusting your husband’s fine judgment. Please explain to him the recommendations I’ve made regarding repair, and should he decide your fine watch needs attention, bring it back to me for I will certainly be glad to see you again. Thank you.

Translation: Wonder what they’ll tell her when she takes it down the street to the discount store?

The way it used to be: Yakity-Yakity-Yak

Across The Counter

Reprinted from January 1991



 Mrs. Maude Thatcher deposited into R.B.’s hands a ring bearing a large red stone.

“Now this,” she explained, “belonged to my Aunt Bessie Brown who came to Texas from Philadelphia in 1876.  She had three sons, two of them looked like her, and the third had bright red hair.”

She leaned secretively and whispered in R.B.’s ear, “None of the rest of the family had red hair… so it does make one wonder.”  She winked at RB knowingly.

“I always thought Aunt Bessie had a wild streak. Her mother thought so too…and her mother was such a dear…my mother’s sister…There was a brother, Bill Brown, but he moved to Miami and went into the shutter business…perhaps you have heard of him?....Bill Brown?”

“Ah, no.  Now about this ring…”

“Well, anyway, I have four sisters and two brothers. Everyone wanted this ring but Aunt Bessie left it to me. Now my sister Norma married an army sergeant and moved to Germany. They have three children, Mr. Williams, two boys and a little girl.” She smiled proudly.

R.B. smiled also and tried again to inquire about the ring. “This ring is…”

“Another of my sisters, Thelma tips the bottle. Her husband pretends not to notice but everyone is aware of the problem.”

“Yes, that would be a problem,” R.B. butted in. “But now, about the ring…”

“Just a moment, Mr. Williams, I’m not finished telling you about the way I came to inherit this lovely ring. There’s my older sister, Camela. Such a dear, sweet child and so frail. Anyway she could never have any children of her own; nobody knew if her husband was sterile or what, so they adopted two lovely children. They were both illegitimate of course, but Camela and her husband, Jeff, are thrilled with them. Oh, did I tell you Jeff works for the government?  He has a civil service job.”

“Speaking of jobs,” interjected R.B. desperately “about this…”

“Then there’s Sandy, my baby sister. Always been a problem. Must have been the generation gap. Sandy’s been married and divorced three times. Her first husband was a sailor and a real boozer, not worth a plug nickel. Every time he came home on leave, Sandy ended up ‘in a family way.’ Poor Sandy, her second husband was in the Peace Corps and he was gone a lot too. So things didn’t work out right.

“The last one was a traveling salesman,” she said with disgust. “Everyone knows about men like that!” So now poor Sandy’s single again – by the way, Mr. Williams, do you know any nice eligible men?”

“Not off hand,” moaned R.B. “Now, about this ring…”

“Well, if you’d stop interrupting and listen. My brother, Sam, he was the eldest, you know. I always favored Sam more than my other brother. Well, anyway, Sam went away to college and got a degree. He has a good job now and he married the sweetest girl, Patty Sue Jones. Did you know Patty Sue before they married? Her family lives on Falcon Street, I believe?”

“Er, no. But about this ring…”

“Anyway it doesn’t matter if you knew them I just thought you might. They are people of means, and now Patty Sue and Sam have a darling little boy. He goes to the first grade at Bowie School. Isn’t that sweet?”

“Ah, yea, sweet.  Now about the ring.”

“Now my other brother, Joe, didn’t do so good. He married a foreign girl, one from out of state, I mean! And the family didn’t accept her. She is a real spit fire and gives Joe a run for his money! Actually I don’t know why I said that because Joe doesn’t have any money to speak of…”

“Well, never mind Joe. What about this ring!” R.B. cried out, exasperated.

“What ring?”

“This ring you handed me when you came in.”

“Oh, my, what a pretty ring, Mr. Williams. I have one almost exactly like it.”

“Ms. Maude, this is your ring. You brought it in a few minutes ago.  What did you want done with it?”

“Good heavens, my ring? Well, it does look like my ring.”

“It’s your ring, “snapped R.B. “What do you want me to do to it?”

“Well I can’t seem to recall. You’ve kept me talking so much, I believe you’re trying to confuse me.”

“Oh, no I’m not trying to confuse you. Try to remember what you wanted done to the ring...please.”

She stood there a moment trying to remember. Finally she snatched up the ring and started out the door.

 “I’ll just have to come back another time, Mr. Williams, I’ll thank you to not pry into my personal affairs!”