BRADENTON -- Third-generation jeweler Steven Dangler made his first ring out of wax when he was 8 years old.
Quite an accomplishment for a kid but four decades later he was tasked with repairing an Olympic gold medal, his most impressive feat to date.
"I felt like I was a part of something bigger than the normal scale of life," Dangler said. "I really can't put it into words."
Dangler had mixed emotions of excitement and hesitation when Olympic gold medalist Demetrius Pinder walked through the door in September with a damaged medal. The Bradenton Police Department had suggested Pinder might be able to have his medal refurbished there.
Pinder, who trains at IMG Academy, became an international story a second time when the medal was stolen out of his Dodge Ram in west Bradenton. When the Bradenton Police Department recovered it, the medal was damaged with scratches and scuffs as the thieves looked to either melt it down or sell it for cash.
The man charged with the theft, Allen Nichols, 23, remains in custody at the Manatee County jail for violating probation following another arrest and charge for grand theft from a vehicle Nov. 26.
The story ended there until now.
After Pinder smiled with his medal around his neck again, Bradenton Police suggested Pinder pay a visit to Jess Jewelers, 1312 Sixth Ave. W., to see whether the staff could repair his medal.
"I didn't believe it at first. Who really sees a gold medal all that often?" said general manager Ken Alicea.
At first glance, the medal was a little rough around the edges.
"Whoever had stolen it had tried to file it in several places trying to see what way underlying to see if it was in fact gold," Alicea said. "They did (a) significant amount of damage in several different places with the filing. It was pretty dinged up like it had been tossed around. It was not in the best of shape."
Dangler was assigned the task from Alicea, He's set diamonds that were worth the price of homes, but this -- a gold medal that had been recovered from a thief -- was different.
"I've seen all kinds of things, but I don't think there was anything ever with the magnitude of the energy of having this been stolen, recovered and right at the brink of being melted," he said.
Dangler donated 14 hours of labor over the course of two weeks to repair the medal.
After an initial exam of the medal, Dangler found what many recent gold medalists have discovered.
"Holy Moses, this thing isn't gold," Dangler said. "Then we immediately went online and Ken discovered the real facts that it wasn't really gold."
They're silver medals with six ounces of gold mixed into the silver and later gold plated. The London medals were made by England's Royal Mint and designed by artist David Watkins. The 1912 Summer Olympics in Stockholm, Sweden, were the last to award solid gold medals.
Dangler didn't have to call the Royal Mint for advice, nor check with the International Olympic Committee to see if there was some sort of warranty for the medal. It does turn out that Olympian medalists can request replica medals to use for show, Alicea said.
After looking through photos, videos and articles online, Dangler handcrafted the medal back to life using every ounce of his 41 years of jeweler experience -- back to that wax ring. He was so careful, he didn't touch the medal with his tools for two days.
"I don't want to sound like I'm bragging, but I don't know many other people that can figure out and get flat surfaces back to flat that were truly gouged out of a coin," Dangler said with a nervous humbleness in his voice, "It looked absolutely in mint condition when we gave it back to him."
If there's one day he missed experiencing, it was when Pinder received the medal around his neck again and looked at the medal. He hasn't heard from Pinder, but knows that Pinder would be proud, considering the joy on his face as the track athlete showed off the gold in photos.
Dangler would love to repair other Olympic medals, but hopes it's not a result of theft.
The chances are good. Pinder is training for the 2016 Olympics. And Ellenton Ice and Sports Complex is a training spot for competitive figure skaters at the Olympics.
"Under the circumstances I would never want to do it again, but if somebody's medal was damaged I would be honored to work on it," Dangler said. "I hope nobody's medal is stolen again."
Charles Schelle, Herald business reporter, can be reached at 941-745-7095. Follow him on Twitter @ImYourChuck.