The art of the goldsmith is one that takes patience and attention to detail, but for Terry Szott of Fairmont Goldsmiths seeing the final result makes it all worthwhile.
“(What I enjoy) more than anything, it’s to see the final product,” Terry said. “That gives you that satisfaction at the end of the day that it turned out, and the customer is happy.”
Fairmont Goldsmiths is a family-owned and operated business that had its start in Fairmont Hot Springs in 1997. The shop was started by Fred and Maureen Szott, who previously had their own goldsmith shop in St. Albert, Alberta for 37 years before semi-retiring to Fairmont Hot Springs, their favourite vacation spot. Their son Terry decided to sell his dental practice and take over the family goldsmith location in St. Albert, but after 20 years joined his parents in Invermere. Grandson Brandon Szott had already joined Fred and Maureen during that time, and today the four family members all work together at their location at #5 Frater Landing in Invermere. The advantages of having many skilled goldsmiths in one location pays dividends for customers.
“The totally unique thing about us compared to a lot of jewelry stores now is that we do the work right here,” Fred said. “Nothing gets sent out.”
Fairmont Goldsmiths specializes in designing custom pieces made of white and yellow gold, ranging from rings, pendants, and earrings, to neck pieces and brooches. Each custom-designed piece is completely one of a kind, and so the amount of time each piece takes varies.
Generally, the process begins in one of two ways — either someone brings a custom jewelry design of their own to the shop, or they come requesting that the goldsmiths design something themselves. A few different designs are created and shown to the customer, and once the final design is approved, the process of creating the jewelry begins.
First, a wax model of the design is created to exact specifications, either by hand or with the aid of of a computerized mill system using a CAD program. After the initial wax model is created, it’s cast into gold. The wax piece is baked in a specialty oven at 1,200 degrees Celsius to remove the wax and then placed in a spin casting machine. Then either the yellow or white gold is melted and shot into the mould in a process called the lost wax casting technique. Lastly, the filing, polishing and setting stones takes place and a piece is created.
“It’s always original, because the mould is broken apart to get the gold out,” Terry said.
Fairmont Goldsmiths also offers retail jewelry from finished gold and silver items to watches from such well known companies as Bulova, Celebrity and Seiko. They also have a large variety of precious stones and diamonds on hand to help personalize any piece they create. They also do repairs and appraisals on site, and often take old gold on trade as part payment for any work.
Terry said that their business relies on a lot of return customers, and that they come from all over the world. Fred has even had the honour of creating a gold ring for the late Pope John Paul II in the past.
“(I love) the people,” he said. “You’re always meeting very interesting people, and their ideas are always unique.”