All That GlittersJan 01, 2022 09:00PM ● By Karey Solomon
When it comes time to immortalize an enduring love by putting something sparkly on a finger, Marc William, at 430 William Street in Williamsport, encourages those making decisions to begin by choosing a diamond. Twenty times harder than the next hardest gemstones—rubies and sapphires in the corundum family—diamonds, like a good marriage, stand up well to the stresses of daily life.
Diamonds are usually presented in relatively predictable shapes—round, oval, cushion (squarish), pear, and marquis—and a range of faceted cuts. But the pear, marquis, and many ovals, “all have an area of non-brilliance,” says goldsmith Marc Williams. “It’s about getting the right angles to get the light to bounce back out of the stone.” His preferred stone and cut is the round modern brilliant.
Customers seeking diamonds are urged to consider the four Cs—carats (size/weight of the diamond), cut, clarity, and color. Many, schooled on the internet, tend to divide their evaluation of a stone into equal quarters but Marc thinks that can be a mistake because cut is often the most important. Size matters as well. “Your best value is a larger stone,” he says.
And finding an absolutely flawless diamond might be as unrealistic a quest as looking for an absolutely flawless human being as one’s life partner. “SI” or slightly imperfect diamonds, meaning those whose microscopic imperfections are impossible to see with the un-aided eye, often hit the “sweet spot” in a couple’s budget, leaving open the possibility of a unique, handcrafted setting.
This is where the art of the goldsmith enters the picture. Unlike jewelers whose wares are manufactured in multiples, Marc crafts rings and other jewelry using time-honored techniques, drawing on his extensive studies in fine arts and design in tandem with forty-three years’ experience as a goldsmith. “I think to be able to be successful in the art jewelry business, you have to have a good design background,” he says. “It’s about scale and balance and proportion.”
But it all begins with talking to the customer and learning what they want.
In general, Marc says, his store attracts, “a more discriminating type of client. They’re after knowledge rather than just getting the job done.” Because his business is art jewelry rather than a general jewelry business, the focus is trying to please each customer, though he’s quick to also point out, “We’re not for everybody.”
Some may arrive with budgetary constraints, while for others, cost is no object. The first order of business is to listen to the customer, to get a keen appreciation for what they want. “In our particular business, we try to have two people wait on a customer at the same time.” He’s discovered that with two salespeople, both listening closely, one may develop a better understanding than the other of what the customer may want. Marc then sketches a design and discusses it with his client.
He mostly uses bezel settings. Custom-made for each stone, these use a thin rim of metal to surround the circumference of a gem, instead of prongs, to hold a stone in place. They require far greater skill than bending prongs over a stone, but the bezel setting is decorative, durable, and protective of the stone it encases. Popular in medieval times, bezel settings offer a timelessly classic appearance.
Natalie Hutchinson has worked in the jewelry business for about twenty years, the last three of them for Marc. “Growing up, I always knew if you wanted a good piece of jewelry, you’d go to Marc,” she says. And as it happened, she not only wanted a piece of jewelry Marc had created, she knew it had to be a ring to showcase a stone she particularly likes—a fire agate. “It’s just a beautiful stone. I wanted him to build a ring for me. We picked out the stone, added a cinnamon diamond, and it turned out wonderful!”
In the making of Natalie’s ring, and countless times since, she’s watched the process unfold with fascination. Typically, Marc meets with the customer and draws up something, then he’ll start to create the piece. It starts with the thought, then it’s on paper. Then he creates it in wax. People think you can just make something, but it’s a pretty lengthy process. Everything has to balance out. Marc doesn’t produce something that isn’t going to look good. Most customers know his creativity and just let him take the helm.”
After the customer approves the wax design, Marc uses the model in the painstaking process of lost wax casting. The finished metalwork is cleaned and polished before the stone or stones are set in place. To Natalie, her ring means more to her than simply a piece of jewelry. And this is true for many customers.
Recently, a widow returned to the store with two wedding bands Marc had crafted for herself and her husband thirty years earlier. Each was set with a stone that had meaning for the person who wore it. The woman asked Marc to make a new ring, combining the two bands and their stones. Natalie says she was awed to see the craftsmanship Marc had brought to his work more than thirty years earlier, and, like the customer, has confidence he’ll create an equally exquisite piece for the new ring.
While Marc does all the designing, he’s aided by a team of other skilled jewelers who help with some of the many aspects of jewelry production. Additionally, his store features the work of other jewelers, including some notable silversmiths, to round out his offerings. He’s won awards, designed jewelry for celebrities—he declines to name-drop—as well as young people with budget constraints. See more of his work online at webgoldsmith.com, on his Instagram page, on his business Facebook page, or call (570) 322-4248.