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San Antonio Jeweler Honors Fallen Police Officers With Special Badges

The store donates an average of 150 of the 1-inch, sterling silver memorial badge pendants a year.

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Badges for fallen police officers The 1-inch pendants replicate the fallen officer’s badge and include the date of death or “end of watch”.

WHEN A POLICE OFFICER dies in the line of duty, David Putnam makes a memorial badge pendant for the family. He does so without being asked and free of charge. The owner of Alamo City Gold & Silver in San Antonio, TX, and sadiamonds.com considers this work a community service, one that honors the ultimate sacrifice.

David Putnam in action at the bench.

THE IDEA

‘I Can Do Better Than This’

Putnam was a police officer himself as well as a jeweler when he began creating replica badge pendants in the 1980s. “I wanted one of my own to wear,” he recalls. “I found a company that stamped them out, but they were generic and very thin. I thought, ‘I can make better badges than this.’” He did, first by outsourcing to a manufacturer that acid-etched a higher quality pendant with more detail, then by investing in computer-aided machinery for the store, which he and wife Charlotte opened in 1984. Putnam retired after 22 years with the San Antonio Police Department in 1990 to work fulltime as a jeweler. Shortly after, a former colleague on the force died in the line of duty, inspiring him to create his first memorial badge pendant as a gift for the widow.

THE EXECUTION

National Recognition

Spurred on by the positive response to that first pendant, Putnam continued making them for local families of fallen officers. He expanded his efforts to a national level in 2001, when he created memorial badge pendants for the surviving loved ones of 73 police officers, firefighters, and other members of law enforcement who lost their lives during 9/11 and its aftermath. He presented those in person to the families during a public ceremony in New York City, but typically the jeweler sends the piece to the officer’s department with a request to forward it to the family. Putnam works quickly to deliver it before the funeral. The 1-inch sterling silver pendants on a 20-inch chain vary in detail according to the information available, which he gets from the Officer Down Memorial Page at odmp.org. Best case: It replicates the officer’s badge and includes date of death, or end of watch. If space allows on the back, Putnam also includes a touching poem his wife wrote. The store donates an average of 150 memorial badge pendants a year. He primarily focuses on police but also honors fallen firefighters whenever possible. Last year, Putnam made pendants for the 19 who died in the Arizona wildfires.

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THE REWARDS

A New Niche Market

Putnam provides this service to the law enforcement community not expecting anything in return, but he says the rewards are many. “When the family members call to say thank you, and they do, I cry along with them. I know what this means. I’ve been to the funerals. They give the family the flag from the coffin, the officer’s badge on a plaque, but they don’t give them anything to wear. So when the chief presents the pendant, it’s emotional. One widow told me she never takes it off. She kisses it goodnight every night.” He sells duplicate pendants to family members at cost, but other reorders and residual business have helped Putnam create a niche market. The store now carries an extensive line of fine jewelry with police and firefighter themes. Pieces range from simple sterling charms to custom orders in 18K gold and diamonds. Putnam sells these items and other jewelry to police officers, firefighters, and their family members both locally through Alamo City Gold & Silver and anywhere in the world through sadiamonds.com.

Do It Yourself: Find a Special Service Niche

  • SPECIALIZE: Find a community of your own to serve. “You just need to find a niche, one not already covered well,” Putnam advises. “My wife is a huge Notre Dame fan. She tried to find some nice Notre Dame jewelry but couldn’t. It took her six months to get licensed, but now the store sells fine Notre Dame jewelry.” He adds, “Different things come and go. Find something that will last, not just be a trend.”
  • ENLIST HELP: Putnam has 30 distributors in the U.S. taking orders for memorial badge pendants. Some are even spouses of officers.

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