“Why are you laughing at me?” William asked with seriousness in his voice.
“I’m not laughing at you. I am grinning in appreciation of how much you love what you do,” I said.
Kathy and I love to shop at this jeweler who is located in another city. I make it sound further away than it is. He is a relaxing hour motorcycle ride north of Atlanta. Kathy likes going there because of the beautiful pieces he displays.
I love hearing the jeweler speak about his work.
If you know me, you know I’m not interested in jewelry. I am interested in people. This man is an artist, a master craftsman. When he speaks about some of his pieces, he says things like, “I don’t remember people, but I do remember all the pieces I designed. Every one. They are like my children. Each is unique. I remember where I found the stones and how I came up with the design for the setting.”
William, not his real name, is in his early sixties. He stands about five feet nine with white reddish skin. The kind you have to protect from the sun. He has been in this business for over 35 years. The same location, the same little nondescript storefront.
A display window no more than five feet wide is decorated awkwardly for each season. It has just enough new and interesting pieces to get people to step inside. And every time I go there, people are inside his poorly lit showroom of less than 100 square feet.
There are two tiny counter displays and a hutch four feet wide by six feet high. From the counter display at the rear of the store, you can see into the back room. Right at the entrance to this room is his work area. It has a large magnifying glass sitting over a cluttered two-foot deep desk. As you look beyond the work area, there is clutter everywhere. This is the space William lives in. This is his office but, more importantly, his studio. It is where he creates works of art using stones and metals.
He said with excitement, “Let me show you these blue sapphires I’ve had for several years.” He disappeared into the chaos of the back room and reappeared with a little black velvet bag. He shook the contents onto a black velvet display pad and pulled out large tweezers which he used to rearrange the sapphires so we could see their color and clarity.
“What do you think?” he asked.
Somehow I knew by his tone, I was to be impressed with their beauty. I don’t know anything about sapphires, but Kathy was impressed, so I was impressed. He saw my reaction of being nonplussed and began to explain the quality. He told me how many years he’s been looking for a matching set of stones of this size, color, and quality. How he finally found them. How long he’s kept them. Why he hasn’t created a setting for them.
“I want to place these stones with someone special. Someone who I know would appreciate them, treasure them. Then we can discuss the setting, including how they intend to wear them. Knowing the person better, I then need time to think about a design. It needs to be uniquely fitting for the customer. I have to be inspired. Before I begin, I need to see what the piece will look like when it is finished.”
I love listening to his passion.
Recently I asked Kathy to step out of the store so I could speak to William privately. Her birthday is coming up and I wanted to discuss some of the pieces he showed me.
Soon after she left us, he went into the back room and came out with an incredibly beautiful necklace. Like I said, I don’t really appreciate jewelry, but this necklace really was amazing. The size of the stone and the beauty of the setting and chain caught my eye.
He said, “Take this eyepiece and put it in your eye. Look at the setting for this necklace. You have to hold it very close to get it into focus.”
When I did this, I saw the detail in the setting. It was like a secret world opened up to me, like when you go snorkeling on a reef for the very first time. I saw his design and artistry.
He asked, “Do you see the detail I carved into the platinum? Look at the top of the setting. Do you see the rose I created?” He was so proud of the hidden beauty. I could see there was complexity with my naked eye. But when I looked closely using the eyepiece, I saw his work.
It was incredible.
He’s been in this little space way outside the mainstream of the city for 36 years. He has people who fly in from all over the United States just to visit him and see his work. People who were in his little store by chance one day and took the time to speak to him. They experienced his passion for his art, his jewelry.
Then, like me, they bought a piece. From that point on, they were connected to William. He doesn’t remember their name, but he does remember the piece they purchased. After all, they left the store that day with a unique work of art which William designed and created. A piece which is a piece of William.
William may appear to trade his work for money. Having done business with him for the last ten years, I don’t think this is quite true. After I buy one of his special creations, I might think I own it, but I don’t. William is allowing me to contribute to his art. I pay him for it so he can continue to search and create. He needs the money to search for and acquire precious and unique stones.
Finally, he’ll pour himself into creating just the right setting for just the right person.
I don’t own what I buy from William. The stones, yes. But his creations, no. I’m just privileged to have it at my home. When I see Kathy wearing one of his masterpieces, I remember William speaking about it. The love and care he invested in it. How he appreciated the stones and how long they were stored in his safe in the cluttered back room. How he came to the vision for the setting’s design after meeting Kathy. We don’t own them. We just get to appreciate them. Those pieces are always in his heart.