For the past three years, Renaissance Silver Restoration, a division of Columbus, Ohio–based Bron-Shoe Company, has hosted silver restoration clinics for retailers around the country. The events have revived a service for fine-silver owners that was nearly lost during the economic boom years, when the rush to buy new jewelry eclipsed the appeal of vintage pieces, and have subsequently lured an older generation of customers back to the counter.
Slade Lewis, president of Lewis Jewelers in Webster, Texas, is now in his fourth year of hosting the events in his store—and the momentum just keeps growing. “About 90 percent of the people who come in leave their silver to be restored,” he says.
Bron-Shoe Company, which got its start as the original baby shoe bronzing company in 1934, is also known for its fine silver repair and restoration services. Over the years, the company would witness noticeable surges in the amount of silver serving sets, and, to a lesser degree, jewelry, coming in for service. President Bob Kaynes determined that a single source was responsible for these periodic spikes. He contacted the client and discovered that he had been hosting his own silver restoration clinics at retail jewelry stores for 20 years.
“He retired several years ago, and no one replaced the silver clinic services he provided,” Kaynes says. “In 2008, we took it upon ourselves to restart them.”
Well, not quite no one. There aren’t many competitors to Renaissance, but Virginia Silversmiths, Inc., in Lynchburg, Va., is one. Company president Lindsay Martin has offered silver clinics to retailers for 13 years. He works mainly with independents who own multiple stores in smaller markets.
For now, Renaissance remains the market leader. Retailers simply have to provide a take-in space (a low-traffic counter or portable table typically suffices). Renaissance’s sales reps assess and appraise the pieces that come in. And the company promotes the events in local newspapers and direct mailers.
Repair estimates are provided on the spot, and customers pay up front. Retailers typically get their 10 percent cut within two to three weeks. Silver restoration work at Renaissance’s shop averages six to eight weeks. And when each job is completed, it’s shipped directly to the customer’s home.
Beyond the free advertising, Renaissance helps bring in plenty of traffic, offers customers and staff easy access to its silver restoration experts, and provides silver replating services backed by a 25-year warranty.
More important, however, is the reputation that retailers can earn within their communities for helping bring treasured family heirlooms back to life.
For some jewelers, the clinics are bolstering sales in other departments. “With silver flatware and tea service repairs comes silver jewelry,” says Laura Stanley, vice president of Stanley Jewelers Gemologist in Little Rock, Ark., where Renaissance has hosted three events. “The clinics have helped add to our estate department.”
As for the future of silver clinics, Martin doesn’t foresee a decline: “As pieces are handed down, the sentimental value and the need to maintain them will be handed down with them.”