I honestly thought after 50 years I had seen everything in this industry. That is until a friend asked me to repair his damaged silver ring. The stone had fallen out and the bottom of the band had been crushed. My friend knew it was just cheap, but he had grown very sentimentally attached to this large bold ring, so I agreed to see what I could do for him.
When I got the ring back to my workbench, I realized just how cheaply this thing presented as a silver ring had been crafted. The stone had been glued in and the silver was actually electroplated over concrete or plaster of some sort. Imagine a heavy silver plating and that’s what I was working with. The concrete or plaster created a very heavy-feeling ring that had almost no silver on it, but the weight of it achieved the illusion of value.
I was able to somewhat fix the ring, but certainly not to my normal standards. The labor-intensive efforts that had to be used to create this ring are staggering. How could someone afford to go through this complicated manufacturing process in order to use as little silver as possible? All that effort to deceive a customer.
In other countries where the labor cost paid to a jeweler is an obscenely minimal amount, it’s easy to see how the reduced material cost was the company priority with no need to consider how labor-intensive the process is. Even here there are those who just look to do things as quickly and cheaply as possible with no regard for anything but the dollar.
A few years ago I was asked to serve as an expert witness in a legal case. A store owner had sold two .75 carat diamonds to be mounted on the sides of a 3 carat diamond solitaire. This owner looked for the cheapest mountings he could find then went to a jewelry district and searched for a setter to set the stones as cheaply and fast as he could find!
Most of the jewelers told him the mountings were too small and the stones would not fit, but he finally found one who agreed to set the diamonds very cheaply while he waited. Done deal and the owner delivered the ring to the customer.
Three days later the customer returned it. The 3 carat diamond center stone had sheared in half.
Then I got the ring. I could not believe that any bench jeweler could be so negligent that he could cause this to happen. Because the mountings were too small, the side stones were jammed up against the center stone. The girdles of the side stones were pressed against the pavilion facets of the center stone. One good bump caused a perfect cleave and the store owner was doomed.
Bench jewelers laugh about one of our favorite analogies – the tattoo artist. Would you pick your tattoo artist by who is cheapest? I hope not!
Just looking for the cheapest labor is not a good solution. As a store owner, you don’t want to sell items that can wreck your reputation. When you are outsourcing your repairs or custom work, look for quality and warranty, instead of just cheap and fast. Consider taking your in-house jewelers to shows to look at the quality of the products you want to sell.
Your reputation will appreciate it.