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WORTH HIS WEIGHT IN GOLD

In-house goldsmiths are a vanishing breed

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WORTH HIS WEIGHT IN GOLD

New York Diamonds jeweler David Pearson shows a wax carving that he turned into a one-off ring for a customer.

JASON CAMPBELL/The Bulletin


POSTED December 27, 2012 1:04 a.m.

David Pearson is part of a dying breed.

The jeweler. The in-house goldsmith. The precious metal miracle worker.

For nearly three decades he’s been tackling nearly every aspect of jewelry repair and design – from custom-created pieces made to the exact specifications of customers to delicate repairs on some of the most precious metals in the world.

And while people continue to wear jewelry, the number of businesses that employ their own design and repair person on staff has shrunk dramatically in recent years. They have been replaced by companies that do the work off-site and in most cases without ever seeing the customer that they’re serving.

With Christmas being the busiest time of year for Pearson – who has been working with New York Diamonds owner Patty Reece since 1991 – he’ll spend most of the next two weeks sizing rings and watches and making sure that the gifts that customers received under the tree fit perfectly around the wrist or the finger.

The Bulletin caught up with Pearson while he was resizing a watch band and getting a wax mold ready for a custom piece of jewelry.

 

What do you enjoy most about creating jewelry?

“When you’re doing custom wax carvings and creating things from scratch, you’re really creating a piece from nothing. Sometimes you’re using a piece that the customer already had – taking the materials and melding them into what it is that they’re hoping to see. It’s that creativity that I love.”

 

How much work goes into creating a custom piece of jewelry?


“First you have to look at the design idea that they have or possibly a picture and then determine where you’re going to go from there. A lot of times you’re fabricating something from scratch – taking raw metal and putting it together in a mold through a carving. The whole process takes three or four hours total with the casting and the finishing and the assembling, but it realistically takes a couple of days with all of the steps and the cooling and everything that goes into it. It’s a process but it’s something that I’m so used to by now.”

 

What is the most difficult metal to work with?

“The most difficult precious metal would be platinum, and that’s because it melts at such a high temperature. Gold will melt somewhere between 1.840 and 1,950 degrees faranheit, but in order for platinum to melt into a cast it has to be heated up to 3,000 degrees – you have to wear eye protection and be careful because of that. And it’s a very soft metal – it’s very malleable and it’s often too soft for a lot of pieces of jewelry.”

 

Do you yourself have a favorite piece of jewelry?

“There really isn’t one in particular. I personally don’t wear any jewelry – never have. As strange as it may sound, I’ve never really liked it, other than a wedding ring when I was married. I like the design and the creative aspect of it. But jewelry just doesn’t do much for me.”

 

When you aren’t working what do you like to do?


“I really don’t get out very much. I’m doing some remodeling right now, and I’m a collector – I collect Civil War pieces and early US Calvary items. Guns, knives, photos – I have a few canteens and things like that. That’s what I like to do.”

 

Do people still wear watches for the purpose of telling time?


“It’s more of a fashion statement today. Using them to tell time isn’t as much of a necessity today with cell phones and other electronic devices. There almost isn’t much of a need for a timepiece today except for it to be like a piece of jewelry.”

 

Is there a busy time of year for you?


“I’d say that Christmas is by far our busiest. It’s very hectic – we have people coming in to buy things before the holiday and then for the two weeks after it’s all about getting watches and rings sized so that they fit perfectly. It’s the most hectic. But it’s pretty much hit or miss the rest of the year. Sometimes there’s a lot of stuff that comes in at any one time, and then there are periods where there isn’t much at all.”

 

If you could take a vacation tomorrow, where would you go and why?

“I’d probably go to New Orleans or somewhere in the Southern United States. There was a time that I was an overseas type of traveler, but that’s long gone. That was before I got into the jewelry business.”

 

What is perfection to you? Is it seeing the smile on the face of a customer after you create a custom piece of jewelry for them?

“As far as a custom piece of jewelry goes, it’s creating exactly what they wanted – knowing that you nailed it. And even with simple repairs knowing that they’re walking away happy. When you make something from scratch, using their thoughts and ideas and having it be exactly what they want, it’s great. It’s not always the easiest thing. Sometimes they’re expecting perfect and they’re expecting for that piece to look like it’s machine made, and that doesn’t happen in the real world. There are going to be small imperfections, and if they wanted it perfect they should have a computer or machine do it. That’s just one of those little things – very picky on the detail.”

 

How much work goes into repairing a watch?


“If it’s gold or silver I can repair the metal work. But that’s about all that I can repair – the mechanisms we have to send out. It’s very intricate work. Most watch repairmen are overwhelmed as it is, and there are fewer and fewer of them that still take that kind of work because of all that goes into it. It’s a lot different than it once was when stores had their own in-house person to tackle all of that work. It’s different today.”

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