One of the earpieces on my vintage eyeglasses came off. My local opticians, Miles & Tisch, said it needed to be soldered — they would have to send it out, it would take 5 days and cost $59. If I wanted same-day service, they suggested I try the Diamond District. There, behind one of the storefronts on 47th Street between Sixth and Seventh Avenues, I located a veritable souk, a warren of cubicles inhabited by quiet craftsmen plying their ancient trades.
I walked into one tiny shop at random, where a very nice Syrian gentleman wearing a pair of those funny six-lens jeweler’s specs agreed to fix my glasses, the way he’d repaired his children’s many times. As he set about the task, another customer appeared in the doorway, a big giant white man with his porky, sullen daughter in tow. The daughter plopped down on a chair and continued to read her Harry Potter book while the father ostentatiously counted out $4000 in $100 bills, put them in an envelope, and deposited it on the jeweler’s desk, jabbering away nonstop. Apparently, the jeweler had made a diamond ring a half-size larger, and he located the ring in a drawer and handed the envelope to the customer.
“No, no,” he said. “I want you to hold onto it for now. We’re in the city for the day, we’re going to be walking around, I don’t want to carry it around the city. I mean, we might decide to go to Harlem.”
His racist remark hung in the air like someone’s smelly fart.
After a beat, I said, “Or you could go down to Wall Street and get your pocket picked just as easily.”
He laughed — “You got that right!” — and went on jabbering, oblivious to the jeweler’s attempt to concentrate on the fine work of removing minuscule screws, handling the tiny blue flame of the soldering iron, and applying it carefully to the thin earpiece. Finally, the big man and his charge lumbered out the door. The jeweler looked up at me, said nothing, and went back to his work.
He not only re-attached the earpiece but took the other one off and straightened it out and put everything back together perfectly. This took about 20 minutes. “How much do I owe you?” I said. “Whatever you like,” he said. Ah yes, the familiar refrain of Middle Eastern business encounters. I remember this from being in Morocco. It’s a form of social intercourse, but unnerving to Americans accustomed to price tags. “Please, tell me how much,” I begged. He was very modest: “Really, whatever you like.” I handed him $50 in cash. He gave me back $30. Very nice man. Joseph Zaroura, Zaroura Jewelry at City Jewelry Plaza, 20 W. 47th Street, R 51. 212-869-0793.
I’m reminded of the song “The Jeweler,” written by Tom Rapp for his band Pearls Before Swine and later recorded by This Mortal Coil.