|The Master Jeweler, Michael
Whitenight, at work.
|Michael Whitenight's hands are so
nimble that to watch him work is a
|These hands can do wonders. Here
Michael shows off a rare analog
|You can get almost any kind of jewelry at astonishing prices at Whitenight
Fine Jewelers. Customer service and custom made jewelry are their
Michael L. Whitenight, the proprietor of Whitenight’s Fine Jewelers on Buffalo Avenue, at the corner of 77th St., in many respects is an example of the kind of old-fashioned American success story.
Whitenight is a throwback to a golden era, and perhaps shows us that the American dream is still attainable.
Born and raised in the Love Canal area of Niagara Falls, young Michael went to the Ninety Third Street elementary school, and LaSalle Junior High.
During his youth, he developed an unusual hand/eye coordination, one so precise that he could manipulate the smallest objects.
From brain to eye to hand.
That along with an interest in guns and the way they were made, and why each was different and had a different and precise purpose, were among the traits that led him to join the army. He also boasted an aptitude for pyrotechnics, the science of using various chemical materials that are, when combined, capable of a self-contained reaction for the production of heat, light, gas, smoke and/or sound, used to make such things as fireworks, matches, automotive airbag and gas pressure blasting in mining, quarrying and demolition.
Two days after his graduation from LaSalle Senior High School in 1979, he joined the army and became a combat engineer.
His special skill was the construction and destruction of bridges and other structures.
After an honorable discharge, Michael came home and worked at construction jobs. Then he became a milkman for Wendt’s Dairy, working for the company from 1984 to 1991. During those years, he married and raised a family, worked hard and saved money.
At nights he would study and experiment. He developed an interest and became proficient in metal craft, ornamental ironworking, stained glass window construction and its design and lapidary, or the art of stone cutting and setting.
This pursuit became his passion and served to become his ambition. One day, after a life altering discussion with his lovely wife Kristin, he enrolled in the Gemological Institute of America and in due course became a certified gemologist in 1988.
Among other things, he learned to become an expert at grading diamonds.
He became fascinated, as he studied and observed color, clarity, cut and carat weight, how one could combine all four in different ways to find a diamond that suited someone's style, need and/or budget.
He was the milkman who dreamed of being a jeweler.
And, since truth never dreams, after a couple of years, he invested his life savings, money earned from years of toil, of making ten thousand deliveries of milk and cream and butter to people's milk boxes - people he often came to know and he left behind the security of this humble, honest role.
He and his wife opened Whitenight’s Fine Jewelry in 1991.
Rather than just buy jewelry ready-made, he began to construct his own and suddenly customers came and he did what the master jewelers do- he made jewelry to order.
This combat engineer who became a milkman then a jeweler used modern techniques such as laser welding, but he loved the traditional, centuries-old methods that jewelers have been using since diamonds were first set in metal.
And his business grew and expanded.
He also started to repair old jewelry, to re-set stones, and make matches for old jewelry with lost stones. He restored broken, treasured heirlooms.
And offered engravings on metals.
He offered prices that were frankly remarkable.
“I’d rather make a dollar one hundred times than a hundred dollars once,” he often said.
Besides diamonds, gems became his expertise.
What could he not tell you about any kind of gemstone known to man?
Very clear, with fewer inclusions than emerald, the aquamarine can be beautiful.
Or, prized since ancient times, a fine emerald can be more expensive than a high quality diamond of the same carat weight.
Garnet, of the deepest red, or a pretty shade of green.
True jade - either jadeite or nephrite.
Opal, with fiery sparks that dance through it as the stone is moved.
The green gemstone sometimes called the evening emerald - peridot - is thought by some to bring its wearer success and good luck.
A fine ruby can be more costly than diamonds.
Or the sapphire, second only in hardness to diamonds, of cornflower blue, or of nearly any color you can imagine, are durable gemstones that have been popular since ancient times.
Turquoise--in robin-egg blue, deep greens, or the spider web, containing delicate markings of matrix.
Amber, Alexandrite, Moissanite, or Pearls, created by oysters after a piece of grit or some intruder is lodged inside the shell and, as a defense mechanism, the oyster coats the particle with layer after layer of a substance called nacre, or mother-of-pearl, which eventually becomes thick enough to form a pearl.
The rounder the pearl, the more expensive its price tag.
The jeweler Whitenight found he could go on at length and his customers liked him to do so.
He was always pleased to help them make choices for their jewelry.
And his business, one part skill, one part energy, one part customer service, one part dedication to tradition and one part originality, grew magnificently.
After 20 years, and tens of thousands of referrals, Mrs. Whitenight retired in 2010 and youngest son Maxwell took over her position.
From milkman to jeweler to his son finding a place in the world, starting where his father left off, now that is American.
Whitenight and son.
Whitenight’s Fine Jewelry is open Tuesday, Wednesday, and Friday from 10 a.m. to 5 p.m., Thursdays from 10 to 6, and Saturdays from 10 to 3.