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Working daily is 'medicine' for octogenarian jeweler
Aug 14

By MICHAEL WETZEL, The Decatur Daily

PRICEVILLE, Ala. (AP) _ For 81-year-old Kenneth Stuart, going to work every day is the ``medicine'' that keeps him alive and active.

Manager of The Jeweler and More shop in Priceville for the past seven years, Stuart said it is important for him and other seniors to stay busy with something they enjoy.

``It is what keeps me going,'' Stuart said about his business specializing in vintage jewelry. ``This place is my pillbox. This is what gets me out of bed every day. I love it every day. I know I am helping people.''

Stuart said the jewelry industry has been good to him and his family. His three sons are all bench jewelers, he said, and two daughters also have worked in the industry.

Raised on a farm by foster parents William and Pearl Kelly, the Decatur man said he was taught to ``get up early, work hard and work late.'' Stuart said former Decatur High School principal Avery Roberts Jr. influenced him to ``get a job and stay with it. Don't jump from job to job.''

Stuart said he was working at a drug store as a teenager in Decatur in the late 1950s when he was approached by Ralph Wyman, who asked him to help manage Diamond Jewelry. He said he has been in the jewelry business ever since.

``I later got out of the jewelry business and took a job going around closing out jewelry stores,'' he said. ``It was very rewarding to me and my family. But I moved back to Decatur to help care for the woman who raised me and got back in the business. I've stood behind counters as a jeweler for over 30 years. I found a niche opening a vintage jewelry store.''

He said people bring him unwanted jewelry or jewelry their parents or grandparents owned at one time and ask him for suggestions on repairing or selling the items.

``People come in with an old pocket watch that belonged to their grandfather. They'll ask if it is fixable,'' he said. ``They want to use it, and I help them bring it back to life.''

He said he uses a replica version of a 1897 Sears and Roebuck catalog and ``The Complete Price Guide to Watches'' as his two main sources of information on vintage jewelry.

``This store is my medicine,'' Stuart said. ``It helps me stay active, be involved with the public and use my past years' knowledge and experience to help people. I know I have something to give back to the jewelry industry. This store has been successful. I have helped the customers, and the customers have helped me.''

Dealing in old jewelry, clocks, silverware, broaches, rings and even tools in the industry, Stuart said if he were 10 years younger he would open more vintage jewelry stores in north Alabama.

``You never know what's coming through the door. I invite the public to bring grandmother's old jewelry box in. We'll go through everything, and I will tell them what is junk and what is valuable _ gold, silver, watches,'' he said. ``If the family doesn't want it any more, I will make them an offer and try to refurbish it and put it back in the counter to sell. I can size rings, reset diamonds. I can bring these old rings back to life at my bench. The business has really taken off in the seven years I've had it open.''

He said the business is owned by his family. He advises other seniors to stay active and get away from a routine of watching television most of the day.

``If you're retired, instead of going home and sitting on their butt and watching TV and getting overweight and getting unhealthy, find something in their trade that is similar to what they can do,'' he said. ``Volunteer time, teach young people. Do something instead of sitting there and watching the box, getting depressed and doing nothing but sit there all day long, or going with a cup a coffee with friends and doing nothing.''

He said retired men could spend more time with their spouses, helping them with ``chores around the house, wash dishes, fold clothes, whatever she might need.'' He said he had the coronavirus last year and the doctor told him his good health habits helped save his life.

Former Priceville Town Councilman Jerry Welch said he remembers introducing himself to Stuart when he opened the business seven years ago.

``I quickly realized he was knowledgeable about a lot in different areas. He knows about jewelry, collectibles, cast iron skillets,'' Welch said. ``He helps me do the background checks on some items. We've become close friends. My wife and I shop there. He's been really good to this community.''

By The Associated Press, Copyright 2021

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