The Jewelers Ancient Art

Posted: Tuesday, December 06, 2005


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  Shoppers have more room in newly expanded store

Shoppers have more room in newly expanded store

In the Blazy Mall, tucked in the back of Adamas Designs, John Morris inspects a well worn ring. Flipping down his magnifying visor to inspect the damage a lifetime of wear can do, he hands it to his colleague, Edward Dawson to have a second look. The ring is badly worn on the band and all prongs, holding the stones have worn to nothing. Both jewelers discuss the best way to restore this ring to its former glory. “Often, the piece has been repaired, elsewhere before - and that can cause problems for novice jewelers, but we know what we’re doing,” comments John, and certainly, between these two master goldsmiths, they do. Together they have close to forty years experience at the bench.

“However, it’s not just repairs that keep us busy,” says Ed, a master goldsmith, apprenticed at Kilkenny Castle, Ireland, “we design and make custom jewelry pieces, hand make engagement rings, set stones, install watch batteries, do appraisals we’re really a full service jewelry store with an in-house casting shop.

John, who has had his store at the Blazy mall for six years, has tripled his space, with an emphasis on letting the workshop be seen. Jon explains, “there’s something of a trend among jewelers to make work areas part of the retail experience.” “Call it paranoia. Many customers like to keep an eye on valuable pieces rather than watch them disappear into the back room.

“People really like to see what’s going on back there,” says John, whose store features a window that reveals both jewelers working at the bench. “Whether we’re carving a wax or sizing a ring, it’s one thing that sets us apart.” Of course, not all retail stores have on-site goldsmiths,” says Ed. For those who do, this is a canny way to advertise it. “It really demonstrates we’re not subbing things out, like most major chain stores,” adds John.

Ed explains, “Some jewelers worry about heavily advertised brand name jewelry overwhelming their own names. Others are concerned about mass merchants and the internet. Regardless of the competition, however, a good bench personalizes your store in a way no retail jewelry chain-store can take away from you.”


Owner, John Morris helps a shopper make the best selection

It’s true that faced with an overwhelming amount of mass-manufactured jewelry, customers turn to their jewelers for custom designs. Consumers who already own jewelry, often bought at large chain stores - some of it shoddily made - are frustrated, not knowing where to go or who to trust for repairs. Jewelry buyers’ fascination with vintage has caused a greater appreciation for jewelry made “in the good old days,” but vintage pieces often require fixing,’ says Ed necessitating skills in traditional fabrication and knowledge of gemology. Once again, consumers don’t know where to go.

Add consumers’ demand for service and interest in interactivity (what could be more interactive than discussing jewelry with someone who can actually make it?) and you’ve got the recipe for a powerful renaissance in appreciation for the art jewelers create (and later mend) at benches all over America.


The art of design is still available for those who prefer unique and one of a kind pieces

In the past 30 years, bench skills that once formed the heart of most jewelry stores faded into the background. “The owner, who had always worked at the bench, moved to the front of the store to sell— bench got downgraded,” says Jon. Except in rare circumstances, bench skills, once celebrated by jewelers as famed as Fabergé fell off many jewelers’ radar screens. Some stopped bench work totally, farming out repairs. They stopped being jewelers and became retailers only.

John Morris, the son of a jeweler began his career in 92. His father owned and ran Olga’s Jewelry in Kenai since 1976. John is a member of the Gemological Society of America and is certified in diamond grading. So if you want to talk with someone who knows diamonds and gemstones, John is your man.

Edward Dawson, served a seven year apprenticeship in the world famous Kilkenny Design Workshops and went on to obtain his degree in Jewelry Design and production. He has designed for DeBeers, Disney, Harrods of London and many more. In 1996, he was commissioned to design the seal of office for the Irish Senate. Ed has been in the States eight years and his work is in private collections around the world. He has yet to face his first Alaskan winter, but quips, “there is no place I’d rather be.”

You can watch both John and Edward at the bench in their newly expanded store inside the Blazy Mall, downstairs.

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