He was trusted to restore the Titanic jewels; now he has a shop in Raleigh

Raleigh jeweler Karl Linger was part of a team that restored jewelry recovered from the Titanic.
Raleigh jeweler Karl Linger was part of a team that restored jewelry recovered from the Titanic. Mary Beth Miller

Karl Linger never set out to be a jeweler. But fresh off a tour of duty with the Army and while working as a cabbie in New York City, fate intervened for the owner of Raleigh’s Rings True.

It was a snowy night and Linger was ready to head home when he was flagged down by a man in Manhattan. He gave Linger the address – the famed Oscar Heyman Bros., a Diamond District institution.

Linger befriended his fare, who worked at Oscar Heyman and often called on the driver to pick him up when he was transporting valuable cargo. Pretty soon, Linger started hanging out at the jewelry company, which supplies stone setting work for such brands as Cartier, Van Cleef and Arpels, and Tiffany. He was fascinated by the craftsmanship of the jewelry workers.

“He noticed I was hanging around talking to the guys, and he was like, ‘Is this interesting to you?’ ” Linger says. “He told me, ‘We have room for you under one condition – as long as you will continue to drive me.’ So I said sure.”

Thus began Linger’s career as a jeweler. Since his days apprenticing at Oscar Heyman, Linger has done just about everything, from helping create the national championship trophy for the Fiesta Bowl – a behemoth made with 40 ounces of gold and 2,000 diamonds – to helping set the Arch Duke Joseph Diamond, at the time the fifth-largest in the world.

But perhaps most memorable for Linger was working as part of a team that restored jewelry recovered from the Titanic. Linger says the team was only allowed to clean and secure the pieces in order to maintain the historic integrity of the jewelry, which ranged from baubles owned by second- and third-class passengers to extravagant pieces worn by the elite.

“It was a highly unusual experience knowing this stuff was recovered from this tragedy, so there was a little sadness involved with the magic of handling this stuff and being trusted with it,” he says. “We were really honored to be able to help them with that kind of servicing.”

Today, Linger creates custom pieces in his studio and shop in the Ridgewood Shopping Center on Wade Avenue. He doesn’t employ a sales staff, and his clients can literally watch him work on their pieces, as the front of the store opens into his workshop.

“It’s definitely a blue collar environment,” he says. “When people come in, the experience I want them to have is they are talking to their jeweler. There’s usually a lot of separation between a jeweler and his customer; he often never meets the customer or knows who the work is for.”

Linger specializes in custom engagement and wedding rings.

“You’re working for a couple of young people at this incredibly great time in their lives,” he says. “They’re about to have this amazing experience and it’s great to be a part of that.”

But diamonds aren’t his only business. Linger never turns his nose up at a job, even small tasks like replacing watch batteries or fixing a clasp.

“I love building things for people,” he says. “A lady came in with her child’s Harry Potter necklace that was broken and I’m like, ‘Sure, we’ll fix it.’ There’s no dishonorable work.”

Forty years after that fateful cab fare, Linger’s passion for the artistry of jewelry hasn’t waned, and he’s thankful to have a space to practice the skills he learned all those years ago.

“I think the most important thing for me is I give somebody good work,” he says. “Whatever I’ve done for somebody, everything from a simple repair to building a beautiful wedding set, I just want to know that it’s good.”

Bridal Trunk Show

Brides can get a preview of fall and winter styles from Justin Alexander during a trunk show at Raleigh’s Maggi Bridal, March 2-4. Gown prices range from $1,600 to $2,700. To schedule an appointment, call 919-781-2898.

Sip and See

Designer Molly Hurley brings the latest looks from her Kinross Collection to Dovecote Style in Pittsboro for a Sip and See, 10 a.m.-5 p.m. March 3. Hurley will debut pieces for spring and summer in her signature cashmere line, as well as gauge cotton and woven linen. Call 919-542-1145 for more info.

Bailey’s happenings

Everything from antique cameos to glam Art Deco pieces come to Bailey’s Fine Jewelry in Cameron Village during an estate sale, March 3-4. The show includes earrings, brooches, necklaces and more. For details, call 919-829-7337. The show comes on the heels of the store’s announcement of the results of its 2016 “A Time to Give” initiative. The program – which offers free watch battery replacements in exchange for a charitable donation – raised more than $61,000 last year, which was donated to local charities such as Relay for Life and Operation Christmas Child.

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