In the back of the jewelry store beyond the glittering cases there is a person, the bench jeweler, who crafts much of what we see. On Saturday, several hundred of these craftsmen gathered in Lafayette at Stuller to improve their craft.
The annual Bench Jeweler Workshop draws jewelers from around the globe — some as far flung as Ireland and Bolivia — for some real lessons on the latest and greatest in techniques. Stuller, located on Rue Louis XIV, is the largest jewelry manufacturer in North America and is able to bring in the best of the best among craftsmen.
"They are here to share their knowledge and the best practices ... there's not a lot of chance to learn as a bench jeweler. We open our house to show tips and techniques that can save them money," says Ryan Petticrew, Stuller's event planner.
From engraving and stone setting to hand polishing, plating and casting, a full lineup for three days of seminars and hands-on training took place at the Lafayette jewelry giant. Industry veterans like David White of Aucoin Hart in Metairie were the perfect example of Stuller's purpose in hosting the industry event.
"When I first got started in the business I didn't have the resources to learn how, and now I like to do as many as I can to show them what's out there and give them the knowledge I didn't have when I was young," says White, who has been in the business for nearly three decades.
"Everyone that comes to the demo walks away with something," Petticrew says.
It's just the sentiment from young jeweler Andrew Ellwar of DND Jewelers outside of Washington, D.C. Ellwar plans to take what he learned with White — stone setting — back to the family business in Fredericksburg, Va., along with new connections and views on his craft.
"You really see how other people do it. These tips and tricks take you a long way. The ideas and the new perspective ... it's a family business for 45 years, and I've been there since I was a little kid. But, no matter how long you're in the business there's always something you can learn."