Talking Repairs, Lasers, and Car Wrecks With Tiny Jewel Box Master Goldsmith Enrique Marroquin

Enrique Marroquin has been a goldsmith for 35 years. For the past six, he has worked at Tiny Jewel Box in Washington, D.C., where estate and antique jewelry is a big draw. Marroquin says new advances in technology make it possible to better repair old heirlooms.

JCK: What’s your most indispensable tool—hand or mechanical?

Enrique Marroquin: The laser. The laser is mainly to fix platinum. It replaces a torch for working with platinum, because you cannot repair platinum pieces with a torch. That’s why platinum often used to be repaired with white gold.

Welding platinum to platinum, you can’t do with a torch. The metal is too hard—you would have to get the torch so hot it would damage the stones, even diamonds. With the laser, you can work very close to the stones.

Previous repairs on estate jewelry are something you always have to be very careful with—they fixed some things with lead, platinum with gold ­solder. It was the only way to do it back then.

JCK: What’s the oldest piece you’ve ever worked on, and what did you do on it?

EM: It was a brooch that used to belong to the Queen of Spain. Two centuries old—it had been in the client’s family for seven generations. It was very complex, wonderful, and full of history. It had a big emerald—that emerald needed to be unset and polished, the diamonds needed to be unset and reset, and all of the prongs for those little stones needed to be rebuilt.

JCK: What’s the toughest repair job you’ve ­successfully undertaken?

EM: An antique watch that had been run over by a car. The customer brought the stones in a plastic bag. They were just shards—emeralds and diamonds, broken.

We did everything using CAD, by computer: The cover, the casing—everything was in platinum—we put in a new movement, reset and replaced the diamonds. We even redid the engraving.

Enrique Marroquin brought this watch back from the brink after a nasty encounter with an automobile.

JCK: Are there any kinds of damages that, practically speaking, can’t be fixed?

EM: Everything can be repaired, but the price can be high. Sometimes it’s expensive, but we can fix anything.

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