I started working full time at my father Jimmy Adamson's jewelry store when I was 16. Before that, I used to comes shop, and jewelry workshops are fabulous places for a young boy. All kinds of cool machines, fire, bits and pieces, fire, gems and did I mention fire? I used to play around with all the cool stuff and the fire (another story in itself). So when I was sick of high school, I went to work for my dad. My father—being more of a watchmaker (and an incredibly good one at that)— wanted me to learn the jewelry and watch trade. I, however, wasn't very drawn to the watchmaking end of the business. I saw how hard my dad worked and that— although we lived well—he didn't make much money (That was the case in the 1970s watch industry.). He had a friend, Jay Harold, who was a great jeweler, not to mention a truly crazy guy, who agreed to give me an apprenticeship. I was not very thrilled about being a polish boy and the menial tasks given to the low man on the totem pole—such as cutting out initial charms with a hand saw all day long. I look back on that now and really appreciate the lessons learned from looking over Jay's shoulder and even the repetitious work as it gave me the training to make anything by hand. I was under Jay's tutorship for five and a half years and then went out on my own.
On Adversity and Adaptability
On Living in a Van Down By the River
I have been on my own since I was seventeen years old, when my family decided to move back to Argentina and I wanted to stay (life and friends, you know). I literally had nothing but my cool off-road van (it was the 70s) and what I had in it. So I actually lived in a van down by the river at night and would drive down from the Los Angeles overview, where I slept in my van by a stream, to Jack LaLanne's Spa to workout, shower, and get dressed to go to work as an apprentice at Jay's Mfg Jewelers in Cucamonga, CA, for my $50-a-week apprentice salary.
Technology is a big part of business today. We live in a constantly changing world and we must keep up or be trampled by those that adapt. I recently left the business (and the country) to take care of my aged mother, Amanda Adamson, until her demise. I was away for only three years. When I returned, the jewelry industry was unrecognizable. What had been the most effective means of advertising was now worthless. Techniques, communication, and presentation were completely new. I quickly started finding ways to adapt to the ever-changing industry. CAD became a greater part of the business as customers want to be a more integral part of the design process now. I do more work than ever over email and texting than I ever imagined it would be. It’s a new and adaptive world, and I am constantly at CAD training seminars and technology fairs to stay current with these changes. I've always had to be very adaptable. Fifteen years ago, my son was diagnosed with bone cancer, for which they told us he had a less than twenty percent chance of life, and that at the very least he would lose his leg. We traveled to the other end of the country to find the best physicians available while raising his younger brother and running a custom jewelry store. The treatments and surgeries took over a year, and he has his life, his leg, and all our customers got their jewelry on time.
On What He Loves About the Work
I love hand fabricating jewelry. The real pleasure is in having a rolling mill, some David designing his piece during the CAD/CAM Design phase of the competition on day one. precious metal and gemstones, and to just let the imagination run wild. I also love bench work. Even if it is a simple design or a highly complicated piece that requires much engineering, seeing a finished piece of jewelry that I made brings me great satisfaction. I remember once, at an anniversary party, where the wife was presented a gift from her kids that I had designed. As she opened the gift box, she burst into uncontrollable tears. A guest at my side told me: "You have the best job on earth; you make women cry tears of joy.” That sums it up pretty well.
On Passing on the Tradition
Having my sons at my side in the family business is my greatest memory as a jeweler. My eldest, Nick, is a real salesman; this kid has the gift of gab. He has gone on to become a real master in CAD design, doing things that nobody imagined could be done. He now has his own successful jewelry store. The next one, André, is more of a bench jeweler, and he is a perfectionist at finishing; his workmanship is fabulous. He too has his own successful jewelry store.