Marcus Larson/News-Register ## David Spalding examines a rare pink diamond for sale in his store, Timmreck & McNicol Jewelers in McMinnville. He finds unusual and beautiful stones on his semi-annual buying trips to world diamond markets.
Marcus Larson/News-Register ## David Spalding examines a rare pink diamond for sale in his store, Timmreck & McNicol Jewelers in McMinnville. He finds unusual and beautiful stones on his semi-annual buying trips to world diamond markets.
A 1.5 carat diamond mounted on a ring. Marcus Larson/News-Register ##A diamond’s value depends on its carat, or weight, along with cut, color and clarity.
A 1.5 carat diamond mounted on a ring. Marcus Larson/News-Register ##A diamond’s value depends on its carat, or weight, along with cut, color and clarity.
Marcus Larson/News-Register ## Dave Spalding is pleased that his youngest daughter, Jean Spalding, is his partner in Timmreck & McNicol Jewelers.
Marcus Larson/News-Register ## Dave Spalding is pleased that his youngest daughter, Jean Spalding, is his partner in Timmreck & McNicol Jewelers.
Submitted photo ##The two compare diamonds and prices during their Antwerp buying trip in 2018. Because of the pandemic, Dave Spalding will travel to New York instead this year.
Submitted photo ##The two compare diamonds and prices during their Antwerp buying trip in 2018. Because of the pandemic, Dave Spalding will travel to New York instead this year.
By Starla Pointer • Staff Writer • 

Stopping by: Diamonds forever

 

A dapper fellow walks into one of the multi-story buildings in the diamond district in Antwerp, Belgium. After handing over his passport to assure dealers he is a legitimate buyer, he runs his eyes over hundreds of sparking gems. He leaves with the brightest, most sparkling of the lot.

Why is this mystery man?

Spalding. Dave Spalding.

The owner of Timmreck & McNicol Jewelers in McMinnville, Spalding loves gems, especially diamonds. They've been his best friend during more than four decades of working in the jewelry business. His eyes sparkle when he talks about how he chooses the best.

If diamonds are ice, he has a license to cool.

In addition to operating his store in McMinnville, Spalding is known for making regular trips to Belgium to buy diamonds for local customers.

Unable to travel to Europe this year because of the coronavirus pandemic, he will visit diamond dealers in New York this month instead.

"I get the best quality by hand picking," he said. "Some diamonds just stand out."

Still, he said, "all diamonds are beautiful."

------

Spalding grew up in Martinez, California. At 15, he became a stockboy, and later a salesperson, at a local jewelry store. He learned engraving and other aspects of the business.

After finishing high school, he moved to McMinnville to attend Linfield College, now university. He said he chose the school because of its American Baptist affiliation; members of his church recommended it.

"I came sight unseen," he said, "but it's one of the best choices I ever made."

He worked at Timmreck & McNicol Jewelers, 428 N.E. Third St., while in college. It was a good way to pay his tuition, he said.

Spalding majored in history at Linfield. "I love history," he said, recalling his focus on 20th Century events and the Cold War period. More recently, he's studied some about the history of the diamond industry.

He planned to become a teacher.

But teaching jobs were scarce when he graduated in 1978. The jewelry store offered him a position job for a year. "They had a new manager coming in and I helped him, then became full-time," he recalled.

Later, he stayed on to co-manage the store with Jule Gradek before later buying it outright.

"Jewelry is a very interesting business," he said, pointing out that the store also carries clocks, watches, object d'art and other items as well. "All the interesting merchandise, and all the interesting people. And there's the challenge of business in general."

------

Timmreck & McNicol is one of about 900 stores that belong to the Independent Jewelers Association.

Being IJA affiliated helps smaller, mostly family-owned stores compete with big corporations. It also opens doors for Spalding in the diamond-buying market.

After joining IJA in 1990, he began making two trips a year to Antwerp, Belgium, once in April and again in October.

He recalled his first visit. "A trial by fire," he said. "I had 26 orders from customers, who had given me the money up front and given me the power to negotiate, and I was in the trading capital of the world."

There are major diamond markets in New York, Hong Kong, Mumbai and London, too. But Antwerp is considered the top market.

It's where the industry's best cutters and traders are located, Spalding said.Diamond mines around the world send raw diamonds there, cutters turn them into the most valuable gems, and jewelry buyers compete to get the best bargains.

Antwerp's diamond district is about the size of Third Street, he said. But the diamond buildings soar many stories above the boulevard.

He was ushered into many of those buildings on that first trip, and each time since. And each time, he is able to talk to an array of dealers and cutters.

"They are really good people. I've dealt with them for years," he said, noting that he speaks with them in English, rather than the Flemish or French commonly spoken in Belgium.

For the prospective buyer, each dealer spreads out dozens or hundreds of already cut, but not yet mounted, diamonds.

Spalding scans each tray, using his training and experience to choose just what his customers would want. Usually he looks at stones from several dealers first, then returns to make final decisions about the ones he wants to bring back to Oregon.

------

Spalding said he has been developing his eye for diamonds since he started in the jewelry business. He learned a great deal from Robert McNicol, one of the founders and his partner before he purchased the store outright as of Jan. 1, 2014.

And he has taken courses through the Gemological Institute of America and the American Gem Society. He's trained in gem labs, through books and by practicing with a variety of diamonds and other clear and colored gemstones.

Spalding said he looks for the qualities of whichever type of gem he's choosing, whether it's a diamond, ruby, emerald of other type.

With diamonds, he said, "it's mostly about the cut."

Diamond cutters work to transform a raw diamond into a true gem of the heaviest weight, with the best clarity, color and finish.

The latter are skilled at "taking advantage of the optical physics" of raw stones to reveal the most refraction. Their work allows the many surfaces of the finished diamonds reflect light, causing sparkle.

Cutters also aim for the most carats, or weight, of each diamond. They create pleasing shapes, as well: round, square, oval, pear, heart, emerald, princess. Round is by far the most popular, Spalding said.

Laser cuts also are becoming more and more popular, he said. With lasers, a diamond shard can be cut to any shape for  a pendant — a star, a fish, a horse, a sailboat, etc. These types of diamonds are relatively inexpensive, Spalding said. 

"Grading diamonds is a multi-faceted thing," Spalding said, pun unintended.

Diamonds also are graded according to the number and size of imperfections they contain. They best bargains tend to be the ones with a tiny imperfection, so small it won't be noticed by the naked eye; although the diamond looks stunning, it can be more affordable.

In addition, Spalding said, a tiny imperfection can make a diamond unique. With magnification, the imperfection makes it as yours and yours alone, he explained. 

------

The McMinnville man's spring trip this year would have been his 58th experience of buying in Antwerp.

"We had to cancel because of COVID, and that was quite crushing," Spalding said. "It's always a big deal for us, a big spike in business."

While he generally has 10 to 15 customers to shop for, he would have been looking for diamonds for about 25 in April -- representing about $150,000 to $200,000 in sales, he said.

But he couldn't travel, and the markets were closed anyway. 

Instead of visiting Antwerp to select diamonds, he shut down the store for eight weeks. 

Fortunately, he said, business has been "not bad" since Timmreck & McNicol has reopened. "We're very close to last year (in terms of business), and last year was good," he  said.

Also fortunately, during the closure he was able to do some work for customers, handing repairs or requests for jewelry by appointment even though they couldn't enter the store. 

He also was able to fill the requests of three of the customers who had commissioned him to buy stones in Antwerp, including one who wanted 25 beveled diamonds for a large anniversary bracelet.

Three of the Antwerp dealers sent him a total of about 90 diamonds to peruse. He was able to handpick stones that were right for his clients for before returning the additional stones.

"Some diamonds just stand out" when he scans a batch of them, he said. "I have a real advantage being able to see them next to each other, and I usually get a little better quality than expected."

While choosing diamonds long-distance worked out, Spalding said it just wasn't the same as traveling to where dozens of dealers are locate. "It came to my mind, I need to have an Antwerp trip this year, no matter what," he said.

So he decided to compromise with a domestic voyage, which he calls "Antwerp on the Hudson." He will fly to New York City this month to meet with representatives of many of the Antwerp dealers and choose diamonds just as he would have done in Europe.

On many of his Antwerp trips, he's stop for a day or two in New York, anyway. "Most of the Antwerp dealers have offices there," he said. "They're bringing in more diamonds than usual this time."

He and his staff have been contacting former customers — over the years, about 600 people have ordered from him, some multiple times — and others who might order diamonds. "We talk about what they want, the size, the cut," he said.

------

As much as he enjoys his buying trips, Spalding said he loves being in the McMinnville store.

He generally arrives by 7:30 a.m., 2 1/2 hours before the store opens to the public. He sings as he sets up displays.

"I'm always happy, thinking about my day," he said.

Every day is different: selling and buying jewelry, taking orders, cleaning and repairing jewelry, etc. An American Gem Society-trained master graduate gemologist, he also does appraisals for insurance and for client's personal interest, such as estimating the value of a brooch they inherited.

Spalding and his wife, Teresa, another Linfield graduate, have two daughters.

Anne, 32, is a social worker who lives in Salem. She is the mother of their first grandchild.

Jean, 27, is her father's partner in the store. She is the "bench person" who sets jewels, sizes rings and repairs watches and jewelry. Spalding used to do most of that himself, and still sometimes fills in with repairs.

Jean has accompanied him on buying trips to Antwerp, as well.

"I always wanted one of our daughters in the business," he said.

He said Jean became passionate about the jewelry store after working at other stores for a few years.

The 2011 McMinnville High School graduate trained with her father as well as attending the Portland Jewelry Academy. 

"She does a super job with people," he said proudly.

He said he loves what he does, but plans to retire someday. With his daughter in the business, he can rest assured that Timmreck & McNicol will go on.

After all, diamonds are forever.

For more information about Spalding or his diamond buying trips, call the store, at 503-472-6812.

 

 

 

 

Comments

@@pager@@