News and Views from the 24 Karat Club Southeastern U.S.
Traffic wasn't moving on the highway, so I got off a few exits early and headed to the "downtown" area and dropped in at my friend Mike's jewelry store. Like a lot of downtowns across the country, this one has seen better times, with many of the merchants having closed or leaving for the mall back by the interstate.
When I walked in, Mike was in the process of buying a gold watch from an older lady. On the counter was his stained wooden box of acid bottles, his gold test needles that look like something out of a ninja warrior’s weapon bag, and a 2" black testing stone. He rubbed a test needle and the watch on the stone, dropped some acid on the stone, and closely studied the reaction like an ancient oracle. "Just like I thought!", he shouted, "It's ten karat!".
While Mike and the lady did the paperwork, I looked around his shop. I thought I was in a jewelry store museum! There wasn't a computer in sight. On the counter was an old Mettler diamond scale, the size of a micro-wave oven, with lots of knobs and dials. I was hoping to see a credit card transaction to see if he brought out that old metal contraption that holds your card in place under an onion skin receipt as they pull the imprinter over to create the impression.
After the lady left, I asked Mike about his old acid bottles. "You know," I said, "They now make electronic testers that use just a drop of gel, give you an electronic read-out...all very high tech!".
"Of course I know about the new testers," Mike said. "But my customers are all older, and they love my old world ways. Any kid can operate those electronic testers, and all the gold buying stores have them. My customers come here for my expertise and the theatrics of the acid and stone technique. My generation of customer needs to be treated in a certain way and they feel comfortable in these surroundings".
Mike and I chatted for a while, and then I headed out. I didn't bother to ask if he saw the photos that I had recently posted on Face Book. But it did get me to thinking about my beloved 24 Karat Club.
There isn't another organization or group that I can think of that blends the traditions and customs of the "old" days with the energy and technology of today. The club boasts members who have been in the business for over forty years, and bring with them an expertise and love of our industry that only experience can bring. And, there are younger members, many of whom work in the cutting-edge fields in our industry. And yet, we all work towards one common goal, to serve the future of the jewelry business. So, whether your shop is "old school", or your sales associates walk around with I-Pads, you're encouraged to discover what the oldest service organization in the jewelry industry is doing today, and what it can do for you!
Howard Kelrick is President of Finger Mate and a board member of The 24 Karat Club. Finger Mate manufactures and installs expandable ring shanks and sells to retail jewelers throughout North America.