Baltimore to Saratoga streets. Park Avenue to Howard Street. Names of jewelers like Samuelson’s, Fetting, Arminger’s and Booke used to pepper the Midtown area. Today they’re just empty storefronts, with a few newer jewelry shops thrown in.
Samuelson’s was the last survivor among the old guard of these makers in the heart of downtown. The company, founded in 1922 by Milton Samuelson, current CEO Ron Samuelson’s grandfather, moved last year to a spot just outside the city in Greenspring Valley. It’s one of the last local houses to make jewelry the same way stores did a century ago.
A customer who walks in today to ask for a custom ring would first meet with master jeweler Eric Sanchez for a private consultation. He asks his clients for their vision, aesthetic preferences and budget before sketching a design.
“It’s a passion of mine to restore old jewelry and create that special piece for our customers,” says Sanchez, who’s been with Samuelson’s for a decade.
With the client’s approval, the shop’s computer-aided design specialist then draws up a 3D rendering of the piece based on Sanchez’s sketches. It then goes to production.
The equipment in Sanchez’s workshop ranges from the ancient, such as traditional tools for smelting metal, to the cutting edge, including a state-of-the-art laser machine to set stones. Once the mold is finished and the stone is set, Sanchez polishes the metal before the shop presents the client with the finished product.
Despite the disappearance of shops that do this work, Sanchez says the process of making fine jewelry isn’t a “lost art.” But it does require a special and unique skill set.
“There are some things that cannot be mass produced or made by machine. That’s why we love creating our own jewelry.”