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[San diago] Jewelry trade tips

Greetings my orchid friends.My name is Dikran nodznaia I’m living in
L.A & work in the horrible jewelry district in downtown.I’m planning
on relocating to san Diego county for a better life for me and my
family,any or tips regarding the trade or the jewelers
will be greatly appreciated,as for my jewelry making knowledge?It’s
15teen years of hard working me get out of here
.thank you all in advance.

Sharon, I am usually only a “Lurker” here at Orchid, but I feel your
pain and had to reply. I know nothing about the jewelers in San Diego,
I only know that it is a beautiful city with a fantastic climate and
the most incredible zoo in the country. You mentioned family, I would
think the zoo and your own piece of mind are the exact reasons to jump

Chris Campisi
Shreveport, LA

On the subject of San Diego, this old 3’rd generation former Southern
Calfornian strongly advises anyone contemplating continuing to live
in that poisonous mess to reconsider his priorities. If you want to
raise your family in a wholesome environment, avoid premature death
by automobile accident or pollution poisoning and not have to pay
outrageous sums for habitation and commuting, Southern California is
not the place to be…almost anywhere else might be better !

Specifically, with regard to San Diego, you might want to consider
the fact that housing is astronomical, that the beaches are extremely
polluted and that it has some of the highest utility rates in
America. A recent article in the L.A. Times cited the fact that since
de-regulation, electricity rates in San Diego have tripled. As for
climate I personally think that being constantly immersed in a tepid
bath is boring as hell…especially when much of the time the sky is
not even visible! Granted, there are lots of fun things to do, and
the Zoo is world class…but you do have to be able to afford it and
you do have to buck the horrible traffic. I escaped Southern
California when I was much younger and have never regretted it : my
six children were raised in a small town set in an awsome natural
environment filled with wholesome activities and surrounded by
breathtaking natural beauty. There was swimming in the mill pond,
fishing in the myriad trout streams, hiking to glacial peaks,
rockhounding, dramatic thunderstorms in the summer , beautiful fall
foliage, occaisional snow in the winter, skiing, artifact hunting
etc. etc. My kids thrived on it…they didn’t particularly appreciate
the fact that their high school experience was marred by the fact
that they couldn’t do anything without their parents knowing about
it, but they got over that. I wonder how many Southern California
parents know where their kids are after dark ? ( They probably
wouldn’t want to know ! ) Granted, the economic opportunities are
sparser in rural areas, but this is a reflection of how our culture
is so obsessed with “becoming a millionaire” We have become
programmed to walk a treadmill…we are robotic consumer units in
an homogenized society destined to do as we are told by the media. It
doesn’t have to be that way…Ron at Mills Gem, Los Osos, CA.

I am quite sad to see this august forum used to reply to an honest
question in such a self important manner without replying to the
question at all.

San Diego County is a wonderful place to live, natural resources
abound. the weather is in the top five in the entire world. The
culture is multi-cultural, the people friendly and open minded. The
neighborhoods well maintained. The local buying power is greatly
increased by the ever growing tourist population.

I left Beverly Hills in 1991 for Oceanside, my only regret is in not
having done so far earlier. The traffic is increasing, as are the
plans to alleviate it. I no longer drive to LA but choose the Metro
Link and transfers to Los Angeles increasing Public Transit.

San Diego’s Trolley system is excellent. I can take the Coaster from
Oceanside to San Diego and the trolley on to the San Ysidro border for
shopping trips into Tijuana.

My grandchildren were in an excellent school district, and we parents
knew just where they were. They were members of the Gem and Mineral
society, made field trips to collect a large variety of materials.
They were then taught to cut, polish and set them.

There are many areas where housing is realistic, Oceanside is still
undervalued. There many Orchidians living in and around the area. GIA
has a wonderful campus in Carlsbad, and the Library there is a
wonderful resource.

Yes of course there are problems, but they are recognized and dealt
with. Greed of refiners has caused us unfair increases of gasoline and
electricity. The rest of the country is not immune to this, the mid
country area felt the sting of gasoline greed, the east has the greed
of heating oil producers. It may start here, but left to continue
unimpeded, will impact all of us. Watch natural gas, it is catching up.

San Diego does not deserve the tirade it got, please take it from
where it came. Teresa

Dear Teresa, I suspected that I would catch some flack from the local
chauvinists, but I certainly didn’t anticipate such vehemence coming
from a person who is usually level headed and reasonably objective.
After all, all I did was try to advise a poor soul who wanted to get
out of hell-A not to jump from the frying pan into the fire without
considering the pros and cons first. I also urged him to consider
moving to a small town on the assumption that he might better serve
the interests of his children.

How , then, did we get from San Diego to Oceanside ? Nonetheless,
since you brought it up, what a poor analogy. I formerly owned a
store across the street from Griegers in Carlsbad ( your next door
neighbor) Carlsbad at that time was a delightful place to live were
it not for the fact that it was adjacent to Oceanside…one of
California’s most crime ridden cities. The local papers were always
full of heinous crimes. I queried a city ranking website recently in
order to get an assessment of the crime situation in several
California towns and since I needed to have a base for comparison, I
queried about Oceanside and found that it still had the dubious
distinction of being well up in the ranks of the crime ridden cities
in the state. It is really a shame in that it is such a beautiful
area. You mentioned that your grandchildren were active with a rock
club and I was prompted to remember the good times we had out at
Josie Scripps ranch in the San Luis Rey Valley. Josie and I were good
friends and I worked closely with her when she was a curator at the
San Diego Museum Natural History Museum. Many of the specimens on
display there came from me through Josie. Unfortunately, those of you
who are smugly esconced in real estate which was acquired when prices
were affordable tend to overlook the fact that we have gone from an
era when the average man could afford a home to an era where the
overwhelming majority cannot. Furthermore, the coastal real estate is
affordable by only the wealthiest citizens. The average bench jeweler
does not make enough money to afford a home of his own anywhere near
the coast in California except for the remote areas of Northern
California. Therefore, when I urge a youngish jeweler to seek
employment in a less urban environment that is more affordable and
certainly more wholesome for children, I hardly think that I am doing
a dis-service nor do I think that it has any connection to being
"self important" To me it is simply an act of giving that person the
benefit of my experience…nothing more, nothing less. Ron at
Mills Gem, Los Osos, CA.

hi all of you I have to agree with Ron the prices in San Diego are real
wicked right now for nearly 1 year i have been trying to sell
Gemstones here and all i can get for them is a price that if you went
to the miner himself you would get laughed at. As far as living here
the rents where i live have up 42% in the last 2 years the electric
rates have gone up 3x in the past 3 months. San Diego is not a place
to start a Gem or Jewelry business it is a high Tech place now. To set
up a Jewelry business here is very hard.

Hi Teresa and Ron, Both of you are correct. San Diego County is a bit
of paradise that got crowded and expensive. This thread reminds me of
a story I heard many years ago. There was a traveler just entering San
Diego when he met an old man by the side of the road. "What kind of
town is San Diego, old man? I am looking for a good place to live."
enquired the traveler. "What kind of town did you come from?“
Responded the old man. “Well it was terrible. Too many unfriendly
people, too expensive, and polluted.” said the traveler. “Well then,
you better keep moving on and look somewhere else, because this is
the same kind of place.” said the old man. Soon came another traveler
and asked the old man what kind of town is San Diego. And again the
old man responded with the question, " What kind of town did you come
from?” “Well, it was beautiful, lots of friendly folks, great
opportunities,…I loved it.” The old man smiled and said "Then you
will be very happy here, because this is the same kind of place."
Will Estavillo, former Chairman of Mineralogy at the San Diego
Natural History Museum

Hi all— I agree that everything is high priced and going up in San
Diego. But it is a positive energy place. I moved here from Detroit 5
years ago and my career is at least on a positive track here, although
I can’t say it’s flourishing yet. A lot of what makes up success is
state of mind and positive attitude. I have it here and someone else
may also if it’s the right place for them. I just wanted to put out a
positive outlook so we don’t discourage someone unnecessarily. They
can make up their minds knowing all the facts and considerations.


Dear Will, Cute story…about the old man replying to inquiries about
San Diego and, suggesting that attitude conquers all…but,
attitude doesn’t pay the rent. In this case my assessment was based
on what a bench man might realisically expect to find in the San
Diego area. I mentioned the obvious obstacles, but I did not address
another factor that weighs heavily in the equation…the maquila
factor. Being next to the border means that very cheap labor is
readily available. A manufacturing jeweler in San Diego would be hard
pressed to pay a premium wage for an indigenous bench man when he can
get most anything done for pennies on the dollar just across the
border by a maquiladora. Another factor that weighs heavily in the
equation is the “la la land” syndrome. Wherever you have proximity to
the ocean or other beautiful natural phenomena, along with a benign
climate, the competition to live there becomes all out of proportion
to demographic and economic realities. When you add the difficulty of
establishing a business to an astronomical cost of living the
actuarial probability of survival is slim to none. I know this for a
fact because I have had to pay a big price in terms of effort and
self denial in order to live in the beautiful places that I have
enjoyed. If you talk to chambers of commerce in these "la la lands"
you will find that the business mortality rates are all out of
proportion to national averages. It was not my intent to stir up a
holocaust with this thread, but I would hope to help bring some
vision and reason to the minds of those who are seeing greener grass
on the other side of the fence. By the way, if I remember correctly,
Will, are you not a FORMER San Diegan ? Ron at Mills Gem, Los Osos,

Dear Darlene, As I read your letter this morning I could feel the pain
and frustration that you have been experiencing. Oddly enough, San
Diego county with its hundred year history of producing fine
has always been a difficult place to get into gem commerce
precisely because everyone thinks as you may…that a local
awareness and availability of gems is conducive to commerce therein.
In actuality, it has been good to a few deep pocketed persons, a flop
for many big buck corporations and a marginal proposition for most
small operators…in all, too many people chasing too few bucks.
Gemstone commerce has changed drastically in the past twenty years
and it continues to morph. I never buy stones from traveling sales
people any more.In the first place, I have all the stones I could
want for designing original things and I have plenty of rough for
creating my own cut stones. Furthermore, when it comes to buying the
generic stones that all jewelers consume on a regular basis, it makes
a lot more sense to get on the phone and order just what you need
from a company like Stuller which maintains a complete stock of all
the usual stones in most all cuts and dimensions and who can be
relied upon to deliver to your doorstep the next morning. In the auto
industry they call it “just in time” production. You don’t have to be
burdened by huge inventories that tie up capital. Shows are the other
main source of stones, but sooner or later you come to realize that
you seldom consume all the stones you get at shows from year to year
and you realize that you are tying up capital unnecessarily…not to
mention the fact that you are spending a hell of a lot of money
getting to and maintaining at a show.Then, lo and behold, along comes
e-commerce and you can shop all over the world with no overhead at a
venue which never closes. And, since cyber-tech is continually
morphing, we are probably right on the verge of availing ourselves of
software which will give us virtual gem handling…we’ll be able to
heft the stone in our hands and rotate it in our fingers. This
technology is actually already a reality !!! What next…probably
virtual holographic jewelry which is visible but doesn’t really
exist. Ron at Mills Gem. Los Osos, CA

Hi Ron, You make several good points and certainly it would be wise
for anyone thinking about relocating both business and home to do
their homework. I would suggest a person making several visits (both
in and off season) to the city or village in question. Subscribing to
the local newspaper and studying the yellow pages of the phone
directory wouldn’t hurt either. Just basic marketing. However, I might
not be the person to ask for advice in this thread. I was born in
Paris, grew up in San Diego County, lived in Muir Beach ( when I was
curator of minerals at the California Academy of Sciences), moved back
to San Diego to work at the Natural History Museum, moved to Prescott
to do the small town “wear several hats” including jewelry mfg. , and
ended up here in Tucson. I don’t see my self as a former “San Diegan”
( I still pay taxes on a house I own there), but rather as someone who
would like to have a beach house on the coast, a cabin in the
mountains, and winter in the desert. And if I ever get my rear off
this chair in front of this computer and do a little more benchwork, I
just might realize that dream. There was a curious jewelry related
event while I was in Prescott that you might find interesting. The
center of town is a one block square park and the tourists walk around
the square visiting the various shops and galleries. I set up a booth
to sell my jewelry in one of the shops on one corner of the square. I
made a lot of pieces but barely sold enough to pay for my booth space,
after 8 months and part time gigs teaching at the local collage, I
juried in and was accepted at Arts Prescott, a co-op gallery 100 yards
across the square. The first month I sold ALL the pieces that were
sitting in a case for the prior 8 months. The buyers were the same
mix of locals and tourists. Sometimes you just cant predict the
outcome of changing locations. I do however know with 100 percent
certainty the outcome if you don’t try.

As far as the maquiladoras? I suppose that if you are a jewelry
manufacturer and can get high quality, low cost benchwork, that would
be a big help in business survival. Assuming we are NOT talking about
sweat shop/child/ slave labor, everyone wins. Certainly the
manufacturer, the maquiladora, and to some degree the customer. The
self employed custom jewelers and jewelry designers on this side of
the line may or may not benefit from having work done by maquiladoras
depending on their standards and what their customers expect. I mean
would YOU pay premium wages to a bench worker? I can see it only if
you needed premium work.

Regards, Will Estavillo

I moved to San Diego 10 years ago from New Mexico. Not a great time
to move to Ca due to the economic depression. It took about a year
to find the right place to setup shop and find someone that was
willing to pay a living wage. Anywhere you are I think you’ll find
the same thing. A bad businessperson is a bad businessperson and
smart businessperson is a good one. I’ve been at the same shop for 8
years now , bought a house 2 years ago and my single apprentice (soon
to be shop manager) bought a house last year. I’ve just been offered
an equity position in the business and we’re opening our second store
Nov.1. Now we’re looking to start another bench person into the
loop. We just need to find the right person. (not easy) Now having
said all this, I would not have gotten here without an intelligent
"boss". But he wouldn’t be where he is without me. Our industry is
just like all the others out there where you can cut corners and
squeeze every penny out of a situation or be honest and fair with all
parties involved. If you’re worth the money AND justifying your
existence in a shop, you should be paid accordingly. Anyway, I like
San Diego and I liked New Mexico and Arizona. There
are going to be pluses and minuses wherever you go.

Dear Will, We certainly have similar backgrounds ! I have had a life
long passion for the earth sciences, have worked closely with the
Museum of Natural History in L.A.(25 yrs ago) lived at Carlsbad and
Newport Beach, moved to Tucson in 1983 (couldn’t move away soon
enough…too damned hot !) spent a summer in the Yavapais out of
Prescott as a miner when I was fifteen and lived five years in Europe
( Austria, Italy and Switzerland) Prescott has always been a favorite
of mine…your mention of the Craft Show in the square reminds me of
having been there just a year ago when I was thinking of moving
there. Unfortunately, I was dismayed to see that Prescott is now a
suburb of Los Angeles and tracts are going in five thousand units at
a time. I have local friends who do the craft show circuit and I
turned them onto the Prescott show a couple of years
ago…moreover, I suggested that they stay in the old renovated
Victorian hotel across from the square…really convenient and
funky for the crafters. ( I stayed there back when I was fifteen and
the rooms had no running water…just.a pitcher and a wash bowl )
Now I am looking to move to Nevada or Northern California…L.A.
is creeping up on us here on the Central Coast. Lately the wine
culture cultists have invaded the area and are turning it into a huge
vineyard while the locals go about sniffing bottles and spouting
nonsense about “Plume de ma Tante, '87” and fruity bouquet.
(beaucoups de merde! ) I enjoyed your letters. Keep me in mind if you
should run into any good cabbing material for my designer cabochon
business…I am always looking for the unusual! Ciao for
now, Ron at Mills Gem, Los Osos, CA.

Dear Ron, I have been following this posting for awhile and while I
don’t live in CA, I have always wanted to and have always loved the
state. I almost opened a store in SF a few years ago. What disturbs
me however is that you have seemed to have forgotten that for
beginning jewelers a large (and hopefully wealthy) population is
necessary to support your work. Granted it may be more expensive to
operate in a city (believe me I know, as we aren’t a lot cheaper than
CA for anything here in the greater Boston area), but usually higher
costs are justified by a higher number of customers coming to your
store. As for your desire to move to a less populated area I find it
amusing that a man who had 6 children is feeling like too much of the
general population is moving in to your area. I think Dave
Armstrong’s latest posting on this topic are particularly
appropriate. A well run jewelry store in any area will prosper.
Costs may be higher or lower but the returns should be in accordance
with the living standards in the area.

Daniel R. Spirer, GG
Spirer Somes Jewelers
1794 Massachusetts Ave.
Cambridge, MA 02140