When Your Olympic Medals are in Disrepair, Call This Florida Jeweler

This story was submitted as part of a package of stories to win 2014 Third-place Business Writing, Class B, Florida Press Club.

MARCH 27, 2014 12:00 AM

Bradenton jeweler repairs Olympic medal damaged by Eddy Alvarez’s naughty nephew

Olympian and Miami native Eddy Alvarez had his silver medal repaired at Bradenton’s Jess Jewelers after his precocious nephew took the medal for a ride against the floor.

BRADENTON — The Hulk-like strength of a Miami baby was enough to send a second Olympic medal to a Bradenton jeweler for repairs.

All Eddy “The Jet” Alvarez wanted to do was to spend time with his family last week in Miami. The 24-year-old won the silver in the 5,000-meter short track relay at the Sochi Olympics. But it seems he wasn’t fast enough to catch up with his 10-month-old nephew, Mako, who was adorned with the medal and sporting a cute smile for his parents Nick and Mitzi Alvarez.

The cuteness didn’t last long though. Uncle Eddy was watching TV when Mako made his move across the floor with the medal.

“Have you ever watched the movie, ‘The Hulk’ where he’s grabbing people, picking them up and slamming them?” Eddy Alvarez said in describing his nephew’s super-baby strength. “It was kind of like that.”

In this case, it was The Hulk versus The Jet, and in the end, Steve Dangler of Bradenton’s Jess Jewelers had the upper hand. A precise hand.

Eddy Alvarez called his father, Walter Alvarez, to tell him what happened, and there was only one thing left to do.

“I Googled ‘people that fix Olympic silver medals,'” Walter said. “I Googled without any confidence that I would find anything.”

But he did. Walter found the Herald’s story about how Dangler repaired the heavily damaged gold medal belonging to Bahamian track star Demetrius Pinder, whose medal was stolen in September by thieves planning to melt it down for its gold.

After reading the story and talking it over with Dangler on the phone, “We knew immediately this was the guy for the job,” Eddy Alvarez said.

Scratching the surface

Dangler, a third-generation jeweler at Jess, 1312 Sixth Ave. W., said repairing the silver medal is as much an honor as the gold one from the London Games.

“We’re going to do everything to make sure this young athlete’s dreams look as pretty as they should,” Dangler said Tuesday before starting work on the medal. Repairs were completed Wednesday, and the medal should be back around Eddy Alvarez’s neck soon.

Mako the magnificent medal manipulator certainly did a number on his uncle’s trophy. The edges were jagged to the touch and the scratches looked like what happens to the back of an iPhone after it rubs against a set of keys in a pant pocket.

The damage didn’t bother “The Jet” much at first.

“I know the medal is something I worked for, but the real important thing for me is sharing my medal with my family, because they’ve been through it all with me,” Eddy Alvarez said. Still, he wanted to kick Mako’s butt, he added.

There was no time for even a spanking. Eddy Alvarez needed to get the medal refinished quickly because he didn’t want to disappoint an important guest.

“I’m supposed to take the medal to the White House and meet the president of the United States,” he said. “I don’t think it would be too nice or formal to let him hold a scratched silver medal.”

Medal miracle worker

Alvarez’s silver from Sochi is much different from Pinder’s gold medal. The damage to Alvarez’s medal had more superficial scratches on one side and around the edges, but a glass design on one side of the medal proved tricky to fix. Dangler placed packaging tape over the glass to prevent scratching during the repair.

“To resurface this whole thing and not hit the glass is going to be tricky,” Dangler said. “I’m confident I can do it.”

The Sochi medals were made from precious alloys from Russia that included manual polishing, according to the International Olympic Committee, along with a patchwork design applied with a laser. The silver medal contains 426 grams of silver and a 960 hallmark that signifies the purity of the silver in parts per thousand, showing a higher quality than sterling silver. A company called Adamas supplied the metals and produced the medals, taking an average of 18 hours to make, according to the IOC.

To obtain one is even more difficult, as Alvarez has demonstrated.

The silver also has a factory-produced finish featuring a matching raised surface on both sides.

“The edge is dinged up in quite a few areas, but the back is relatively in good shape,” he said. “However, I have to match the back with the front because I’m going to change the finish a little bit.”

Dangler also brought his father, Paul Dangler, in for advice on the repair. His father was a luxury pen designer for Parker Pen Co. before going out on his own, the younger Dangler said.

As with Pinder’s medal, Dangler donated his time to Alvarez. Dangler said he didn’t anticipate another Olympic medal repair call so quickly after the Herald published the March 14 story.

“And a medal that’s brand new,” he said. “It’s definitely surprising.”

With a gold and silver medal now repaired, does Dangler want to repair a bronze medal?

“I hope so,” he said, letting out a hearty laugh. At this point, Dangler might as well have his own light in the sky when an Olympian’s medal is in distress.

As for the Alvarez family, they’re taking it in stride. Eddy Alvarez said it will be a great family story to tell, and the nephew is going to catch a share of grief as he gets older.

“I wanna rub it in his face,” Alvarez said.

Walter Alvarez just has one request.

“I want you to put Mako’s name in the paper so he’ll know what he did wrong,” he said, chuckling. “One day when he grows up, I’ll say, ‘You are a medal delinquent.'”

Charles Schelle, Herald business reporter, can be reached at 941-745-7095. Follow him on Twitter @ImYourChuck.


Jess Jewelers gold medal repair an Olympic feat

Bradenton’s Jess Jewelers pulled off an Olympic feat of its own after repairing a gold medal that was stolen from a Bahamian athlete training at IMG Academy in September.

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