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Eileen McClelland

Gilles St. Georges Reflects on an Unexpected Career

`When you do things you enjoy, you don’t think about how much work it is.’

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Gilles St. Georges Reflects on an Unexpected Career
Gilles St-Georges
Enchanted Jewelry, Plainfield, CT

GILLES ST-GEORGES, 88, sold Wise potato chips and launched a horse farm before finding his true calling as a bench jeweler at age 51.

Although he’s retired on paper (he transferred ownership of Enchanted Jewelry to his daughter, Jill Keith in 2017), he spends three hours a day in the store changing batteries for customers to allow his daughter to concentrate on custom design.

He looks at watch battery replacement as more art than chore.

“You have to be careful,” he says. “You don’t want to destroy somebody’s watch. It doesn’t have to be a Rolex or a Patek Philippe to be special to them. It can be just a plain old watch they’re very proud of. Or it can be a Mickey Mouse watch, a souvenir from Disney World that they want to keep going.”

One of the things he enjoys most is replacing watch batteries for seniors, no charge. “I tell them it’s their lucky day,” he says.

“When you do things you enjoy, you don’t think about how much work it is, you just do it,” says St-Georges, a statement that applies equally to the horse farm and the jewelry business.

Both legacies have stuck around. His grandson is a bench jeweler and he has a granddaughter who rides horses. “My first wife and I both enjoyed animals, and so when this farm came up for sale, we bought it, raised horses and ended up showing and judging horse shows,” St-Georges explains.

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After selling the horse farm, he found himself at loose ends. A friend in the diamond business encouraged him to learn jewelry repair, which he did. “There was another jeweler that was about 20 miles from here. I would sit and watch him at the bench.”

Keith had intended to help her father retire and close the business before she got hooked herself, particularly with CAD, and decided to take over the business. “She’s grown the business by four times what I had,” St-Georges says.

Looking back, St-Georges sometimes wishes he’d gotten into the jewelry business earlier in life. “It’s a great business; if you’re honest and you enjoy your work, people will come back to you and they will do everything they can to keep you healthy and alive in your business.”

Says Keith, “My dad has inspired me, his grandson, and now his great-grandson. He is a legend in Northeastern Connecticut.”

“I think the world of her,” St-Georges says. “Having family around makes life very pleasant. I’m very happy that she took it over and made it grow.”

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