Last updateTue, 17 Apr 2018 11pm

24 Karat Corner - News and Views from the 24 Karat Club Southeastern U.S.

Why I never cut in line

One hundred years ago this month, my grandfather stepped off the boat from Russia.  Like all the other young men in the line, he spoke no English and had no money or skills.  His father, who he left behind and whom he would never see again, swept chimneys for a living.

He was processed by the authorities at Ellis Island and given a new last name.  Waiting outside was a man from The Jewish Agency who greeted all the young refugees from Russia.  As they came through, he grabbed them one at a time and handed them off to others.

“You!” he would say, “Go with this man, you will learn to be a tailor.  You,” he would say to the next man, “go with this man, you will learn to be a plumber.”  And on it went, as each new immigrant was assigned to an established tradesman willing to take on an apprentice.  Then he got to my grandfather.

“You!” he shouted.  “Go with this man and learn to cut diamonds.”  Had my grandfather been in a different place in line, today I would have been a tailor or a plumber.  But, one hundred years and two generations later, although I’m not a diamond cutter, I’m still in the jewelry manufacturing business.

Today, of course, the apprenticeship system is much different, and young people have many choices in their career decisions.  But, unfortunately, you never see anyone from The Agency standing outside graduation ceremonies directing the new graduates towards careers in the jewelry business.

So, how do we get the next generation interested in a career in the jewelry industry?  How can we make the jewelry business as exciting as a job on Wall Street or in Silicon Valley?  I’m just not sure we can rely solely on the sons and daughters of current jewelers to keep our industry healthy and thriving.  Some of the “most likely to succeed” along with the “most creative” need to start coming our way to assure a growing and prosperous industry.

The 24 Karat Club does its part by offering scholarships and awards so that young jewelers can further their education and expertise.  Some of our members even offer summer internships so high school and college students can get a taste of the jewelry business while they decide where their future lies.  To find out more about our scholarships, awards and possible summer internships, ask your favorite 24 Karat Club member for more information.  A list of our members can be found on our website: www.The24KaratClub.org.

Had my grandfather one hundred years ago found himself in a different place in line, who knows what I’d be today.  I do know I wake up every day thankful to be in the business that helps people celebrate the most important days of their lives.  And, besides, I would have been a lousy tailor or plumber.

Howard Kelrick is President of Finger Mate and a  board member of The 24 Karat Club, SEUS.  Finger Mate manufactures and installs expandable ring shanks and sells to retail jewelers throughout North America. Contact Howard at 954-458-2700 or e-mail This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it..">This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it..