Mark's Blog

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Old Watchmaking School Photos Surface and Tell a Great Story

Sunday, March 11th, 2012

Yep that's me with the red afro..circa 1978

I have been communicating with a local client who took me up on my suggestion to check out watchmaking as a new career path. He researched watchmaking schools in the U.S. and wound up attending my old school Gem City College in Quincy, Illinois. The last time he was in town we chatted and he filled me in on how his studies were proceeding and stories about some of his instructors. It turns out that he has one of my old instructors that taught me advanced watchmaking back in 1978! Don is the instructor’s name and I told him a story about Don and how he recruited me and a few other students to help him with a local project back in ’78. There was a small town called Palmyra, MO across the Mississippi river and about 30 minutes from our school. The town had an old tower clock that had not worked for many years in the town hall and they had called the school for ideas on how to get it fixed. Don volunteered and we were his assistants..The tower was four stories high and you had to climb up a horrible, rickety wooden staircase that was only 18 inches wide, no railing and curved up the corners of the tower. All our tools and equipment had to be tied, or taped to our bodies as the whole clock movement (mechanical parts) was suspended on two huge 12 x 12 wooden beams over an antique stained-glass cupola! If you dropped anything it would crash through the glass ceiling. The clock had stopped working over 20 years prior due to the passing of the janitor for the courthouse and he was the one who would wind the weight cable to run the huge clock. When he passed away, no one could find the cable handle to wind up the weights. When we crawled to the top the clock movement was covered in birdnests, feathers, birdpoop, hay and bat droppings. You could barely discern what it was or what it was supposed to do. Don instructed us (those of us who were brave enough to stand up there tied to the beams) how to clean off all the refuse and how to re-lubricate all the parts. Once we cleaned-off all the junk, the beautiful detail and mechanical workings of the movement became apparent. We lowered all the filth bags by rope, wound the weight stack cable to provide power for the clock and Don flipped a lever that allowed him to check where the striking mechanism had stopped. All of the sudden, this huge hammer above us¬† began striking this even bigger bell suspended over our heads! Dust, feathers, dirt and I’m not sure what else, rained on our heads as the bell chimed out the last hour that the clock had run many years ago. Don reset the strike wheel, we sprayed everything with a last coat of oil and descended the crazy stairs five hours after starting. When we came outside many of the townspeople had heard the bell (some for the 1st time) and gave us a hearty cheer and applause. I remembered a newspaper somebody taking our picture and back across the river we went with our filthy hair and clothes.
Well my friend told Don this story and Don came back to school the next day with these Polaroids to prove the story was true! Yep, that’s me with the red afro…circa 1978.

we don't look scared in this photo...

The Value of reselling Quality Jewelry on Consignment

Wednesday, January 11th, 2012

My wife and I were discussing the value and perceived value of reselling client’s jewelry on “Consignment”. Reselling our client’s quality jewelry has become a much bigger part of our gallery services. Many, many clients have come to us (and their friends) and asked us to either, purchase jewelry items from them or try and resell their items through our gallery. We have found over the years that assisting clients to resell their pieces not only provides them with a valuable service and needed income, but also allows us access to jewelry pieces that we would not normally showcase. Another benefit to us is that we do not have to buy these items and hope they sell. If they do not sell, we can return them to their owners and not have to readjust our inventory. Many people can be confused by the nomenclature “Consignment”. These are not “Estate” items as they have not come to us through the estate litigation process (as so many jewelers wish to label their consignment items), but directly from the living owners of the jewelry. When given to us on Consignment, the items are valued and a “Net” price is arranged which will be the settlement amount to the Consignor. We then add our

One-of-a-kind Mark Loren jewelry design

10%-35% commission over the net price to become the retail selling price of the item in our showcase. If any difference in selling price is considered then the owner is contacted first and circumstances are disclosed with the owner having the final say. We represent the jewelry for the owner (insurance, security, repair, honest information…) and we are upfront with the buyer on the origin of the jewelry item (while still maintaining owner confidentiality). Surprisingly, many jewelry stores do not offer some form of consignment which helps build a valuable and lasting relationship between Jeweler and client. Many of the items that we have sold on consignment, we had originally designed or sold to the client many years ago. Why wouldn’t we want to assist a valued customer in realizing the value of their fine jewelry? Isn’t that one of the reasons people return to buy again?

Peace of Mind for a Loved One’s Jewelry

Monday, December 19th, 2011

We have been performing a more common service for our clients that we don’t list on our website and don’t promote but, is important for clients to know. When you have a loved one who will be living in a partial or full care facility, you should give consideration to the security of their valuable or sentimental jewelry items. Many clients have come to us and asked if we can duplicate their loved ones’ jewelry so that their family member can still wear the ‘look-a-like” while the family secures the actual jewelry items in a safe place.

Now before your blood pressure begins to rise about this apparent deception, let me share my own Fathers’ scenario: My father Lyle was admitted to a wonderful care/living facility outside the Chicago area and there were approx.30 residents in total. Many, if not most, had issues with memory loss, dementia or distorted reality. My Father would sometimes leave his personal belongings outside of his room in common areas or other residents rooms. Most of the time these would find their way back to him (who would want his electric razor or book that he was reading or photo album?) but many times the staff could not locate missing items. His wife Judy thought it best to hold onto his good watch, rings and bracelet while providing him with a utilitarian watch and inexpensive wedding ring. Sometimes she still had to go hunt these down…When our clients come to us, they sometimes ask if we could re-create a sentimental and valuable item so their loved one will still have it to wear without worry of a valuable, mysterious loss. We can also remove a valuable diamond or colored gem (with signed permission of course) and replace it with a synthetic or simulant that looks just like the original. The family is thrilled because their loved one can still wear their favorite piece without the liability of theft or mysterious loss. I can’t begin to tell you of the many stories that we hear of treasured jewelry pieces that have gone missing from clients who are in care facilities or who have home healthcare¬† with various medications and many different people coming into and out of their homes. The heartbreak is no one knows what happens to these pieces of valuable jewelry…thrown away in a used tissue, hidden in a strange place and forgotten or one of dozens of other scenarios…

Feel free to ask us if you have a family member who might require our assistance with this kind of situation. Taking action now might give the entire family great peace of mind for a loved one’s jewelry legacy.

The Miami Beach Jewelry Show…Underwhelming

Tuesday, October 18th, 2011

Cameron, Jenny and I just returned from the Miami Beach Jewelry show and I looked diligently to try and find some worthwhile trends to share with you…Unfortunately, unless you are into Arabian/Afghani cheap bazaar chic, there was nothing to comment on. We saw an overabundance of uncreative steel jewelry (probably due to the cost of gold) and everywhere were cheap bead necklaces (I’m soooo tired of tables and tables of bead necklaces). This show was necessary for us to connect with a couple of our international vendors who don’t attend the NY show and luckily they had what we were waiting for! I’m excited to show you the awesome Blueflash Moonstone pieces and Ethiopian Opal pieces they created for us. When they took the pieces out from under the counter and placed then in a tray to show us, other jewelers walking by stopped and asked to see them…Then we trudged along the aisles hoping to be inspired by some new work….Immodestly, we commented on how much cooler our own designs were than the bulk of what we were seeing. This holiday season customers are going to be shocked when they go into the average jewelry store and see what the new prices for gold and diamond jewelry will be. Many stores ordered their holiday merchandise in Las Vegas at the big June show. As it starts arriving in their stores, currently, they will be shocked at the gold and diamond surcharge fees added since they placed their orders (gold and diamond prices are waaaay up from last year). After they put their typical markups on the pieces before they hit the showcase, many jewelers will be shocked at the prices as well! Then, when all that high priced inventory doesn’t sell for Xmas, they will have to discount it to get it out the door so they can pay those HUGE January invoices. If they can’t sell it, then you will have more retail doors closing and many vendors stuck with unpaid invoices.. I’m so glad we have been utilizing our slower summer time to create new inventory with gold you have traded with us and using cool, new gems that we own outright for amazingly fair prices. The whole staff is thrilled with the new pieces we are preparing for the holidays and particularly, new earring designs that will make your eyes dance!

Designing/Recycling for a good cause

Sunday, September 25th, 2011

In partnership with the Southwest Florida Symphony (of which I am a past Board Member) we assisted in raising money for the Symphony’s Golden 50th Anniversary. We were asked to collect gold from potential donors that the Symphony would send our way and I also attended two Classic concerts and was available to accept gold donations in the foyer. The great recycling twist we added was that we used some of the donated gold to fabricate the cool ring that you see here. The small oval gems on the sides were also donated to the gold cause and we decided they would work well in our chosen design. The pinwheel-cut Amethyst in the center was our donation as was the labor and skill. The piece was to be auctioned at a Symphony gala but due to last minute communication snafus, the ring rested in our vault. We were able to place the ring in our showcase and a few weeks later we sold the one-of-a-kind ring to an admiring client. We were able to donate the check for the ring as well as a check for the remaining gold that was not used…a great re-use for a worthy, local cause!

Who would sell gold to these guys?

Tuesday, June 1st, 2010

I’m driving down US41 and there’s a girl standing on the back of an open pickup bed, shaking her jean shorts clad tushy, waving a sign offering to pay cash for gold. Same on most other streets in our county except sometimes they are guys waving the sign. My question is “who would sell their gold to these places”? They have temporary rents, usually month by month and have pretty unsavory folks at the counter. I like the one I passed where the guy inside at the counter had his hat on backwards and wore sunglasses indoors. I’m thinking, someone must be selling their gold to these places because they are springing up faster than fleas on my dog. In the state of Florida, to purchase gold from the public, a business or person must be registered as a secondary precious metals buyer with the state. If you are selling your gold to someone at a home party and they don’t have the license, they are committing a third class felony. Unfortunately, the state has left enforcement of this law up to local law enforcement. We know how busy and under-funded they are already…so who is checking up on these characters? We also buy gold (only from existing clients) and take it in on credit or exchange but we use the metal and re-alloy it to create much of our new inventory. We can offer a high dollar per ounce because we use it in our goldsmithing operation. I can’t say what these places are doing with it but I’m sure law enforcement is interested in where it is coming from. That’s why we have to fill out required paperwork for every purchase from a client. Why anyone would risk stepping into one of these places is puzzling to me….and potentially dangerous.