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Jewelry to-do List

With Fall in the air, I get all excited about the seasonal transitions happening this time of year… pulling out sweaters and scarves, picking pumpkins and wreaths, and performing my biannual jewelry clean and check. Wait, what??? Yep, that’s right; you need to add jewelry maintenance to your list of fall chores.  I know you just rolled your eyes, but it’s true. You really do need to make it a point to take care of your baubles. These precious, and not inexpensive, items deserve proper care. I have several tips that will ensure a longer life for your jewelry.  Actually this is sort of my soapbox, so look for a series of posts on this topic.

Since I brought it up, let’s start with a plan. The first step here is remembering to have your jewelry checked. I always tell customers that a good way to do this is to plan to drop by the jewelry store around the same time of year that you have your teeth cleaned or change the batteries in your smoke detectors…twice a year! I’m thinking mostly about your engagement ring or other pieces that you wear daily. I would also note that if you ever notice your ring picking on sweaters or towels go immediately to have it inspected, as you likely have a prong that needs attention. I hate explaining to customers that the reason they lost grandmother’s diamond was because the prongs were, basically, worn to nonexistence and that last dip in the ocean on vacation was the final blow.  Please, please, please don’t wear your jewelry in the ocean or lake.

This brings me to daily wear and tear. Engagement rings and wedding bands take an extreme amount of abuse. Think about all of the activities in your day- laundry, gardening, and gym workouts. I know you don’t want to hear this, but these are all times when you should leave your rings in that pretty little dish on your bedside table. We all like for everyone to know that we’re married, but please don’t wear your rings to the gym. If you must, invest in a plain little gold wedding band. You could even wear (I cringe as I say this) one of those silicone wedding bands. Seriously, weights are really rough on ring! As is chlorine, so if you swim regularly, take your rings off before you hop in the pool. Overexposure to chlorine can break down gold and platinum.

Let’s talk about chemicals for a minute. As I said, chemicals can be bad for gold, platinum and silver, but household chemicals can destroy colored stones as well. I have seen all sorts of strange things in this department. Mostly, people tell me they don’t know what happened, but I can usually tell when a piece of jewelry has been exposed to the wrong thing. I once had a customer tell me that she cleaned her wedding ring with bleach. Don’t do this, please don’t. I often hear people say toothpaste, but I warn against that as well. You don’t want to use anything that is abrasive on stones or metal. I would also avoid cleaning jewelry with oxyclean, vinegar, or baking soda (I told you, I’ve heard it all).  Besides at-home jewelry cleaning products, the only thing I would recommend would be a little dish washing liquid mixed with warm water. An extra soft toothbrush or a makeup brush can be used to scrub around prongs and detail work.

I want to talk a little bit more about keeping your jewelry clean before I wrap up this post. It is good practice to apply lotions, hair products, and perfume before you put your jewelry on every day (you are taking your jewelry off at night aren’t you). This is a good idea for several reasons. All of these things can build-up causing diamonds and gemstones to appear dark and dull. These types of products can be harmful to softer stones like pearls, turquoise and opal. If you clean your rings regularly, you will decrease the risk of problems, such as chipped stones and broken prongs going unnoticed.

Remember how proud you were on the day you got engaged? You should always feel that way about your jewelry. Let’s keep it clean, ladies! Gents too, but we can discuss your yucky watch bands another day.

Where does the time go?

Time seems to be passing so quickly these days. My last post was in September!  It seems like just yesterday we were at Viola’s first Easter egg hunt. She was surely cute, but just there for token pics with the big bunny.  Last weekend she was a professional egg huntress. She would pick up the eggs, shake them and drop back on the ground if nothing was in them. What a difference a year makes.  As I said, I haven’t posted in a while. I like to think that my lack of blog posts means that I’ve been busy with the other parts of my job like designing jewelry. Recently, we have made some wonderful pieces with equally wonderful stories. This one is super sweet…

In March we made an “I love you” gift for a busy wife and mom.  Our customer, her husband, explained that his wife had spent the past several years unconditionally supporting him through medical school and residency.  Now he was in a position to do something to show her how much he loves and appreciates her always being there.  He wanted something beautiful that would complement her style.  We chose to create a piece using a gorgeous, unusual onion cut amethyst, and, of course, plenty of diamonds. My father must have picked up this stone 10-12 years ago.

My father loved color in jewelry design. Over the years he developed quite a collection of loose gemstones. When I’m looking for inspiration I, too, gravitate toward color ( and his stash).

Speaking of my father, today would have been his 70th birthday. I often wonder WWLD- What Would Larry Do? I probably have a dozen questions a day that I could ask him. Mostly though, I just miss his comforting presence and his “I can do anything” attitude. It wasn’t even really an attitude, rather, just the way he worked. It never occurred to him that he couldn’t do something. He could do anything he set his mind to.

Often, when working on a custom piece, I come up with an idea before I have the “how to” part figured out. Probably not always the best strategy and that’s why I’m so fortunate to have Tom (I call him Tommy,but I think he mostly goes by Tom) Helton as our jeweler. He helps me turn these stories into a wearable piece of jewelry. He’s a pretty good problem solver. My father trained Tommy to be a jeweler when I was a little girl. He’s like family. Before my dad died I don’t think either of us planned on having the roles that we currently hold in this company. We’ve both stepped out of comfort zone more that we would like, but we make it work. Some days it’s easier than others. We make it work though, because that what we were raised/trained to do. That’s the thing about comfort zones…once you step out it’s hard to go back.  We have a pretty serious legacy to live up to and I’m glad that Tommy shares the same commitment to craftsmanship that my father built this business upon.

So Long Summer ~ Hello Fall

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I can’t believe that summer has come and gone! Why is it still so hot? Anyway…

I thought it would be fun to share a few things that we’ve been working on over the “dog days”. We’ve been busy helping to mark some pretty incredible milestones! Engagements were made. Birthdays were celebrated. Anniversaries were given the proper fanfare. One piece marked a lifetime of love. Still another, combined elements from several generations to become a statement piece beyond its beauty.  As I’ve said before, the stories are just as unique as the jewelry!

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One more thing to share before we head off to the weekend…

The other day I was working with a customer to redesign a ring left to her by her beloved mother-in-law. My father made the ring,  probably, 30 years ago. As we were discussing the new ring, we settled on a more simple cigar band style. It will be  more suited to her taste, but still incorporate diamonds from her mother-in-law’s ring. After we had drawn out her new ring I told her that I had recently seen some cigar band designs while looking through my father’s sketch book. My sweet customer was my father’s customer WAY before she was mine, so I thought she would enjoy seeing his sketches. While I was flipping to the correct page we spotted this sketch:fullsizerender-6

Can you believe it? Among all the many sketches in his book, we came across the original sketch for the ring that we were remaking! I love when things like this happen here at the shop. It’s like he’s winking at me!

Happy Weekend!

Celebrating 40 Years

Since February is this the month of love, I wanted to write a little more about celebrating our fortieth year in business in 2016. It seems to me, you don’t get to celebrate such a milestone without a healthy dose of love in the mix. Love, combined with hard work and determination, has made us who we are today. In 1976 my parents, Larry and Armen, opened Epperson’s Jewelers. My brother Chris, was 6 and I was 4 when, in our basement, it all began. Since I don’t have many memories of that time, I thought it would be fun to interview my mother about those early days and 40 years in the jewelry business…

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EW: What do you remember most about those early days? You had a new business, a new house, and 2 small children. Were you afraid you wouldn’t succeed?

AE:   We were busy, both with the shop and with our family, so it was A LOT of hard work. It was fun. We were young and our employees were young and there was a great amount of energy in the shop. Yes, I was always afraid, but your father never was. He never stopped to think that something could be a failure. He always felt that if something didn’t work out we still would have learned from it. His tag line was “I can do that”, and he could.

EW: What is the key to doing this and doing it well for so many years?

AE: Get up every morning and do your job the best you can. I think that is what makes us stand out. We have always understood that every piece we make or repair is personal. We handle every piece like it’s our own, knowing that it leaves here with our name and reputation with it.

EW: What are some changes that you’ve seen in the jewelry business over the years?

AE: Technology! The actual way that jewelry is made is very different from when we started out. I thought he was way out there when your father wanted to buy the laser welder and CNC machine, but when the industry changes we change with it.  Also, branding has very much changed the business. While there have always been popular brands, there wasn’t always such an accessible pool to choose from. When the price of gold went up, it made room for the silver lines by David Yurman, Pandora, etc.  to mainstream. Now women often choose to buy several trendy pieces rather than select fine jewelry items, let alone, custom pieces. We’ve had to make adjustments to stay current and relative.

EW: What are you most proud of in the business?

AE: That we’re still here! Also, our reputation.  Most of our business comes from personal recommendations from our customers. We have many 2nd and 3rd generation customers. That is a huge compliment! I’m also proud of the talented people who work with us, our jewelers and designers. We have always understood the importance of that craftsmanship.

EW: What is your favorite piece of jewelry? I ask this knowing the answer. The Eppersons are nothing if not sentimental.  She has many incredible pieces that my father made,  I just wanted to see what might stand out.

AE: My wedding ring (cue tears in both of our eyes). Everything that Larry made me is special. I love the diamond crosses that he made for each of us girls in the family. I also cherish a gold coin that my grandmother brought when she came to this country.

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If you know my mother, and if you don’t you should, you know that she is kind, beautiful, gracious and steadfast in her faith. She is also smart, resilient and the backbone of this company. My father was always the one in the spotlight; my mother is and has always been the heart and soul of our business. My parents were fortunate to make a living by doing what they love with the people they love. Not a bad business model.

I had such a good time reminiscing with my sweet mother. She had plenty of fun memories, so I’ll write more about those in future posts.

Small Business Saturday is BIG

As I’m sure you’re aware, Small Business Saturday is tomorrow, November 28th.  You may not be aware, however, what the day actually means to a small business.  For us, it is more than a catchy phrase aimed at getting folks to spend their holiday shopping dollars locally.  When you own or work in a small business every dollar counts, whether coming in or going out. Every sale counts. Every customer counts.

In 2016 Epperson’s Custom Jewelers will celebrate our 40th year in business. 40 years!! I am incredibly proud of this milestone and you’ll hear more about it in future posts. I’m also humbled that our customers have continued to support us for so many years. When my parents took that giant leap of faith all those years ago, I’m sure they had no idea what was in store for them. There have been good times and lean times, but this business has always been at the heart of our family. There is no magic recipe for being successful in small business. If there were, my father have would probably said it was a combination of determination, not being afraid of failure, and faith. In his case, talent, notwithstanding.

When you own a small business you are responsible for insuring that the lights stay on and that the employees get paid( we are nothing without our employees). You are responsible for creating a product or supplying a service that you’re proud to put your name on. You are responsible for making sure that every customer leaves happy. When you own a small business you are, in some way, offering something to the larger community that can’t be found elsewhere. When you own a small business you put your heart and soul into every step necessary to thrive.

So, when you are shopping around tomorrow, and during the rest of the season, please go visit those local retailers that provide so much for your community. Spend your dollars on gifts that can’t be found in the big stores. I assure you that someone, whom you will most likely see when you walk in the door, has very thoughtfully and deliberately made or chosen that “perfect” gift you find there.

Happy Shopping!Door

Making Heirlooms

One of the things that I love most about my job is working with a customer to create a piece that they will give to someone they love. Our first initial meeting is always so exciting to me. When the piece is to be an engagement ring, I want to learn all about the soon-to-be bride-to-be. I think it is so fun to hear all about what makes her so special from the person who loves her most. Practically speaking, it’s also good for me to learn about her hobbies and work. I have even been known to stalk her on Facebook to learn a little more about her. I also like (and need) to hear about the customer’s ideas and vision. This is how we begin to build an heirloom. But what happens when we are making a piece for someone we haven’t even met yet?

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Recently, I had the privilege of designing just such a piece. My dear customer came in with a collection of diamonds, gemstones, and gold. The focal point was a diamond that had belonged to her mother-in-law who passed after a long battle with breast cancer. There were also smaller stones that had belonged to her husband’s grandmother. What is different about this piece is that not only will it be worn by my customer; it will, one day, be given to her son to give his future bride. Her son is the only grandson. He is also only 16 years old.
I thought it was such a sweet and lovely notion that my customer wanted to create a piece that not only would she love wearing, but that she would pass on. And by “pass-on” I mean that she will, when the time comes, take the ring off of her finger and give to her son to give to his “someone special”. I can’t imagine a more generous or sentimental act.  I just LOVE the idea that she helped design her son’s engagement ring. Obviously, we have no idea what the future Mrs. Someone Special will be like, but I’m certain she will love this ring. I hope that she loves it not just because it’s beautiful, but because it was made for her.

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We wanted to make a ring with an antique feel, incorporating elements from different design eras. We also wanted to use as many of the smaller diamonds as possible, along with the two oval sapphires. However, since she will wear it on her right hand, we didn’t want it to compete with her own engagement ring. My hope is that my sweet customer will love it while it is hers and then, one day, be honored to pass it along.

Like mother, like daughter

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Recently, we had the opportunity to design a ring for a lovely young lady.  The ring was to be a gift in celebration of her high school graduation. Her mother came to the shop armed with some special pieces of family jewelry to be used for their gold and diamonds. After a little brainstorming, it was clear that my customer might just be as sentimental as I am! She was wearing a beautiful, white gold filigree diamond and sapphire ring that was given to her for her high school graduation. We decided to use that ring for inspiration. We created a ring that is similar in style and shape, but customized it to suit her daughters taste. We chose yellow gold with a lab created sapphire as the centerpiece. This combination made for a gorgeous piece.  To me, the best part of this story is that there are two younger daughters that will, one day, make the same choices for their own rings. Like mother, like daughter, like daughter, like daughter. I love this!

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When I was a senior in high school all that I ever wanted  was one of those standard issue 10KT class rings with a synthetic birthstone in the center.  Now, there was no way in the world that my parents were going to buy me one. I remember my teen aged dreams being completely crushed. I rebounded, however,  as soon as I opened a little box at graduation. In it was a wide gold band with my monogram. My father had rolled out a flat piece of gold (melted from my grandparents wedding bands) and sawed out my initials by hand (that was the only way to do it back then). He then rounded it, soldered and polished it, and hand-engraved the detail work. Twenty something years later, and even though my initials have changed, I still wear it often. It’s one of my most precious possessions. Thanks to my parents for having that kind of jewelry insight!

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