By Hannah Vaffis
Two small signs are the only indication of the one-man jewelry business that is settled in a gap in a brick wall. Despite this, the novelty of the shop urged tourists to approach the small booth located on St. Augustine’s bustling St. George Street. Behind the stand sat Abdel Elamri, carving away at a custom-made ring. Elamri came to be known by the name of “The Ring Man” by those who indulge their curiosity and share their experience with others. He supplied his customers with hand-crafted rings since 1998 when he arrived in St. Augustine.
“I came here as a tourist, you know, and I stayed at a hostel down there, and I worked there, and I just loved the place because it was so small and quaint,” he said. “I could walk anywhere. And then I started doing this and it worked. It was the place for me.”
A woman stops to admire the various rings on display at the front of the shop. Elamri learned the trade of jewelry making from his father and decided to use his skills because of the sustainability of the practice. He was able to work by himself and on his own time, which allowed him to provide both a quality product and a quality interaction with his customers.
“It’s mostly metals, soft metals, because they are the ones that I can cut easy, like silver and brass. I used to make them in gold, but gold is expensive and most kids just have a little money, so this is better for them to purchase,” Elamri said.
“This is one of the few trades that doesn’t require a big shop, so you can set up a table and do it anywhere. And at the end of the day, you just take your tools with you and go home instead of being in a shop, a jewelry shop, and all that. It’s simple to give me that flexibility just to pack up and go and get rest, which is just a dream because most of the time I’m here,” Elamri said.
After the name is carved, the ring is buffed and any imperfections are smoothed away until Elamri is satisfied with the result. His focus was providing the customer with something meaningful. Elamri offered his services to school groups throughout the week, allowing the children to come in and retrieve a unique keepsake on their trip to the old city.
“The gratification I get when I make kids happy, and that’s the thing, they can get something that they cherish. I had kids that had it since fourth grade and they go to college and they still have their ring and they always think about it, that you did something, and that’s part of how I feel,” Elamri said.