When jeweler Robert Kaniss of St. Petersburg, Fla., decided to do some housecleaning, the students at Pinellas Technical Education Center became the lucky beneficiaries of his efforts. His jewelry store, in business since 1925, had amassed a collection of gemstones spanning 50 years, which he donated to the school for use in its jewelry program. The collection is worth more than $6,000.
Students will use the donated gems to learn stone setting and identification and will be able to purchase them for their own jewelry creations. The school’s two-year jewelry program, in which 20 day students and 10 evening students are enrolled, teaches coursework in jewelry repair and fabrication, manufacturing, and lapidary arts. About 15 students—both in high school and post-high school—graduate from the vocational program each year, says Kaniss, and most go to work in jewelry stores or other jewelry businesses in the Tampa Bay area.
The idea was sparked last year during a sales call from one of Kaniss’s suppliers, Memco Inc. of Dallas, Texas. Kaniss asked Memco’s southeastern representative, Phil DeStephano, if he knew of anyone who wanted to buy the stones. But DeStephano—who sits on the advisory board for jewelry classes at the school—had a better idea. He arranged for Kaniss to tour the school and meet the jewelry department’s head instructor, Savanna Do.
“The jewelry industry and the city of St. Petersburg have been good to my family over the years, and I can’t think of a better way to give something back to both of them,” said Kaniss. He then sat down with his extensive collection of stones, graded them, and threw out the ones that were badly chipped. Large stones with chips or other minor damage were retained to give students the opportunity to recut them into cabochons. The donation was formally made during The JCK Show ~ Orlando, in front of a small audience at Memco’s booth.