Precious stones glitter under glass cases, snug in their settings—rubies and diamonds and sapphires adorning rings and watches and bracelets and brooches—while soft-spoken attendants shepherd their urban prospectors from display to display through the quiet like gemstone cicerones. And somewhere in the back, in a workshop visible only through slit windows, a man named Steve with a rumpled polo and stained fingertips powers up his laser.

Perched on a stool in the Diamond Vault jeweler’s workshop, eyes hunched toward the viewfinder, the laser fires as he works the pedal with his feet, hands slipping through a pair of apertures in the casing to manipulate the item within—a small ring of yellow gold adorned with a precious topaz, its band in need of repair. On the side of the laser welder, a computer readout keeps track of the beam’s strength, spread and longevity as the operator—jeweler and gemologist Steven Paul Dangler—endeavors to dab molten gold to the inside of the ring. It’s a delicate process—“Real steady hands,” he intones, eyes still on the viewfinder—but with a laser welder takes about 15 to 20 minutes, instead of two hours with an old-fashioned torch. And unlike using a torch, there’s no risk to the stone.

Looking over the jeweler’s workshop in Diamond Vault—a horseshoe-shaped room crammed with tools, machines and a pair of jewelers named Tarik (last name Harakat) and Steve who offer repairs and create all of the store’s custom-made pieces. At one end of the room, the state-of-the-art laser welder encased in white plastic embodies this advancement, while on the other, a hammer and anvil lie in wait as reminder of the sometimes necessity of old-fashioned brute force. In between sit a pair of scarred and stately wooden workbenches, where Dangler and Harakat often work side-by-side, eyes magnified under their jeweler’s glasses as they sift through an oversized pinwheel of shapers and formers and setting burs like bygone artisans in a bell jar. They adopt a collaborative process to capitalize on the strengths of each as they bend the metals to their collective will.

Third-generation jewelers both, they know it because it’s in their blood. For himself, Dangler never had a doubt he’d be a jeweler, picking up the passion at a young age. “While other kids were learning how to color in the lines,” he says, “I was learning to set diamonds.” He made his first ring at age eight—a silver band with a synthetic ruby—making the mold and pouring the molten metal himself, and he still has it. Among the tools at his disposal, many are home-made, one fashioned from the knob of a tree from his childhood home.

Though commonly called on for repairs, resizing and cleaning, this compact workshop also contains all the tools required for the creation of signature Diamond Vault pieces and realization of customers’ original designs. Carving the object from wax, a plaster mold is cast in an oven reaching 1,300 degrees, melting out the wax interior. This “lost wax” process leaves a cavity for molten metal to be poured in, and a centrifuge ensures equal distribution through the mold before hardening. Before leaving the shop, each piece undergoes extensive polishing through a sequence of shaping wheels comprised first of hard felt, then flannel and finally, fine muslin. Many of the pieces can be designed by computers now, which can then 3D-print the waxen form that kick starts the creation. The computer gets a leg up, when straight edges and more geometric sensibilities dominate the design. But there remains that ineffable aspect that he calls “flow,” found in the subtle swoops and swells and curves of more organic designs, which the dispassionate mechanics of a computer cannot capture, ensuring that hands such as Dangler’s will long be in demand.