It was 1958 when three local jewelers-watchmakers which included Joe Gittings came together to open Ford, Gittings, and Kane Jewelers at 312 Broad Street. The business was established 64 years ago and has remained a solid anchor in downtown Rome.
Joe was raised in Roanoke, Alabama working in his parent’s jewelry store, and upon graduating from high school he served in the World War II Infantry Division in the Pacific. As a civilian, he continued his training and studies at Bradley University in Illinois to become a second generation watchmaker and he and his wife settled in Rome in 1953 before joining the partnership in 1958.
Joseph C. Gittings became the sole proprietor in 1980 and in 1997 he sold his business to his daughters and to Jan Fergerson. Even after transitioning ownership, Joe would drop in to see friends and could be found at his watch bench with his monocle until his death in 2016.
One of the contributing factors to the success of Ford, Gittings and Kane Jewelers (FGK) has been the ability to find ideal team members. One such hire was Jan (Jones) Fergerson who came to work for the company as Christmas help in 1973 while a student at West Rome High School. She began working at FGK that Christmas and has been there ever since.
“I vividly remember my hiring. One evening while I washed the dinner dishes, my dad, Warren Jones, was meeting with Mr. Gittings in our home. The two men had been instrumental in volunteering to help create and found STAR House, a halfway house for those struggling with alcohol addiction. They often met in the evenings to discuss its needs and business. In the middle of their conversation, Mr. Gittings called out to me, “Hey kid, want to come work for me during Christmas?” And, of course, I did. After that Christmas, I kept coming back to work, and I am still here.” Now a partner in the company, Jan celebrates the beginning of her 50th year at FGK this year.
Joe Gittings was a huge proponent for education in the gemology world and encouraged Jan to study it. Jan’s education in the business began with a course on Colored Gemstones.
She then earned her certification as a Registered Jeweler, and in 1982 became a Certified Gemologist—the first woman in the state of Georgia to do so. At the time, it never occurred to Jan that she would be making history in her chosen profession.
Another first for Jan and FGK happened in 1984 when she became a Certified Gemologist Appraiser under the directive of world-renowned appraisal expert, Cosmo Altobelli. The American Gem Society’s Certified Gemologist Appraiser (CGA) program includes a practical exam, an examination of jewelry pieces, and a theory exam. Jan was again the first woman in the state of Georgia to reach this accomplishment and certification.
Alice (Gittings) Herring also worked at the store on occasion while growing up. Along with other siblings, she would often run errands and make deliveries. After graduating from Darlington, Alice attended Georgia Tech and earned a degree in management in 1989. Alice obtained her Certified Gemologist Appraiser title in 1994. Moving to Charlotte, North Carolina she worked with Fink’s Jewelers for ten years. She returned to Rome to FGK to add the third generation to the family legacy in 2001.
The levels of achievement in ascending order, according to the American Gem Society, are CSA (Certified Sales Associate), RJ (Registered Jeweler), CG (Certified Gemologist), and CGA (Certified Gemologist Appraiser). There are only six CGAs in the state of Georgia: Two of them are at Ford Gittings and Kane—Alice and Jan hold this exclusive distinction.
In continuing the tradition of providing outstanding professional service, FGK is proud to have Jerome Thomas, a Certified Gemologist and Krista Lovering, a Registered Jeweler. Linda-Kay McLaughlin, Hannah Bing and Gabrielle Cordial are all Certified Sales Associates. Jan Felts does custom pearl and bead stringing. Michele Fergerson Rikard oversees the marketing for FGK. Christina Johnson and Robb McElwee joined the FGK Team in 2022 and have already embraced the long held commitment to excellence.
Although many changes have occurred over the years, some things remained the same by design.
Joe Gittings would say he built his business the way he wanted, by creating lasting relationships in business and community. Generationally, these relationships have continued to grow—with customers, designers, diamond cutters and our in-house team.
The relationship of the FGK team is an important aspect of the business. The company encourages education for all employees who wish to further their knowledge in the field, often attending shows and seminars in New York, Las Vegas, and Atlanta. Thriving together, the current team of eleven resolves to serve customers and the community in a thoughtful and professional manner.
Along with quality service, FGK offers fine merchandise. For over six decades they have offered exquisite diamond brands such as Simon G, Suna Brothers, and Charles Krypell, many of which are exclusive. Watches include Bulova and their Signature Ford, Gittings and Kane brand. In addition to a wide selection of giftware by Beatrice Ball and Waterford, tabletop traditional services of china and crystal are available.
Community service has always been at the forefront at Ford Gittings and Kane Jewelers. For the past twelve years they have hosted a silent auction, Kickback to the Community, that provides a percentage of all purchases donated to the non-profit of a customer’s choice. This year, 14 charities received funding through this action. Both Alice and Jan are active members in a variety of civic clubs serving on numerous boards and committees.
Ford, Gittings, and Kane Jewelers was established on a firm foundation in 1958. Joe Gittings was a monumental mentor for all those who worked with him. Jan Fergerson continues this excellence in leadership as she heads into her 50th year at FGK. Alice and the Team at Ford Gittings and Kane will be celebrating with Jan over this next year as she continues to be the Team mentor. Through the support of the community and innovations from new team members, the company has enjoyed tremendous growth while staying true to the original values of commitment to quality and customer service. Gratitude is evident in everyone at FGK.