In his 27 years of owning his jewelry store he’d never seen anything like it. One September day last year a City of Bradenton (FL) Detective, and Jess Jewelers customer, walked in to the store with a Bahamian Olympic Gold Medal winner. The unlikely pair needed help. They needed a jeweler who could restore a 2012 Olympic Gold Medal.
Having never seen an authentic Olympic Gold Medal before didn’t deter Tom Jess or his team of certified jewelers and gemologists. In fact, the athlete’s story tugged on the heart of the whole Jess Jewelers team and they agreed to take on a task they’d never imagined could happen.
The story began when Demetrius Pinder, a track and field sprinter from Grand Bahama moved to Bradenton to train for the 2016 Olympics. He’d competed in the 2012 games and, with his relay team, won Gold in the 4 x 400 relay. With a personal best of 43.4 seconds for his quarter mile segment of the relay, Demetrius was an integral part of the team taking the Gold from the USA Olympic team who were the medal favorites.
Demetrius carried his Olympic Gold Medal everywhere he went in Bradenton. As he met people he would show them the medal and allow them to hold it, even letting them get a picture with it. He made sure children he met could look at it and enjoy touching an authentic Olympic Gold Medal in an effort to show them “what could happen with hard work and staying away from smoking and being rude to their parents.” He was very generous that way.
But when he parked in his gated apartment community around 9:15 pm on a Tuesday evening last September, he had no idea it would be the last time he’d see his medal.
“I can’t say how much blood, tears and work went into it,” Pinder recalls of the medal. “It means everything to me. Yes, I could’ve maybe paid to get another one, but it wouldn’t have been the original. I even told the media that if whoever had it would just tell me where it was, I’d go get it, no questions asked.”
The Bradenton Police department jumped right on it and within two weeks had tracked the medal down. Making an arrest and returning the medal to Demetrius was just half of the solution. The crooks had damaged the medal severely trying to determine if it was truly gold. A Bradenton Police investigator brought Demetrius to Jess Jewelers. He knew they could restore the medal to its original condition.
“We were in shock when they came in,” comments Ken Alicea, General Manager at Jess Jewelers. “We weren’t sure what was going on. We were in awe that there was this guy who was handing us a gold medal and that we were chosen to repair it.”
Steve Dangler, G.G., C.G., was given the task of refurbishing the medal. His 40+ years of jewelry design made him the perfect person for the job, but even Steve hadn’t seen an Olympic Gold Medal before.
With extensive research, Ken and Steve discovered that Olympic Gold Medals aren’t gold. Not since 1912 have they been pure gold. Today’s gold medals contain 92.5% sterling silver and are plated with at least 6mm of 24k gold. The remaining metal is copper.
“I wanted to approach this job with the right methodology, so I did extensive research to see exactly what I had to work with,” recalls Dangler. “I made my first piece of jewelry when I was 8 and I used all that experience to bring this medal back to life.”
The criminals had attempted to saw into the metal, leaving scratches and many dents. They’d also tried to file down the edges, leaving them jagged and rough. Steve worked with 400 grams of silver, starting by removing the dents and then re-texturing the medal to bring it back to its original condition.
“The finish had to be removed, so we even had to get a clothes designer to help us remove the ribbon and to sew it back on when we finished,” remembers Ken. “The most difficult part was the edges. We had to do them several times.”
After 14 personal hours of work, donated by Jess Jewelers and Dangler, the medal was back to its original condition, free of cost to Pinder.
When the Bradenton Police placed the refurbished medal around Demetrius’ neck, all he could say was, “I feel I am back on the podium again.”