A Good Goldsmith is Hard to Find
- Lisa Petrick

Lisa’s Jewelry https://lisasjewelry.net/

Full-service jewelry and watch repairs – serving Port Hadlock-Irondale and beyond.

Lisa fix jewelryLisa sizing down a ring. With a lifetime’s worth of experience, she doesn’t need measuring tools and can accomplish the task purely by sight and feel.

In her workshop at the back of the store, overlooking Port Townsend Bay, you’ll find Lisa Petrick, founder and owner of Lisa’s Jewelry. She’s bent over her tools, jeweler’s loupe focused on turning a client’s latest wish into reality. Lisa’s Jewelry will be celebrating its 34th birthday come October 1st, having been at its current Port Hadlock-Irondale location for 27 years. 

Lisa works primarily in fine jewelry, platinum, gold, and some silver. She does sizings, repairs, new mountings, remodeling, replaces watch crystals and batteries, fixes eyeglasses, resets stones that have come out… “everything but toasters,” she laughs. 

Coast-to-Coast and an unexpected teacher

“I was born on the east coast, outside of Boston, my family is all primarily from there. And my parents moved to California when I was a teenager, and I could not stand it.” 

So, at 16, she ventured out on her own, only to find herself working swing shifts for Raytheon in Santa Clara, CA, sleeping in a VW bus parked in an onion field. {Note: that onion field is now Google headquarters.} With winter coming on, a recent Yugoslavian immigrant and auto mechanic, Zarko, kindly provided a warmer and safer place to sleep – allowing Lisa to park the bus in his garage. There, while helping Zarko tear down engines, she met Heinar Tamme, a master hand engraver who had done work for illustrious figures such as Sammy Davis Jr., the Kennedys, and Pope John Paul. Heinar; took her under his wing. He gave her a place to live, clothes, and most serendipitously, the chance to learn a trade by working as his apprentice. Shortly after, Lisa helped Heinar move up to Port Townsend and she fell in love with the area.  

A brightly-colored drawing of cords, tubes, and contraptions hangs on Lisa's wall. She explains that it depicts the bench next to hers from her days working with Heinar and was drawn by a local artist named Bob Miller (who also happened to be a male model).

Learning to fix by taking things apart

Lisa says that “A lot of the repairs that I learned how to do was just figuring things out. The best example I could give you is my mother gave me an Easy Bake Oven. The first thing I did was take it apart. After I started raising kids, I found one of the best learning tools was when something was broken and couldn’t be repaired, was to give it to the kids with a bunch of tools and have them take it apart and see how it worked.”

Disconnect between design and deliverable

“A lot of people that do jewelry design don’t actually do the manufacturing. And a lot of times there’s a disconnect between the two. It’s easy to imagine a ring that’s got crashing waves on a seashore and dolphins dancing on top of them and a full moon and seagulls and then do it in a four millimeter band…. You can think of anything you want, but that doesn’t mean that you can make it three dimensional.”

Lisa’s recommendation: beware of deals too good to be true

Due to metal prices and lack of skills, a lot of jewelry manufacturing has moved abroad and shifted toward mass production. Unfortunately, quality has deteriorated as a result. “There are a lot of pieces made that are so lightweight that you can’t repair them and be proud of them. And they really should just be melted down and sent into a refiner. That’s due mainly to the price of the metal and that comes down to marketing. When you see something advertised – a gold chain for $49.95 – sounds like a really good deal, but they’re not going to sell it for less than what the material is.”  

But these items can’t necessarily be repairable when they break. “If I can’t fix something and make it look like new, I’m not going to take it in.”

Lisa continues, “There’s an old adage: you get what you pay for. If it’s really inexpensive, then you can bet that it’s made to be thrown away. If you want something that is going to be durable, if it’s something that’s made with precious metal, feel how heavy it is. If it’s a chain and it practically floats off your hand, it’s hollow – once it breaks can’t be repaired. And it just becomes scrap gold or metal.”

The type of metal also matters.  Gold is great for ease of working and finishing. Platinum is good for longevity.  “Titanium and alternative metals in most rings cannot be sized without it showing. And so, if your fingers change, you can’t have the ring resized, you have to go get another ring.” 

Lisa’s favorite repair

“I think one of my favorite repairs was actually a ring sizing that a woman carried around with her for 10 years. It was a square ring both inside and out. She was from Pennsylvania, her daughter lived here. She travelled quite a bit throughout the United States, and she went from jewelry store to jewelry store over an extended period of time trying to get this ring sized up. It had a large emerald in the top and everybody told her it couldn’t be sized. And what I did was I cut the ring open and bent it so that it went over her finger, and then made a sizing piece to fit in the gap without having to put it on a mandrel to make it any specific size. And then because I use the stationary torches able to put on a really, really large torch head and solder the piece in place. And she said she’d been waiting 10 years to get this ring sized because nobody would do it.”

“What I really enjoy the most is figuring out how to fix something especially when there’s a challenge where somebody brings me something and says they were told it can’t be repaired – because then, of course, I want to repair it!” 

Disconnect between designed and deliverable

“A lot of people that do jewelry design don’t actually do the manufacturing. And a lot of times there’s a disconnect between the two. It’s easy to imagine a ring that’s got crashing waves on a seashore and dolphins dancing on top of them and a full moon and seagulls and then do it in a four millimeter band…. You can think of anything you want, but that doesn’t mean that you can make it three dimensional. 

Beware the “good deal”

“Because of the price of metals and the lack of labor, there’s a lot of mass producing that’s being done in other countries. And there are a lot of pieces that are made that are so lightweight that you can’t repair them and be proud of them. And they really should just be melted down and sent into a refiner. And that’s due mainly to the price of the of the metal and that comes down to marketing. When you see something advertised – a gold chain for $49.95 – sounds like a really good deal, but they’re not going to sell it for less than what the material is. So you get what you pay for. People want to pay a low amount for jewelry and then they get shocked when they find out how much it’s going to cost them to get it fixed. And even if you fix it, you can’t guarantee it. If I can’t fix something and make it look like new, I’m not going to take it in. 

“There’s an old adage: you get what you pay for. If it’s really inexpensive, then you can bet that it’s made to be thrown away. If you want something that is going to be durable, if it’s something that’s made with precious metal, feel how heavy it is. If it’s a chain and it practically floats off your hand, it’s hollow – once it breaks can’t be repaired. And it just becomes scrap gold or metal.

What makes something repairable?

“For ease of working in and finishing: gold, for longevity: platinum. It’s just one is more time consuming and costly. Titanium and alternative metals in most rings cannot be sized without it showing. And so if your fingers change, you can’t have the ring resized, you have to go get another ring. 

table jewelry tools fix repair

The jewelry business evolves

Lisa explains that she has faced some challenges because of the traditional male dominance in the jewelry business. “I have had customers that have asked to speak to my husband because they need to have a ring sized. I’ve had customers that have driven by my business to the male-operated business in the town over and it is still very prevalent. In fact, when I did my website, I made sure that there were males that were in all the photographs, just to show that it wasn’t all females!”

She is working to help bring up the next generation of jewelry experts. “I think the best support would be to encourage people to learn trades of any sort, and to have resources available to help fund them to get that kind of training. I have personally put out of my own pocket at least $20-$30,000 training two or three individuals over the years, sending them to a trade school for several months, just to get them to the point where they can be an apprentice. The closest [school] that is accredited is down in the Portland area.”

Generations of satisfied customers

Lisa has now served generations of Olympic Peninsula clients: “I’ve got some customers that I have known for over 30 years. I’ve got some customers that are the grandchildren of customers that I first met when I was in my early 20s.” Have a piece in need of some skilled repair? You too could become one of Lisa’s regulars. You can be sure you’ll be able to pass down something expertly cared for.