Guy: Ballard & Ballard Jewelers. We are a 4th-generation company. Our great-grandfather started the company in 1917, in downtown LA. I’m going to be handing out several items to go around the room. There’s one picture here that’ll go around the room. This picture was taken about 1890. My great-grandfather apprenticed in this jewelry shop, in Omaha, Nebraska. When you look at this photo, it’s pretty interesting when you look at the tools they used, the benches they sat out for jewelry making, the polish; it’s pretty well the same today. It’s just updated technology- wise, but the basics are still there. Pretty neat.
Then about 15 years ago, we actually moved in our new location, which is over at Ellison Brookhurst. We got a beautiful 2,000- square-foot show room Glen and I built out. We took 2 retail spots, knocked out the center wall, and just went for it, and really did a beautiful showroom. Most of you, if not all of you, have been there. I appreciate you coming on in. I’m just going to pass around some pictures. These are not as good as Shelly’s pictures. I did not have time to print those out. Here’s some pictures of our showroom.
We are a 96-year-old company, but we do keep up-to-date with the latest technology. It is just phenomenal what the jewelry industry has done over the past just 10 years, technology-wise. About 5 years ago, we acquired what we call a laser welder, to where I’m actually repairing jewelry now by laser beam. Pretty darn amazing. It’s more precise, it’s more of a stronger weld, and the precision is just phenomenal. I’m going to sent out . . . there’s some pictures of that, as well.
About 4 years ago, Glen got the computer CAD/CAM software for jewelry making; computer modeling. I know a lot of you have been in our showroom and we’ve got pictures up on the wall. Nowadays, Glen consults with our clients, with our custom designs; does some very, not crude, but pretty, darn nice pencil sketches just to get the concept down.
Then he sits down in front of the computer and literally just drafts up this beautiful 3D, 3-view, dimensional picture of the exact ring. We simply email it to the client to get the approval, or they come on in and take a look at it. The sky’s the limit. You can do just about anything for jewelry-wise nowadays.
From that computer file that Glen has created for this beautiful custom ring, it’s just simply downloaded into a milling machine that takes a block of wax, and per computer file, actually automatically carves out the actual piece of jewelry. No deviation of design. Absolutely phenomenal. Then we take that wax and we cast it in white gold, yellow gold, platinum, and actually set the diamonds.
Glen has been a sketch artist for many years. Once he got his hands on this, he just went wild. He just loves the technology, loves the designing aspect, loves the interaction with the customers getting a custom design.
I’m going to send around some pictures of some of the designs we’ve done. It’s been pretty amazing what we can do. If Janice Graver was here, we actually made a beautiful bracelet for her husband, Tim, a couple of years ago; all on the computer. It has beautiful writing all the way around. We did that for her on the computer.
Another aspect is our connection to Antwerp, Belgium. About 13 years ago, we actually setup an office with other independent jewelers throughout the country to share an office in Antwerp, Belgium. Antwerp, Belgium handles about 80% of the world’s diamonds. They’re pulled up out of the earth all over the world, but 80% of it actually gets filtered to Antwerp, Belgium, for cutting and trading.
The other major hub is Israel. We decided, “Let’s go directly to the source.” We deal with 5 different diamond cutters directly. We go to Belgium; this year it’s my turn to go. We go, and then we actually visit the Antwerp diamond cutters but they actually come to the states as well, for various jewelry shows. We’re seeing our Antwerp contacts probably about 3 or 4 times per year. Why we do this? The selection is phenomenal.
Diamonds are like snowflakes, no one is alike. You have to personally cherry pick out the world’s best diamonds. I’m going to send some pictures around of us doing that. Let’s go this way this time.
When we go, we deal with 5 different diamond cutters. I go into my first diamond cutters office and say, “I’m looking for a 2- carat such-and-such quality.” They’ll go back to the vault, they’ll come back, and I’m looking at polished diamonds, cut diamonds. They’ll come back anywhere from 10 to 50 of the same exact criteria I gave them, of diamonds. What we do is we sit down at a table. I line up, I get all the diamonds out and I literally put them in a line. I’ve got my little loop in my eye, and I’m going through and I’m critiquing every single one. It’s amazing how the same quality differs appearance-wise. It’s our job to actually pick out the best. We cherry pick it out.
That’s just the first place. Then, I have a 24-hour hold on whatever I choose. Then I walk across the street and actually go upstairs and talk to the next diamond cutter. I start the process all over again. Between 4 days, we actually do this; we competitively price, shop, and pick between 5 different diamond cutters within 4 days, in Belgium. It’s pretty strenuous. At the end of the day, time to go out to dinner and have a bottle of wine. It is amazing the concentration that you have.
When we’re over there, we have an opportunity, we actually tour diamond factories, our diamond cutters take us out to dinner. It’s just quite an experience to go over there and cherry pick the diamonds. What happens to all the diamonds that do not get picked from the diamond industry, jewelers, and diamond specialists? Everything that’s not picked by the professionals gets sent to New York.
Then New York picks through all of those. What’s at the bottom of the barrel, what’s leftover, that ends up on the internet; that ends up at the jewelry exchange, that ends up at the discounters that deeply discount the diamonds.
Diamonds, basically you have a top-quality, and then any little imperfections, or miscut or anything, they’re deeply discounted. The ones that are deeply discounted are online, at the jewelry exchanges, or just a good deal. If you want a good deal, there’s internet diamonds. I have looked at many diamonds and I’ve actually said, “Yeah, where’d you get it?” They told me, and I go, “That’s perfect internet diamond.” The difference is the internal imperfection inside a diamond.
When we go and cherry pick them on out, if there’s a flaw in it, I want it up on the edge so it can be concealed, if possible. What’s on the internet is a big-old flaw like that dead smack in the middle of the diamond. It’s not the most desirable and that’s why it’s discounted. Discounted diamonds are not the most desirable. It’s pretty simple.
We really specialize in the diamonds themselves; anywhere from little diamonds to go in a tennis bracelet, to 6½-carat, to 10- carat. I know Glen was searching a couple of years ago for a 15- carat for somebody. That never materialized, but he had a lot of fun looking at 15-carat diamonds.
Let’s see. That’s the diamonds. We do also do jewelry repairs. Onsite, we’ve got our full jewelry shop. When people come in and leave their repairs, what we do also is we take pictures of the repairs. It protects our client and it protects us. I think the lawyers would agree, especially Don with injury cases; pictures really do tell a lot, and it protects people.
I’ve had many times where we’ve repaired a ring, where a particular diamond comes out of the ring, we replace the diamond. Customer comes back in 2 months later, “The diamond you replaced came out. I need you to replace it.” We look back in the records, and we say “This diamond we replaced, but on the other side of the ring, this is your other diamond came out.” It’s protected us both ways, to solidify what we are doing.
I’ve been in the business 26 years. I started on the jewelry bench; made my first piece of jewelry at the age of 13. Actually cut my mom’s name out of a plate of gold, put a little loop on it, put a chain on it, and gave it to her for Mother’s Day. That was my introduction to the jewelry industry. Actually downtown LA, Glen pulled me into the jewelry shop and said, “Guy, go ahead and do this.” Drew out my mom’s name on a plate of gold, took some hand saws, and started hand-cutting it. Probably went through about 100 saw blades, but that’s how you learn how to do jewelry.
I’m wearing a chain that I made about 20 years ago, and it’s got 600 individual little loops that I personally melted the gold down, pulled the wire, did the loops, welded each loop securely, and then assembled the chain. That’s the way you learn; it’s hands-on training. I know how to weld loops now. I know how to pull gold now.
Nowadays, Glen and I are more off of the jewelry benches and more into the diamonds and the sales, but I’m still in the jewelry shop probably about 1 or 2 times a week. I love it every time I’m sitting down at the jewelry bench; it’s a lot of fun. It’s not the best way to make a bunch of money because you’re doing a bunch of labor, but it’s really nice, really fun, and really gratifying to do that.
Another couple of key points . . .
Sheila: Do you replace batteries on watches?
Guy: We do replace batteries on watches. You guys can give me your watches or come right on it. We’ll do that. If it’s anything beyond watches, I do have a watchmaker that I deal with and refer to. If you do have problems with watches, we’ll take care of it.
Sheila: If we just pop in you’ll do a free cleaning of our jewelry?
Guy: Free cleaning of any of your jewelry. We’ll be more than happy to do it.
Sheila: After the show, right?
Guy: This is another book with more before pictures.
If you have an idea for a special piece of jewelry give Glenn or Guy Ballard a call at 714-962-0088, they can help!