Nisbett Jewelers still sparkles after 25 years
If a ring loses its luster or needs to be repaired, master jeweler Robert Nisbett can take care of it — and much more. And he's been doing all that since 1993 in his shop on Southeast 42nd Street, just off King Road in Milwaukie.
Nisbett Jewelers Inc. is a family business, co-owned by Robert Nisbett; his mother Sally; wife Colleen; and his father Don, who greets customers and does the book work.
"I wouldn't have been able to do this by myself," Robert said.
There are very few independent jewelers left in the North Clackamas area, and even fewer where "customers can actually talk to the jeweler who will be doing the work," Don said.
The Nisbett family has deep roots in Milwaukie, Robert said, adding, "I'm one of four brothers; we grew up in the area and went to Clackamas High School. I graduated in 1980."
When he was just starting out in the business, Robert wanted to stay close to home and found a nearby building to house his shop in 1992.
"This building was a barn, located where Safeway is now," Don said, noting it probably was moved to its current spot in the 1960s.
"I like the community and feel like part of the community," Robert said.
"A lot of people feel comfortable coming in here, as there's no hard sell," he said.
Robert noted that some people enter the shop looking for engagement and wedding rings and remember coming in as children with their parents.
"We have long-term customers who know they can come in and talk to me, and there's no stress or pressure," Robert said.
Robert attended Chemeketa Community College, where he played on the basketball team and was coached by Rick Adelman, who would go on to coach the Portland Trail Blazers. In 2017, the 1982-83 men's Chemeketa basketball team, of which Robert was a member, was inducted into the Northwest Athletic Conference Hall of Fame.
Robert then transferred to Lewis & Clark College, where he again played basketball. He graduated with a bachelor of science degree in business administration.
Unhappy with his first job, Robert took the advice of a family friend and enrolled in Ray Schow's Diamond Setting School in downtown Portland. There, Robert learned the art of custom design and fine-jewelry repair.
He then worked for Frank Pickman, also known as Frenchie, owner of the Jeweler's Bench in Sellwood, for about a year before starting his own shop.
"He was extremely talented, and when he retired, he referred his customers to me. He would not have done that if he didn't have confidence in me," Robert said.
His son "is now doing things that his mentors wouldn't have thought of doing," said Don, adding that "customers are blown away by the skill he brings — he's just amazing."
Day to day, Robert redesigns and restores old rings and does a lot of jewelry repairs, mostly on rings, necklaces and bracelets. He does not repair clocks or watches, but does resize watchbands and can replace watch batteries. The shop also sells a selection of jewelry items, such as earrings and rings.
When doing custom work, Robert works mostly with gold and sometimes silver, and has a diamond dealer who uses only ethically sourced stones, which means that the diamonds are mined without exploiting workers or the environment.
Also, "each of the large diamonds has a laser identification number inscribed on the edge, so it can be traced," he said.
His greatest joy is custom designing mountings for rings, which is one of the most artistic aspects of his work.
"It satisfies that creative desire and I really enjoy seeing customers loving something I created," Robert said.
"He loves the making and building process and all the workmanship," his father noted.
Recently, Robert worked with his niece's fiance to build a special ring.
"We designed it together, and I shipped it to L.A. for him to propose with," Robert said.
The ring is made from white gold and has 32 small diamonds on the band, with a 1.5-carat square-cut princess diamond in the center.
What the couple did not know at the time is that Robert also made a coordinating wedding band, which was a present from Nisbett Jewelers.
The jewelry shop has changed with the times, Don, said, noting it now has a website at nisbett.jewelershowcase.com where people can see designs and prices. This is a way to appeal to a younger generation who like to shop online.
The shop also offers another service — people can bring in a handful of jewelry they know nothing about and Robert can educate them about what they have.
"I explain things in a nice way; I see the beauty in the craftsmanship," Robert said.
He offers a price for repair work, and people can decide if it's worth it to them to have the work done.
"My prices are competitive. Sometimes things that I fix aren't worth much money, but they have sentimental value and can never be replaced.
"We are unique in what we provide."
What: Nisbett Jewelers Inc.
Where: 10608 S.E. 42nd Ave., Milwaukie
Hours: 10 a.m.-6 p.m. Monday-Friday, 10 a.m.-3 p.m. Saturday
Contact: Call 503-786-7346; visit nisbett.jewelershowcase.com
Robert's top three tips
Windex sprayed on the finger will help remove or put on a too-tight ring.
Jewelry owners should be careful about exposing rings and other pieces to chlorine, which can eat away at the metal and cause prongs to become brittle. After swimming in a pool, for example, people should rinse the ring in plain water.
Robert Nisbett does not charge for inspecting and cleaning rings. He noted people can clean their own jewelry with ammonia, but not if the pieces are made from silver or are mounted with pearls or opals.
Quality local journalism takes time and money, which comes, in part, from paying readers. If you enjoy articles like this one, please consider supporting us.
(It costs just a few cents a day.)