Letters

SOUND OFF: WHAT DO YOU THINK?

In this column, members of the jewelry industry may state their views, wax poetic or otherwise pen their thoughts in slightly longer form than the traditional letter to the editor. We welcome your submissions. Please send them to P.J. Donahue, JCK, One Chilton Way, Radnor, PA 19089; fax (610) 964-4481, e-mail pdonahue@ chilton.net.

A TRIBUTE TO JACK FERRIS

by Leo Thaler President, Thien Po USA Hamilton, N.J.

Of the many technologies developed in the jewelry industry in this century, none has had a more revolutionary effect than the invention of the synthetic wax now used universally in making models and special orders. I have traveled widely and visited many factories, and I have found this wax used everywhere. For many in the industry, it is as much a given to the art of model making as safety pins are to the art of diapering. We may never know who invented the safety pin, but I can tell you the remarkable story of the inventor of this wax, known universally as FERRIS KARVEX.

Ferris is the name of the inventor, Jack Ferris. I met Jack in 1947 when I took a job as model maker for J. Fiddelman and Sons, then located at 126 W. 46th St. in New York, N.Y. Jack was a press hand. He stamped out parts on a large press only a few feet from where I sat struggling to bend, file, shape, solder and otherwise make the grudgingly resistant and sometimes unyielding metal conform to the shape called for by whatever design I was working on. It was a time-honored traditional way of making models, and at that time, the only way.

“Leo, there has got to be an easier way to make models,” Jack said. “Maybe you should make your models in plastic.” I assured him that since ancient days, this was the way to make models, and it was not likely that we could change it now. I was wrong. Jack did change it. Almost every week he would come in and ask me to try making models with different materials that he brought in. One I remember was a red plastic that clogged the files and drills; others were just as ineffective – until one day he gave me a lump of dark green wax. I had used waxes before, but they were soft and useful only for a very rustic type of jewelry. I was skeptical, but I gave it a try. I started to file it, expecting the file to clog with wax, but it did not. I drilled it, expecting it to melt, but it did not. The file cut smoothly and quickly, with far less effort than I would have used on silver. As I worked, the model took shape. I could add wax where I made too deep a cut, and I could hollow the model in a fraction of the time that would have been required for silver. I liked it.

“Jack, I think you’ve got something here,” I said. Little did I realize the enormity of my understatement. Nor did Jack realize that within a few years, his product would be used worldwide. He envisioned it as a product for hobbyists. It became an essential product for the entire jewelry industry.

Jack began to market his product in a modest way. Working out of the basement of his little house in Laurelton, N.Y., he made all his own production equipment and packaged the now familiar shapes and tubes with the name FERRIS KARVEX. Right up to the time he sold his business many years later to Kind Collins Co., Cleveland, Ohio, he continued to work out of his basement, even though he became a millionaire in the first 10 years.

It was a quiet revolution. The distribution spread worldwide without any major advertising campaigns or promotions. It is the mark of how good this product is that it sells itself. Once a model maker gives it a try, he is hooked. When I was in Thailand some eight years ago, I tried to show some model makers how to work with the wax. They were skeptical, as I was many years earlier. I went back to the same factory recently and all of the 20 model makers there were doing the most beautiful and precise models in wax. When other supply manufacturers woke up to the importance of this material and tried to copy it, they failed miserably. It just was not the same. The reason they couldn’t copy it? Jack, very cleverly, did not patent his invention, thus depriving them of his formula.

But who is Jack Ferris and what preparation did he have to enable him to invent his product? He was not a chemist or a chemical engineer. In fact, he didn’t even graduate from high school. As a nine-year-old immigrant who could speak no English when he arrived, life in America was hard. He grew up at the height of the Great Depression and had to go to work in his early teens in various odd jobs to help his family. During the war, he got a defense job assisting a man who was involved in developing experimental tools and jigs. There he discovered his knack for invention.

There are other FERRIS products on the market. He was the first to adapt two-part epoxy cement to the jewelry industry, which he sold as “Ferris no-peg pearl cement.” He developed an inexpensive pickle pot that is still widely used. But of all his inventions, it is his KARVEX that changed the way jewelry is made today. For this, the industry owes Jack a big “thank you.” He is now in his middle 80s, living modestly in New York City. I am sure he would be pleased to know that all the people in the industry who use his KARVEX now know how it came to be.

Federal Fair Credit Reporting Act & JBT

Imagine a consumer credit reporting agency such as TRW allowing businesses to report on your personal payment history by not allowing you to review your credit file for possible inaccuracies. You would be enraged. Let’s say they finally gave you a copy of your report but with the names of the companies reporting on you removed. You see possible errors, but TRW has no procedure to allow you to dispute any information in order to “protect” the reporting companies’ privacy. Other companies are making decisions about your creditworthiness based on this information, and you have no rights to make sure it is accurate.

If this sounds horrible, you are right. If this sounds like it could not happen, you are wrong. The Federal Fair Credit Reporting Act protects your personal credit files from this sort of strong-arm tactic, but does not apply to business credit bureaus. In the absence of these rules, JBT has decided to adopt procedures similar to those in the above hypothetical situation. They could voluntarily comply with this fair and sensible act, but they do not.

This becomes a problem, it seems, when wholesalers gripe that many retailers choose not to give JBT their financial statements and, thus, are non-rated entries in the JBT’s “Red Book.” This is the decision I have made also. Being unrated has not hindered my ability to get memo credit from the many wholesalers, manufacturers and dealers who enter my premises on a weekly basis. There is a mountain of jewelry and gemstones in the market all competing for retail shelf space.

Before you go thinking this is being written as sour grapes by a store with poor credit, think again. I would easily qualify for a 52 rating and more likely a 51. By sticking my head up on this issue, I can imagine that many JBT members will pull my report out of curiosity. And that brings me to my final reason why I will never give my financial statements to JBT until it adopts the FFCRA standards. It would be illegal for you to pull my TRW report without my consent. But JBT will allow any member – regardless of potential business dealings – to know all matters of my business and personal file, including my home address and value. Again, contrary to the FFCRA, JBT will not show who has pulled my report.

As members of JBT, paying $750 per year or more, you ought to be outraged at this conduct, which ultimately hurts your business as you must make credit decisions based on less-than-perfect information. I, for one, would submit my financial statements and become rated if I was guaranteed the same credit rights from JBT as I have as a consumer. As a small operation, my business credit information is the same as my personal information and should be treated with equal respect.

Steven B. Pollack The Missing Link Glencoe, Ill.

585 Platinum: LetThe Market Decide

We have great difficulty in understanding why there should be any question or objection to the legitimacy of marketing appropriately labeled platinum jewelry that is 585 pure platinum.

There is worldwide precedent of the diminution of precious metals in the gold jewelry industry with the sale of diluted gold to 9, 10, 14 and 18 karat. Consumers have accepted and understand these less-than-pure products. They also appreciate that they have the opportunity to wear gold jewelry offered at a variety of prices.

American commerce works because we try to market, through a variety of strategies, to as many buyers as possible. Opponents of 585 platinum feel this dilution will negatively effect the sale of the current pure metal. We do not grow when we exclude others by protecting a single strategy that wants to market to only those who can afford it.

Let the marketplace decide on the durability and salability of 585 platinum.

Jack Granofsky President Braunstein New York, N.Y.

THE PERFECT CUT

I read “The Art of Faceting Colored Gems” (JCK, October 1996, p. 86) and gave a copy to my faceter because he wants every stone he cuts to be perfect. He is one of the best faceters I have known since 1964, and I have met a great many. You had seven pages, with lots of your own photos, and it was time to wake up the trade to the fact that faceting is so important in making a clean rough stone into a perfect cut stone. Those who buy native-cut stones always do well by having the stones re-cut. Any way, it was a great article and at just the right time.

Marc Bielenberg Hamilton, Mont.

WANTED: ROUGH

I wish to ask the readers of Jewelers Circular Keystone for help. I have been a lapidary, designer and mineralogist for many years. Recently, I became disabled and must restrict my creative interest to a hobby level only. This disability has imposed limitations upon my ability to acquire rough for lapidary enjoyment and minerals for collection.

Please understand, my hobbies are all I have left to look forward to. However, a causal result of disability is limited funding. I receive a marginal stipend, which barely provides for life’s essentials, not to speak of recreationals. I, therefore, humbly address your readers in the hope some may provide assistance. I am seeking rough, supplies and minerals. I am not able to pay for them, and respectfully request that readers consider me as a recipient.

I thank you for reading my letter.

Mark Vens, Ph.D 36 Chestnut Court Andover, Mass. 01810

DECEPTIVE PRICING

I realize the deceptive pricing issue has been around for some time, but I haven’t seen any progress recently, either on the national scene or on the homefront. We continue to speak out about this problem and educate our customers. Our attorney general’s office in Iowa always says it doesn’t have the resources to make inroads. It also says there aren’t enough consumer complaints to warrant spending a lot of time on the matter. It’s time you guys rev up the brouhaha regarding this problem. Thanks so much for listening!

Gary Youngberg via e-mail

GIVE US MORE AGTA AWARDS

As a longtime subscriber and a member of the JCK Retail Jewelers Panel, I was most disappointed when I opened up my February 1997 JCK and saw you could find space for only five images in the story about Spectrum Award winners (pp. 92-97).

Wow! Fifteen items and space for only five pictures – yet the publication has 332 pages.

I would hope you will find more space for award-winning design in the future. Although I am biased, as one of our designer goldsmiths, Lisa Barends, was awarded one of the Spectrum Awards, you still owe our industry the courtesy of publicizing their beauty. Every winner should be included in your story, at least a picture.

Jack Seibert Colombus, Ohio

AID FROM OVERSEAS

I read with interest “Doing Business with Overseas Suppliers: A Primer” (JCK, February 1997, p. 136).

I enjoyed a five-year stint buying in Europe for a retailer in Bermuda and also went to the major shows in Europe and Asia. I traveled the back roads of many of the jewelry-producing areas of Spain, Italy, Germany and Great Britain.

The potential problems of language barriers, quality control, timely delivery and repairs were all obviated by the use of an agent in each of these countries. A good agent knows where the manufacturers’ factories are located, can make appointments for you and can drive you to them. A good agent knows the best restaurants in town and usually treats, to boot!

I was able to locate many extremely talented vendors who never exhibit at shows or are distributed by “diffusions” who add considerably to the cost of the goods, have limited knowledge of the lines and don’t always handle the whole line.

A good agent dogs the manufacturer to meet promised delivery dates, combines small orders into bundles, handles payments to vendors, prepares the paperwork for exportation and ensures that orders are accurate and up to quality before shipping them to the retailer in a single package. All for 5%!

The agent I used in Milan – who covered all of northern Italy and knows jewelry as well as gifts, leather goods and silk – is a prince of a guy (who makes his living trading in the Italian stock market) and is eager to do business with American jewelers just to keep his hand in the business. His name is Guido Bellosta, Orbis, Via Londonio, 8, 20154 Milano, Italy. I recommend him highly. Warning: High calories, though!

Steven Traver San Diego, Cal.

SOUND OFF: WHAT DO YOU THINK?

JCK welcomes letters to the editor. Direct them to our editorial offices at One Chilton Way, Radnor, PA 19089, fax (610) 964-4481 or e-mail pdonahue@chilton.net. The magazine reserves the right to edit letters for clarity and length.