We have had positive feedback of our repair/custom shop visible from the showroom. I have great response regarding this blog. We have found that people are genuinely curious and interested in what happens at the jeweler’s bench.
After watching some videos on sharpening my goldsmithing skills, I thought how cool it would be to have a bench monitor for our customers. My Mantis bench microscope, that I love, has an awesome big brother that is outfitted with a webcam. That would be nice to have, however, it is $2500, so that is not happening any time soon. My solution: I took an old laptop and dedicated it to a good webcam and ran a wire through the wall to a monitor in the showroom. The WebCam is aimed towards my bench pin and covers a pretty good viewing area of where all the action takes place. When jewelry is brought back to me for inspection, the customer can see how I am poking and prodding, checking for loose stones. They can watch me, from a close up perspective, tightening their stones. I can even press record and document the entire inspection including audio.
side notes: I do not have a live feed of the microphone to the show room. My singing would surely drive away customers.
Also found it frustrating that the Logitech C920 webcam software does not support a full screen view. I found free third party software to fit the bill.
Here is a GRS benchmate modification that has really helped me save time. I made a mini wood bench pin to cover the metal hand rest that comes with the Benchmate system. I have been using the metal brace for a quick cut or support for drilling. But a wood bench pin is much better for that. I used a scrap 1/4″ strip of hardwood. Cut out some notches for a screw and wing nut to attach it and a few odd shape cut in the front for saw piercing and filing.
If I have a job more suited for a sturdy bench pin, I switch out the ring holder for the quick-change pin. But this is a nice, time saving addition so I don’t have to.
This method takes a little bit longer, however, the results are much better then just sanding out blips. Another bonus is that burnishing the ring “work” tempers (hardens) the metal so it scratches less for the customer.
On our custom pieces, after casting, we beat the surface with the burnishers to harden them. Especially the shanks of rings. This works great on sterling silver. Burnishing with the bent burr also can get rid of porosity.
I bought this cable curtain kit from Ikea and placed it on the wall next to my bench. In the morning we go through the current repairs and custom work. I hang mine up so I can see all the dates and can see what needs to be performed and prioritize them. The staff can easily see what is in the cue and can move a job envelope to the left to put it on deck for the next job to be done. I like it better then them stuffed in an overloaded jobs box. I clip up just the daily goal of jobs and see how the day is going and I feel more on top of things.
There is a wonderful back story behind this family ring. After 10 years of marriage and the addition of 2 children, they decided to have the wedding ceremony that they never really had. Their son was the ring barer and their daughter, the flower girl. And this was the ring presented to her on that day. (Not in the condition pictured). 😉 It contained hers and his birth stones, a diamond in the center to represent the 10th year anniversary and a pink and blue stone for their two children. She admitted that it has been in this state for about a year and a half when I ran into her at the bank. The ring was missing a few prongs that led to the loss of the pink tourmaline. And the sapphire was is need of a prong tip. I told her that it was not too big a deal to fix. Not too expensive.
I laser welded on 14k yellow gold wire to act as the new prongs for the pink tourmaline. I hit the seam a few times with a strong beam at 0.3mm then opened up the beam to 0.9mm where it literally shines the surface. Very little polishing required. I covered the blue sapphire with a putty that watch makers use to remove finger prints and dust from inside a watch dial and crystal after being worked on. The putty helps protect the stone from any stray laser light as I was welding the prong with the stone still in the head.
When we moved our store to the new location years ago, we wanted the work shop to be visible from the show room. It is a great bonus for us bench jewelers because we get to see all the action. The down side is that we have to keep our shop area and benches a lot cleaner and more clutter free. (A very tough job for goldsmiths.). Our shop and show room are partitioned by two large windows to keep the noise level down.
We are majorly spoiled with really nice work benches. They have lots of drawers and great features. The center point of the bench is the GRS benchmate system. I am a huge fan of it. It offers a lot of flexibility of working on pieces of different needs. We bought micro motors for our rotary tools mainly for visual purposes. This was to avoid having the hanging flex shaft motors. I have really fell in love with the light weight hand pieces and the added dexterity gained by losing the semi-ridged flex shaft. One of my favorite add-ons is the LED light that floods under the bench for WHEN, not IF, I drop a stone.
We have lots of storage. We have kitchen cabinets on the back wall for loose stones, chemicals, findings and findings books etc.and a large counter top for our shop tools: Magnetic tumbler, rolling mill, mold vulcanizer, engraving machines, shank bender, band stretcher, microscope, scales etc.
My favorite new tool is our laser welder. We can do repairs that was never possible before with traditional methods. I will do future blog posts featuring repairs done with the laser. We retired our standard jewelers benches to our unexposed shop room right next to the bench room and use them for a dedicated wax carving bench and emergency bench use.
This story is one of the many reasons I love my job. Two sisters came into the story with jewelry from their recently deceased mother. They were required to get an appraisal of the all the jewelry so it could be divided up fairly amount the siblings. The two sisters were really in a bind because both of them wanted their mother’s favorite ring that she wore all the time, but didn’t want to fight about it. It was a delicate white gold, ruby eternity band. To make things even worst, from a bench jeweler’s perspective, the ring would have to sized up if either sister got their wish. Sizing an eternity band (where the stones go continually all the way around the ring) is a very tough, if not impossible job. My suggestion was to cut the ring in two pieces and make two pendants out of the pieces, one for each of them. Not only would the delicate ring hold up much longer as a pendant, I would not have to perform a nightmare sizing job, and the sisters could both cherish the memory of their mother in a new and meaningful piece of jewelry. Oh, the power of the cross.