I’ve lived in Nashville, The Country Music Capital of the World, for almost 25 years. During that time, I’ve had the opportunity to know thousands of musicians, musician wanna-be’s, stars on their way up, stars on their way down, stars on the top, and stars on the bottom. And one thing they all have in common is the seemingly endless jokes about them.
How do you get a guitar player off of your front porch? Pay for the pizza.
How do you spot the lead singer in the crowd? He’s the one taking everyone’s drink order before dinner.
What do you call a bass player that just broke up with his girlfriend? Homeless.
What’s the first question you ask when someone introduces himself as a musician? “Oh really. What’s your day job?”
I can go on for days, but there’s a reason I brought it up. It applies to the jewelry industry as well. Here’s how.
About 10 or 15 years ago, the beading craze swept across America, and overnight everyone and their cousin was making jewelry, thus becoming a “jeweler.” Of course, by the time the beading craze took off, Jewelry Television (in all of its various forms and fashions) was firmly instilled into our culture also making everyone a “jewelry expert.”
Factor in the Internet about 10 years ago and now all of the information anyone could ever want to know about jewelry was right at their fingertips. Great, the general public now had the ways and the means to become one of us. Suddenly, everyone on the planet was a jeweler and knew more than me.
Somewhere along the way something occurred to me. I realized what percentage of the population out there want to do what we all do for a living... All of them! Everyone wants to be a jeweler. Everyone wants to be a diamond expert. Everyone wants to be a gemstone expert.
Although I’m no expert, I’ve been around long enough to have done just about everything wrong enough times that I now do it differently - aka the right way. I know I have lots and lots of peers out there thinking the same thing. I’ll be the first one to admit I don’t know it all. Heck, I think I’d be pushing to say I know half.
But, casually mention to someone that you’re a jeweler, and they light up and say, “Oh, me too!” If I can escape quickly, I will, but we’ve all been trapped and forced to hear all about it. And for some reason they always talk to me on some technical level where I usually have no idea what they’re talking about. They’re using words I’ve never heard. They’re using technical terms I’m not familiar with. And they’re absolutely positive that what they’re saying is the truth.
Now, keep in mind professionally I’ve had lengthy conversations with the top experts in the country on gemology where an innocent bystander would think we were talking a foreign language - yet we knew exactly what we were talking about.
I’ve had the pleasure to have lengthy technical discussions with the top metallurgists on the planet where, once again, an innocent bystander would think we were screwing with them and speaking in a made up language. Yet we knew exactly what we were talking about.
So why is it I can talk to the top experts in the country on their level, yet I can’t seem to talk to all of these part-time “jewelers” that I encounter on a regular basis? Maybe that’s my curse.
So... what’s my blessing? Hah! I don’t know, but there are lots of people that want to earn their living doing what I do instead of what they do. It’s these people that make me realize how fortunate I’ve been that most of my life I’ve been able to earn a living solely by being a jeweler full time. It’s a blessing to know that I can do what sooo many people want to do, but can’t... be a jeweler. But, is it all an illusion? Yep!
Being in this business year in and year out, I have to say this; It’s not really THAT fun. Come on people, it’s hard work. Plain and simple. Some of my favorite euphemisms:
“Oh, you’re so lucky. You get to play with diamonds all day.” For the record, I don’t play with diamonds. I work with diamonds. I play in my garden.
“I wish I had your job. All you have to do is just hang out and wait for customers to come in.” Yeah, right. I don’t wait on customers to come in. I work very hard to make those customers come to my store over my competitions’. Hell, in reality I usually PRAY for customers to come in.
“I want a job like yours. You get to be creative all day. There’s no pressure. You’re your own boss. You get to come and go as you please. You get to do whatever you want.”
HAH! I wish.
“Get to be creative all day?” Try have to be creative all day! Creative is exactly the right word for what it’s like keeping the doors open right now. Oh, and I do get to come and go as I please... just as long as it pleases me to come in at 8 and stay until 6, then I’m fine.
Somehow or other, a lot of us have managed to navigate through this little correction we’re all experiencing, but we didn’t do it by playing. We did it with hard work, long hours, tireless dedication, and a never ending drive to succeed. There was no playing about it.
I hate to be the spoiler here, but it’s not that easy being in the jewelry business. Being a jeweler, in every aspect of the industry, is hard work. So now when I meet someone who informs me that they’re a “jeweler” also, I just ask... “Oh really, what’s your day job?”
Chuck is the owner of Anthony Jewelers in Nashville, TN. Chuck also owns CMK Co., a wholesale trade shop that specializes in custom jewelry and repair services to the jewelry industry nationwide.