Reprinted from January 1998
People always told me it was such a romantic occupation RB and I had. Working with gems and jewelry, gliding around showing baubles. Somehow I never could see how they could equate the humdrum life of everyday jewelry work with what we did. Perhaps if we’d been sending stuff out to the trade shop and it went out in one condition and came back all shiny and pretty it might have been different. We always saw the jewelry brought in by the customer very dirty, very worn and not romantic at all.
One day in the non-romantic life of a jeweler could best be told by Skip, my nephew. Skip repairs almost anything and mostly I see his job as pretty dirty, very demanding and not romantic, but I’ll leave this decision up to you.
The first job of the day was a large cake plate on a pedestal. It was one of these crystal affairs with a large disc top, which had been neatly broken just at the base. Skip carefully cleaned all the Wonder Glue off of it which the owner had used in vain in an attempt to repair it. He then applied the ultraviolet cement which requires exposure to the sun to set.
Out he went in front of the store supporting the large disc platter by the pedestal and another hand on top to be sure it didn’t separate. Two of the barbers who work in the center walked by teasing him and making funny remarks. The postman also chimed in with some good-natured poking. The cobbler added a word or two and two women driving by in their cars gave him funny looks as he hoisted this assembly skyward trying to get mother nature to give him a hand.
The next job of the day was someone’s eyeglasses. Skip was to repair the frames. He twisted and bent and snorted and to me it did not resemble anything romantic or interesting. When he got through he’d repaired someone’s $25 glasses for about $12.50. One has to wonder why people don’t buy better or extra.
The next customer through the door wanted batteries for 8 quartz watches. Not only did he have 8 watches, he wanted to wait for them. Dutifully Skip set about putting them in. Meantime the customer’s dog barked defiantly at every other customer and provoked Skip because he could not think straight. All 8 watches fought being opened and closed. His next challenge was to set a watch the customer had bought elsewhere and didn’t have the instructions for.
Soon Skip was forced to choose between two customers at the counter simultaneously – one had a pair of shoes to be half soled and the other had a very dirty cuckoo clock, neither of which we work on. Later in the afternoon I smelled something cooking and it seems Skip was busy boiling out someone’s rings. When I asked about why he was going through so much trouble he said the rings had to be cut off an infected finger and sized. When he got the rings to the bench, he realized there were little white things moving around under the setting and he wasn’t taking any chances. He said he was glad he used plastic gloves in the removal process as well.
Later in the day, I was sure jewelry work was just as romantic and exciting as some of my customers have pictured it to be. A customer had been talking about bringing in her old gold and getting something made out of it. This was the day. In she came and among old wedding rings and broken pins were several gold teeth.
Years ago, Skip would have fainted, but by now he just picked them up and examined them, and inquired, “Oh, who did these belong to?” Just as if he were asking about who owned the wedding rings or old pins.
Who says jewelry work is not exciting and romantic.