One posting on the Facebook page for Tanguay Jewelers reads, “My boyfriend gave me a ring for our anniversary and it broke. Please tell me you can fix it!”
Jewelry repair might be an old-fashioned business, but when expensive jewelry busts – a missing prong on a ring, a busted clasp, a broken link on a necklace – even today’s throwaway generation seeks out a solution. And with the current economic doldrums, Seth Tanguay of Tanguay Jewelers said that he sees more customers bringing in pieces to be repaired rather than simply discarding them.
The proverbial butcher, baker, and candlestick maker might have closed up shop, but in downtown Gardner, Mass., a third generation of jewelry craftsmen continue their time-honored trade. “Jewelry has always been a big part of my life,” said Tanguay, whose workbench is in the old family cape, converted over the years into a jewelry showroom in the center of town. He learned his skills as a young child as he sat next to his father, an accomplished watchmaker, who let him help with orders and practice. Later, Tanguay honed his proficiency at the North Bennet Street School.
Tanguay, 23, likes to rock out to Pink Floyd while he does 15-20 repairs a day, ranging from resetting of stones to sizing rings or custom jewelry design. “I sit at the bench all day, and it’s kind of repetitive but I’m comfortable with myself and I’ve been doing this for so long,” said Tanguay.
Q: What are some examples of the more interesting pieces that you’ve worked on?
A: A customer came in and had five thin pieces of sea glass she’d collected throughout the years and wanted a necklace made out of them. I beveled a thin layer of metal around the stones, connected them with a chain of sterling, and hung it to chest length. She loved it. Another man had elk teeth that he wanted made into fun cufflinks. And charm bracelets are challenging because with all the links and charms, it’s very intricate to solder all the pieces.
Q: Can it be nerve wracking to work with diamonds worth thousands of dollars?
A: There are a lot of variables to watch out for as you work with stones. They can take only so much heat or the stone could discolor or crack, and if you hit them the wrong way, the stones can scrap, leaving a mark. But if you take your time and do all the steps, gemstones are a beautiful piece of jewelry.
Q: Do you wear jewelry yourself?
A: I wear a decent amount of jewelry for a man, but it’s my line of work. On my hands are two rings, one I made in school, that has the raised letters of my last name, cast in 14 carat gold. The other is a ring of my own design, a little mini-wrench cast in silver. Besides being a jewelry repairman and designer, I’m interested in cars and mechanics, so this ring symbolizes the two different parts of my life.