Facebook19Tweet0Pin0 Submitted by L. Jeanette Strole Parks for Kluh JewlersSteve Hawkins has been the Kluh Jewelers Goldsmith for over 30 years.The South Sound has both big and small jewelry stores; some are tucked inside malls, and department stores, some are national chains, and a few are family owned shops. While most of them offer repairs, cleanings and custom work, Kluh Jewelers in Lacey has an added advantage for discriminating shoppers; they are proud to have had the same in-house goldsmith for thirty years. That’s right, Steve Hawkins actually works inside the four walls of the store to ensure that the highest quality of attention and care is given to your jewelry. If you happen to be shopping at the South Sound Center store, you might even catch a glimpse of him hard at work behind the windows in the back corner.Hawkins is a craftsman who not only loves what he does, but with such longevity at the family-owned jewelry store, there is an extra level of trust added. Matt Kluh speaks fondly of his working and personal relationship with Hawkins. “Steve is good at his job, treats each piece like it’s his own, and cares about his customers. But he’s also a really nice guy.”The advantages of an in-store goldsmith are numerous. Kluh outlines the whole process of what you can expect when you leave a jewelry item for repair with them. “When a customer brings in a piece of jewelry, we inspect it from top to bottom. We want to be sure to fix everything that is needed to end up with a excellent finished repair. After inspection, the jewelry is photographed and entered into our computer system. Next, the jewelry arrives at my bench. It is inspected again, cleaned and work performed. After the work is finished, the item goes through 2 steps of polishing, an ultrasonic cleaning and finished with a blast of steam. The jewelry is inspected again for quality control and is ready to return to its happy owner.” Most other shops in the area not only send your jewelry out for repair, which means trusting a shipping service with your valuable heirloom or jewelry, but on the receiving end, the goldsmith might be handling jewelry from multiple original stores, which means there is also a higher risk of items becoming lost, damaged or misplaced in the process. So leaving your repairs at Kluh’s immediately gives the customer built-in security. “We know what you left with us, and what we are doing with it.”Hawkins first became interested in the 7,000 year old art of goldsmithing after taking a jewelry making class in high school. Citing his teacher as a source of inspiration, he launched himself headfirst into the world of jewelry making right after high school. “At the age of 18 I went to work at a wholesale trade shop in Spokane where I was paid to learn. My persistence landed me the job because I bugged the daylights out of them knowing this was what I wanted to do.”For one and a half years at that first trade shop job, he did nothing but polishing. As he quips, “My fingers were raw but as soon as the calluses formed I was off and running.” After a total of four years as an apprentice he spent an additional six years of ‘tipping’ (adding new prong-tips to hold gem stones in place) and assembly line jewelry making, “with twenty-two bench jewelers each performing one specific task in building a new piece of jewelry.” He explains that in today’s market, having a whole row of goldsmiths working on an assembly-line piece of jewelry would still be considered a “custom piece of hand made art. Most new pieces from the U.S. today are complete when cast and many include the stones being set in the casting process.”When he came to Kluh’s thirty years ago, he established himself as one of Thurston County’s most reputable goldsmiths very quickly. He had just moved from Spokane to the Olympia area, when he had a chance to get in with the Kluh family. “Story has it that Greg Kluh (Matt’s father) had been toying with the decision of putting a goldsmith in the Lacey store (which at the time was in the heart of South Sound Center mall). Coincidentally I walked in having just moved and the rest is history.”For someone who primarily works on standard gem-stone tips and other repairs at his station five days a week, he also finds a great deal of joy in crafting one-of-a-kind pieces occasionally. “When I‘m allowed the luxury of time and I get to use my imagination to create a piece for a friend or family member. I get to see these pieces again and again and know the joy it brings to someone I care about.”Knowing that his customers are often leaving precious family heirlooms in his care, Hawkins feels extra pleased when he is thanked for a job well done. “It’s a great profession and I still love it as much as I thought I would when I was pestering that trade shop in Spokane to hire me. It takes a lifetime to learn this craft. I’ll never know it all.”He also feels very much like the atmosphere and environment at Kluh’s is like being part of a big family. “There’s a personal touch, so all of us that work there aren’t just a number, we’re part of the Kluh family.”Of course, Hawkins has other hobbies, including playing drums, ukulele and guitar, and listening to music from the 1960s and 70s. “Goldsmithing can be monotonous so the variance of what I do outside of work is a good thing.”He foresees himself being a goldsmith even in the afterlife. “I know I will continue my craft in Heaven because is written in the Bible that the streets are paved with gold and foundation stones are made of precious gems, but in the meantime, as long as I’m physically able I’ll keep on keepin’ on.” Of course, he figures that with the rainy cold winters eventually becoming more disagreeable to him, he might have to eventually do his smith-work “in a warmer climate or perhaps in a little grass shack on the beach.”But until he heads to a tropical isle for retirement, you can trust him to handle your most precious jewelry repairs right in the place where he has been the last thirty years.