Updated: Jan 12
A few years ago, before I had my daughter and traveled around the world, I had the good fortune of visiting Costa Rica for my good friend's birthday. We rented a car and drove all around the beautiful country side. It was by the side of a road that we spotted a stall of sarongs and a small restaurant, all tucked in the generous shade of very tall trees. It was by the sarongs that Señora Rosita was listening to the radio when we approached her. I asked her how much her sarongs cost, knowing that regardless of the price she quoted, I would try to bargain her down, only because that's what one expects on both sides: the buyer and the seller. It usually works: vendors will go down a few pesos, soles, sheqels, rupees, baht, and in Costa Rica, colones. Not Señora Rosita. She would not go down in price, and she had a memorable reason: when you make something by hand, when you have pride in your work because you know it's well made, then you don't give it away. She explained she used good quality cotton and dye and that cost extra. She could use cheap everything and sell her work for cheap, but then she wouldn't feel proud of her work, and what's the use of that. She had been in the same spot on that road for years, seen the trees get taller year by year, sold to the same tourists who'd visit Costa Rica often, and that is something to feel good about.
The dignity of her response made an impression on me, and I've taken it to heart. I bought two sarongs from her that remind me of her every time I use them. She was not kidding: the dye is still bright, the cotton has not ripped, and it's been since 2005 that I bought them.
That brings me to my own experience and my business. A very long time ago I decided that selling quality was much easier than selling quantity. I could cut corners to save on labor, on sterling silver, but then I'd be worried about constant returns. Of course, I could claim ignorance, explain that the person should not have been changing a tire with her ring on (true story). What could you expect if you paid a cheap price for cheaply made jewelry? I'd rather stand by my jewelry in confidence that it is well made, that it will stand the test of time, and if it doesn't I take full responsibility.
For the families of silversmiths that make my jewelry, taking the time to make sure every piece of jewelry they make is their best, is also a better trade off. It takes longer to solder every loop that connects links. It's time consuming and precise work to make individual molds for the irregular Sleeping Beauty turquoise I buy in Tucson and ship to set on silver. The time spent on perfection is time they are getting paid well, enough to employ an entire family and send daughters to medical school. Just like Señora Rosita, the dedication and skill of my silversmiths should be valued and appreciated. And it is.
And so just like Señora Rosita taught me 15 years ago, it's better to rest in the knowledge that my jewelry is of the utmost quality. When I hear from customers it's to tell me how much they like wearing their piece of jewelry, not to complain about faulty work. I figured, when the Georgia O'Keeffe Museum in Santa Fe, New Mexico commissions me to make a bracelet the artist herself used to wear, I must be on the right path to my spot under a big shady tree.
Gracias Señora Rosita.