The gold rush began in earnest in the fall of 2007, Ed Dressler, the general manager of the London Jewelers store in East Hampton, said last week. The stock market went into freefall at about the same time as the real estate bubble burst. “We bought more gold in one month than we did in the previous 12 years, combined,” he said. “People were going through their things, finding that they had money sitting there.”
Though the rush to sell gold that followed the market collapse is over, the store is still doing a brisk business purchasing the precious metal. “It peaked at 1,800” he said about the price of gold per ounce. It has now stabilized at around $1,300, far above where it was pre-crash.
The process of buying and selling gold is an involved one. Mr. Dressler, who has been certified by the Gemological Institute of America, sits down with a prospective seller in his office, which is decorated with a large oil-on-canvas painting of the building by Kurt Hoppe, and reviews the pieces of jewelry one by one. “It is fun to work with people and see what they have collected over the years. You get to see the family history,” he said. “They will figure out what they want to sell, what they don’t want to sell.” Family heirlooms will frequently stay in the family, after Mr. Dressler explains what the piece is. He is a certified as a diamond gemologist by the Gemological Institute, the nonprofit organization that sets the industry’s standards.
Once an owner decides to part with a piece of jewelry, the actual weight and percentage of gold in the piece must be determined. All stones must be removed. London Jewelers will buy interesting or sought-after stones, otherwise it will return them to the seller.
Gold is a soft metal. When used in jewelry, watches or decorative items, it is almost always mixed with other metals, forming an alloy, to harden it and make it both easier to work with and more durable for use. The purity of gold is measured in carats, represented by the symbol K, with 24-carat being almost pure gold. So, if a ring is 14K, it’s 58.33 percent pure gold (14 over 24).
Once the weight is determined, Mr. Dressler will make an offer to the owner. If an agreement is signed, the seller of the piece can expect a check in the mail in about 10 days.
The gold purchased by the store will be melted and returned to its pure state for future use in jewelry.
But gold is not the only thing you will find at London Jewelers. About halfway through the store is a glass and wood walk-in humidor. “That is Mark Udell’s idea, to put a humidor in a jewelry store,” Mr. Dressler said. Mark and Candy Udell are the owners of London Jewelers. “We have a really good selection. Some men will come in every day to buy a cigar. They are afraid if they buy a whole box they will smoke it in a day.” The benches on the store’s front porch are a popular smoking spot.
London Jewelers also stores cigars for customers in locked wooden cigar keeps. There are some familiar names on those keeps, like Alec Baldwin and Billy Joel.
The original London Jewelers was opened in Glen Cove by Charles London. The current owners took over from Mr. Udell’s parents in the 1980s. There now are seven London Jewelers across Long Island. The Udells also own several other stores: a David Yurman, two Van Cliff and Arpels, and a Chanel store.
Mr. Dressler has been with the company for 25 years. He recalled opening the East Hampton store in 1996. “The front of the building was the original schoolhouse on Newtown Lane,” he said. “It was moved in the 1920s. They added the rear of the building and it became the V.F.W. Upstairs was where they had dinner dances, and downstairs was a bowling alley.”
He recalled walking in the building that first day in 1996. The building was in disrepair and was partially gutted. “When I first walked in you could look up and see the roof. There had been a fire in the 1970s.”
He commuted from Plainview for four and a half years before buying a house in North Sea. Now, he considers himself an East Ender, and wants his neighbors to view the store as part of the community, whether it is to buy an engagement ring, or a good smoke, or just to window shop.
“The watch business is also very strong,” he said. The store sells and repairs watches. “We are the only ones who can change batteries from Montauk to Southampton.”