A Jewelry Buyer's Guide

Hello David H., Ron, and Orchidians all, I’m waiting for Suzanne
Wade to jump in here. It seems to me that we communicated some time
ago on this very topic.

     I have always wished that there were at least some agency
such as consumer reports which would test products and make
recommendations to consumers ...Ron 
    Why Not?  Why not have a jewelry consumer's report? David L.

Suzanne was researching an article on how to select well-made
jewelry. Perhaps she is composing as we discuss. I do like David’s
idea of a web-accessible resource. What say you all? Judy in Kansas

Judy M. Willingham, R.S.
Biological and Agricultural Engineering
237 Seaton Hall
Kansas State University
Manhattan KS 66506
(785) 532-2936

Judy, Ron, and all, Well, since you asked…

Judy is correct in remembering that I have written about this very
topic. I did an article on jewelry quality that was published in
August, 1999, in AJM, and on plating quality control in AJM in May
2000. I also produced a fair amount of consumer-oriented info (with
the help of Orchid members) for Blue Nile for their website, although
the company actually used very little of it.

As for a quality rating system, the topic has been discussed again
and again at MJSA over the last 10 years, and probably longer than
that. Committees have been formed, proposals discussed, and as far as
I know, that’s sort of been the end of it. When push has come to
shove, there hasn’t been enough consensus or financial support to
actually launch a quality-marking program.

The first problem, of course, is deciding what constitutes “good
quality.” What for one person is barely adequate, for another is
quite good. The extremes aren’t hard to define – most folks can
agree on extremely fine quality, and on very, very poor quality. The
problem is so much product falls somewhere in the middle. Where do
you draw the line?

For example, Ron mentions testing chains for strength. This is very
feasible – in fact, several papers have been presented at the Santa
Fe Symposium discussing methods for doing just this. The tricky part
in developing a quality mark is, how strong is strong enough? Do I
need a chain that can support 60 lbs., or is 40 lbs. good enough? Is
the chain that supports 60 lbs. inherently better than the one that
supports 40 lbs.? And which test do you use? Some chains will perform
better under some test conditions, and worse under other test
conditions. This type of testing is also destructive, so is not
suitable for one-off products. (As far as I know, chain strength can
only be determined by breaking the chain.)

Gathering this sort of “performance” data is certainly feasible, at
least in theory. Chris Corti of World Gold Council in London has done
some interesting work in this area: he presented it at Santa Fe
probably five years ago, if anyone is interested in looking it up.
With X-Ray fluorescence, you can test for underkarating (JVC already
provides this service, with support from MJSA, although I’m not sure
how many people are using it.) X-Ray fluorescence can also be used to
test for plating thickness. Ring shanks can be measured, and
on how much pressure it takes to bend it can be obtained
from physical testing or determined mathematically. Visual inspection
can be relied upon to evaluate whether stones have been set straight,
whether solder seams have been done correctly, etc.

One difficulty comes in explaining to the customer what this
objective data means. For example, would the consumer really find it
helpful to know that this chain suppports 100 lbs., while this chain
supports 30 lbs.? I think you’d have to offer some translation, i.e.,
you need a chain that has xxx tensile strength so the baby can’t
break it, but you don’t want it to support more than xxx lbs. because
that would allow you to be strangled by the chain if it caught on

In the jewelry industry, such explanations have normally been left
up to the retailer, upon whom the bulk of consumer education
traditionally falls. And look how that has turned out: there is a
grading system for diamonds, with clearly defined quality standards
and lots of available to the consumer, and yet plenty of
poor quality diamonds are sold by retailers who assure uninformed
consumers that an I3 is a diamond offering beauty and good value.
(And maybe for some customers it is, as long as it is priced
appropriately. But that’s an argument for another day.)

Having more objective data about jewelry performance available to
the consumer would doubtless be a good thing. But it would cost
money. Someone has to test the materials. Someone has to write up the
results. Someone has to publish the results. Someone has to market
the product and get people to pay for it. Someone has to pay the
lawyers to defend the publisher when the inevitable lawsuits pop up.
(When you name names and say something is poor quality, you’re going
to get sued eventually, at least in this lawsuit-happy country. And
yes, Consumer Reports does get sued periodically by unhappy
manufacturers.) So how do you pay for all this? You can’t pay for it
with advertising, lest you introduce bias into the system. Who knows
how many customers there are willing to pay $100 or more a year to
learn how a particular company’s jewelry measures up? (I would guess
the number is significantly below the 100,000 mark.) So far,
manufacturers haven’t gotten excited about pitching in a couple grand
a year to pay for it.

Another hurdle: jewelry is frequently not a branded item. When I
walk into Zales, I don’t know who made which pieces. And unless I
know Chain Y came from Manufacturer X, I can’t apply the data, even
if it were made available. You certainly couldn’t just label it
“chains from Zales.” Those chains might come from a dozen different
manufacturers, some acceptable quality, some less good. If I’m Good
Quality Manufacturer who happens to sell chain to Zales, and you test
Poor Quality Manufacturers chain and give “Zales’ chains” an “F” you
better believe I’m going to be on the phone to my lawyer in the

A general-book is probably more realistically feasible.
I’d love to write such a thing: I just have to find someone
interested in paying me to do it. :slight_smile: There are similar things
already out theRe: I have several guides to buying colored stones,
estate jewelry, etc. So it’s still a matter of leading the horse to

Well, anyway, that’s my two cents worth. Aren’t you glad you asked?

Suzanne Wade
Phone: (508) 339-7366
Fax: (928) 563-8255

WOW, who’s criteria do we use? Are you talking about how long will a
piece last? if so, under what conditions? Are you talking about what
materials are “natural” or genuine? if so, by who’s definition? I
found in my career that I cannot get the look I want if I make some
designs too heavy which would last longer. I figure the client will
have to be told, for instance, that my 24 karat ring is NOT an every
day ring but, I wouldn’t make in any other material because I wanted
that pure gold look as well as how I could move the metal. We have
resources like GIA to discuss what is a natural stone but, if you pay
attention to GIA you quickly notice that like any other science there
is controversy. Do you stop a craftsman from working while the
controversy is settled? I say let the market decide and stand behind
your work. Buyers must buy from those who are willing to repair what
they make and have a reputation for honesty in stone grading. I think
to discuss the materials like what AGTA and GIA do is much more
valuable than somehow grading what is done with the materials.

Sam Patania, Tucson

    A general-book is probably more realistically
feasible. I'd love to write such a thing: I just have to find
someone interested in paying me to do it. :-) There are similar
things already out theRe: I have several guides to buying colored
stones, estate jewelry, etc. So it's still a matter of leading the
horse to water. Well, anyway, that's my two cents worth. Aren't you
glad you asked? 

Hello Suzanne, Ron, and others: I’ve been inclined to the idea that
what we have been talking about is, in fact, a general information
work, book or otherwise. Personally, I’ve always tried to wage a
low-key guerrilla marketing campaign against bad products and their
distributors. I never infer dishonesty, although I’m sure it’s
prevalent. Rather, I stay focused on the shortcomings of the
product. The customers draw their own conclusions. I may not save
a customer from wasting his or her money the first time, but after I
spend some time with them, usually trying to repair an item, they are
definitely better informed and therefore, more inclined to make their
next purchase with me. Perhaps this could start as a collection of
articles by experienced jewelers discussing their particular
experiences with the limitations of products they’ve encountered. I
doubt this would remain effective in the marketplace if it were in
the trade publications alone. Most bench jewelers know the facts,
maybe some buyers might learn something, but the customers don’t read
these publications. I’d suggest the TV “magazines” such as 20/20,
but they seem more interested in the scandalous anecdote. How about
a video collection of interviews with several jewelers and other
experts in the field, sold over the internet (with little concern
about copyright violation)? Just woodshedding a few ideas. Let’s
keep this alive and see if someone has an idea that might work.

David L. Huffman

All, I do not think it would be possible to come up with a
standardized method of grading jewelry. To me a much more
reasonable approach would be to standardize the training and
certification of gemcutters, casters, bench jewelers, wholesalers,
and retailers. Standardized education would give everyone a similar
benchmark to start from. After the initial certification an
individual could exercise whatever artistic ability they chose. If
the individual strayed too far out of line everyone would readily
notice that they were outside the boundaries of the normal
education. Of course this would mean that the hype and
misnow marketed with jewelry would be illegal. Also, an
agency would have to exist to certify individuals, test them
periodically, review training, settle disputes, monitor the market,
and punish offenders. Not an easy route to follow. If I had my way
a law would be passed concerning ethics. In that law boundaries
would be set on acceptable behaviors and products. This will never
happen because there is too much money involved in the gray areas
of jewelry and gemstone marketing. In Las Vegas this year you will
see millions of pieces of jewelry with exactly matched gemstones all
selling as natural, untreated Ask any gemstone cutter to
cut an exactly matched 5 stone set of any natural, untreated
gemstone. They will tell you it is almost impossible. Yet in JCK
there will be millions of pieces of jewelry made of perfectly
matched natural, untreated stones. Ethically, I say it is very
untruthful. What gives me the right to say that. 20+ years
cutting, repairing, marketing and living with and increasing
unethical market trying my best to stay ethical and make a living.

Gerry Galarneau

Dear Suzanne, Yes…I am glad we asked. Well done ! All of yor
points are valid in my view, but I think we may all have overlooked
the fact that there may be no reason at all for referring the entire
issue to Consumer Reports. They have the staff, the budget and the
editorial direction that would be capable of doing the job very
nicely. To this end I am going to refer the matter to them and see
if they will rise to the bait. I have a hunch that they might,
especially if they have the participation and cooperation of the
jewelry industry. As for the lack of branding, I really don’t think
that this should be a deterrent inasmuch as what we are talking
about essentially is conjuring guidelines as to what constitutes
durability and quality in any jewelry. The ignorance of the public
is monumental and countless questions and uncertainties could be
laid to rest. Ron at Mils Gem, Los Osos, CA.

Hello Ron, Suzanne, David, and Orchid land,

Several interesting observations on the topic.  My extension

experience with the public supports “short, pithy” rather than long
discussions. (Here we bemoan sound bites and how the concept has
bled over to the written word. Compare current issues of Nat’l
Geographic and Reader’s Digest to those published 15 years ago.)
Anyway, general guide-lines don’t need to delve into brands,
breaking points of chains, and deep discussions of The
public won’t want to take the time to read and inform themselves.

My suggestion for guide-lines would be general statements about

quality construction (like how the thickness of ring shanks relates
to wear, bending, etc.) with examples of good and poor quality.
Stone setting would cover things like number & thickness of prongs,
bezels, and open backs vs. closed backs. Chains vary in design, but
weight is a pretty good indicator of strength and whether or not the
material is hollow. There are people who will still purchase based
only on price, but the guide-lines could at least make them aware of
the limitations of shoddy workmanship and skimpy metal use.

I suspect that if we surveyed repairs to determine the most common,

we’d have a good checklist of what aspects should be described.
This discussion is inspiring me to compose a 3-fold pamphlet that I
can print off and make available to customers and potential
customers when I do a show. (Hmmmm. Like I really need another
thing to write at this moment!) With my logo and name on it, the
piece would be more likely kept than a business card, good PR, and
more importantly, generate discussion with serious buyers.

BTW, have a great Memorial Day weekend, and remember those who have

died in service to others - regardless of nation and creed. Judy in

Judy M. Willingham, R.S.
Biological and Agricultural Engineering
237 Seaton Hall
Kansas State University
Manhattan KS 66506

Friends-- I’ve been reading with interest all the posts about quality
control in the jewelry business. I agree that there are real
problems, and the brainstorming about possible solutions is laudable.
But, at the same time, the kinds of solutions put forward make me
very nervous. The last thing we need is to get regulatory bodies
involved. The usual effecy of this kind of move is usually to limit
our choices, and lower profit margins. This is why people fight
getting government regulation of herbal preparations, for example. If
we get legal mandates to standardize training, people like me
(essentially self-taught), and there are many, would be out of a
career. The standards imposed by governing bodies in England, as an
example, make life quite difficult for English galleries and
jewelers, as it was explained to me.

Educating the public seems to me to be the only safe option. We
continue to try to do that. People who really care will listen. Ones
who don’t, well, caveat emptor. It is always difficult to be sure
you’re getting your money’s worth. Again, those who care will
establish relationships with sellers they can trust.

Really, it is the same in every field. People know that there are
rip-off artists, and honest, competent people, and everything in
between. From plumbers to doctors, it is the same. If you get a bad
haircut, you don’t let your hair grow for the rest of your life, you
find someone with a good reputation, the next time.

Just my 2 cents worth–for a Democrat, this rant sounds awfully
Republican! Guess my age is catching up to me.

Please don’t push for interference with the free-market system.
Sounds to me like “out of the frying pan, into the fire”!

Noel and All, Over the years I have worked closely with about 200
different jewelry store owners. Mostly very high end and custom
shops. The main problem as I see it are the jewelry store owners.
From one store to the next they will say anything and everything
they can to make a sale. Show rooms are elegant and the show room
staff is well dressed. That is where it usually ends. Work areas
are crowded, with dangerous electrical outlets, no ventilation,
dangerous chemicals poorly stored, etc Sometimes these conditions
are just from lack of education, although I doubt that anyone would
consider storing Sodium Cyanide on a shelf in a cardboard container
safe or putting a five plug extender into a one plug socket as a
good way of operating. Yes, I have observed these conditions in
many jewelry store work shops. This attitude carries over to the
jewelry made in the shop. Every way to make more profit with less
work is used. Truth is the first casualty as new and bolder wording
is used to further remove any trace of understanding of what the
jewelry actually contains. Gemstone Dealers and Gemstone Cutters
are just as guilty. Education must occur at the Jewelry Store
Owners, Gemstone Dealers, and Gemstone Cutters level. Only education
will solve this problem I will readily take a test, both written
and skill, to license myself as a gemstone cutter and as a gemstone
dealer. If I fail the test, I will study and practice until I can
pass the test. If I cannot pass a basic understanding of my skill
and business then I should not be allowed to be in business. Yes,
most Jewelry Stores would not get a license and most Gemcutters and
Gemstone Dealers would not pass the test.

Gerry Galarneau
See you in LasVegas, Friday 31 May, 2002

I’ve also been following the posts about quality control with great

However, I have to say that there is an underlying “insult” about
the notion of “educating” the public. The public are not idiots.
However, they are - for the most part - living on a tighter budget
than in recent years. Some of the top department stores have been
delinquent in paying their jewelry accounts since BEFORE 9/11. After
9/11, things just got a bit worse.

I live in Beverly Hills. I’m watching people who used to think
nothing of dropping a couple of hundred dollars on a tee-shirt
hesitate about spending half that on a gemstone bracelet. Believe me
when I tell you that they know quality. They also know that
unemployment statistics are growing every day and there is a need to
be frugal.

I’ve made sure that I always have some items that can go for under
$50.00 - alongside the items that run as high as $500.00. It’s a
matter of talking about a piece being “fun to wear” as opposed to
being “an investment” that will grow in value. When the media starts
admitting how bad the economy really is, things might get better.

In a good economy, even the secretaries will take a chance on high
end pieces. The trick is to keep their business when times are
tough, too.


Gerry, First of all there are classes offered in all the subjects you
talk about although none of them are binding and required for being
in business. Secondly, we come back to one of the first questions
raised about Ron’s suggestion for a guide which is who sets the
standards? In this country it has been proven over and over again
(in all fields, not just jewelry) that the people with the big money
will set the standards and they are the ones who sell most of the

While not denying that there are a number of deceptive retailers out
there, I think that this forum is a showpiece of how many
outstanding, caring jewelers there really are out there. I simply
cannot understand your negative attitude about the entire trade (or
for that matter why you are still in the trade if you feel the entire
trade is so riddled with horrendous people). I believe it is up to
those retailers who are a part of this forum to help promote quality
by selling with the same honest and open attitudes they exhibit here.

All, I am hoping that Ron will pursue some of the existing
organizations to encourage them to produce a guide of some sort.
Anything at this point would be a help. In the meanwhile, as
individuals, you can all continue to try to offer a quality product
(backed up with the same kind of guarantees that we and people like
Sam Patania offer), at a fair price, and in doing so you will be
acting as an educator to the jewelry buying public.

Incidentally, for those wondering, we offer a lifetime guarantee on
every piece of jewelry we make, no questions asked. Even when they
run the damn things over with their cars we fix them at no charge.
We also offer a guarantee against loss of stones. If every retailer
were offering a guarantee like this you can be assured there would be
no more junk out there.

And kudos to Suzanne Wade for such an excellent, well thought out
response to this subject.

Daniel R. Spirer, GG Spirer Somes Jewelers 1794 Massachusetts Ave
Cambridge, MA 02140 617-491-6000 @spirersomes

cc, I don’t think anyone is insulting the public with the idea that
they need education. When I go out to buy a cheese from my local
cheesemonger I regularly ask his advice on what I am buying and I
depend on his knowledge to get the thing that I want and what I
expect. I am not a cheese man but a jeweler. When he comes to me,
he expects me to know my product in the same way. This is not
insulting, it is understanding that we cannot all know everything
about something, or even something about everything. I might also
point out that living in Beverly Hills you might have a slightly
slanted idea of how much education some people need. I may be wrong
but I believe you are surrounded by a lot of people who have spent
most of their lives shopping for quality products and they will have
a much better idea of what quality is then someone living in some
other less affluent communities. (I was going to mention specific
communities but figured that I would be guaranteed to insult someone
so I’ll pass on being more specific ( ; .) Long before 9/11 we have
been through economic ups and downs and no matter what some people
have always had money to spend and some haven’t. The top department
stores have always used slow payments in order to increase their
profits, regardless of the economy.

Daniel R. Spirer, GG
Spirer Somes Jewelers
1794 Massachusetts Ave
Cambridge, MA 02140

Your point is well-taken. I grew up in New York City and now live
in “the good part” of Los Angeles. In between, in the early 70’s, I
did time (a term that implies imprisonment because, in so many ways,
it was) on the Gulf coast of Florida. Going from midtown Manhattan
to a place where the streets were paved with sand and seashells was a
definite culture shock. And before anybody jumps all over me, I do
understand that the place has built up significantly in the ensuing
decades…but I digress.

Be that as it may, my husband is from Peoria, Illinois - where we
have many friends and relatives. I’ve found that these folks have a
surprising level of sophistocation. When my husband’s best friend’s
wife showed an interest in (and a talent for) making jewelry, I
suggested that she try to start her own jewlery business. Her
initial response was to claim that “the only kind of jewelry people
around here will buy has to have cows on it.” Well, as a joke, I
made her a cow pendant out of onyx, white jade and rose quartz. Soon
after, she started making some pieces of her own out of gem stones
and all of the gals she knows are lining up to have her make them
some pieces.

I believe in the theory that “if you build it they will come” - and
they’ll recognize the difference in quality between a plastic cow and
an onyx cow.


Let me add another point to this. The one piece of education I
believe we must do is to point out the fact that some of those
fabulous “bargains” that are available at Bloomingdales or Macys are
"bargains" because they’re made by children in Third World countries.

I’ve roamed through the jewelry counters at Bloomies and been amazed
at the prices they’re charging for this season’s hottie - turquiose.
If I price out the stones and silver, then factor in my labor costs,
design costs and the time I spend shopping for the stuff - there’s NO
WAY I could price a piece low enough for Bloomie’s to add their
markup and put it on the counter for $59.00! (Not to mention their
ads that take 20% off the sales price!)

The issue of “Made in the USA” is a major moral concern to me - and
to virtually all of my clients. Once people understand that we are
putting our time and artistry into the crafting of each piece, they
are able to understand why a piece has value beyond what Bloomies is
featuring this week.

On the other hand, you have Barneys, Saks and Neimans…which go to
the opposite insane extreme. I saw a piece at Barneys that was
priced at $3800.00. I asked the sales woman why it was that high.
She looked smugly and said: “Those are real garnets!” Well, my cost
on those particular garnets would have been $9.00. Even after you
add labor, design and shopping time - I can’t imagine how they
justify that kind of markup.

So…IMHO, a major point of education begins with an explaination
about WHO is actually making the piece of jewelry.


Dear Catherine, There is no sense in competing with the stuff that is
coming in from India, Bali, Thailand and Mexico. Much of it is great
stuff…for what it is. And, it is usually very competively priced,
as you pointed out. The big weakness of the foregoing merchanise is
that the stones are almost never high quality and they are seldom
artisically cut. They are consistently mundane rounds and ovals and
the material is usually heavily treated by dyeing, oiling or
otherwise compensating for lack of quality. There is also the
weakness of lack of imagination or design variation.

It is foolish to compete with the mediocre in the sense that you
might be doing what is already being done, but doing it just a
little bit better. It is better to capitalize on your strong points.
Using first class stones which have been carefully cut AND using the
fantastic stones that we already have here in the 'States is the
best way to go.

I will have to admit tho that I frequently buy the finished imported
goods and they sell very well at a good mark-up. They fill a market
need for affordability. The conjecture about who makes it…ergo,
the possibility that some of it is made by children, has two sides.
I have traveled throughout the world and unless you have also, you
cannot appreciate the misery that so many billions of people endure.
The fact that some of these people might starve were it not for the
fact that they are gainfully employed is worthy of serious
consideration. It is almost as if one might be rewarded by knowing
that his purchase might be keeping some poor native alive. Certainly
there are people out there who could easily be accused of being
exploiters, but we have them here in America also. The inner city
sweat shops are no mystery to any of us.

To me, the moral of the story is to concentrate on the things that
we do best and leave the low end to the starving natives…it is a
win/win equation. Ron at Mills Gem, Los Osos, CA.

Catherine, Well, it’s much worse (or better) than you think, and most
people in the jewelry business have NO CLUE, people in the “ar ts and
crafts” businesses, even less. i don’t mean that disparagingly,
it’s just a fact. And just because many products are made by
children in 3rd world countries where the average wage is less than
a dollar a day does NOT necssarily mean p eople there are being taken
"advantage" of. Look, a dollar a day is far better than no dollars a
day, if you are the one starving. Before any of you start jumping up
and down in a politically correct manner, back up and look at the
bigger pic ture.

For many of these locales, this influx of labor opportunities is a
dream come true. it enables peoiple to live and help support a
family, in many cases, where there was NO CHANCE of that happening.
I’m sure there are “sweat shops” of the wo rst kind, but unless
you’ve actually gone hungry and slept on the dirt for long periods,
dont; be too quick to judge what is good and what is bad. For many of
our fellow humans, it’s a Godsend. Oh, it gets worse, at least for us
here. Whether you are aware of it or not, and most are not, many of
the large name ma nufacturers ar having their jwelry products
produced in China and elsewhere in Asia. I’m not talking junk
jewelry, I;m ta lking about well-made, well finished goods, cast and
assembled where the labor is 25 to 40 CENTS an hour, the craftspeopl
e are fast AND good, and finsihed castings cost gold price plus
$1.50/gram for labor. Yes, a 6 gram piece, ornate, with five
stones, can be taken from your mold from the wax thru finsihed and
set for about about $50, including the 14K. Large manufacturers who
suppy the mall stores and many retail jewelers are doing this NOW,
wouldn’t YOU if you were them? And guess what???

Some small jewelers are working directly with manufacturing shops in
China to produce custom work for their customers. Se nd them a sketch
or a CAD file and you’ll get a finsihed piece pronto, well made,
ready for your stones to be set and it’ ll cost you way less than
half of what any local shop (or you) can do. Can you see a reason I
should not do this from my small retail store? I have a family to
feed, bills to pay, and the big boys are beating me up pretty badly.
hey, I’m her e to survive, not judge the perceived inequities of
globalization. And, I’m actually helping to feed MORE people on the
p lanet. It’s a small world and shrinking every day. No onger is it
US and THEM…we’re ALL us.


Catherine, I used to be a jewelry buyer for (A Major) Dept. Store in
Southern California, which was a 21 store part of Federated Dept.
Stores (now defunct.) The standard markup was a minimum of keystone,
going as high as 60% retail m/u (or 2 1/2 times cost) (sometimes
higher.) Occasionally, on a very expensive item, we were allowed to
take a ‘short’ markup of 33% retail m/u. That meant that a diamond on
memo for $40,000 HAD to be sold for $60,000. We could not accept an
"offer" of $59,000 ! ! ! I wish I could get those kind of markups
today ! ! !

To keep it in perspective, I also was office manager for a
well-known colored stone dealer in Los Angeles. Once we sent a $5
garnet ON MEMO to a Zales store. It didn’t sell, and when it was
returned, the stone paper had the “price” on it. They had been
asking $75 for it. Oh, well. David Barzilay, Lord of the Rings

Greetings I have read most if not all of the responses to this subject
and would now like to put in my dime. There seems to be two lines of
discussion here, one of education and the other control of
quality/workmanship. Both very honorable ideas. Lets take education
first. I agree whole heartedly that the buying masses could use an
education in order to better judge what they are purchasing. But how
is this to be accomplished? There has been talk of the use of
pamphlets and/or verbal awareness, again grand ideas. Who will come
up with the educational material? I have been watching posts of
advice to many questions and there is a wide variety of answers and
concepts. So how can a standardized educational program be created,
especially if many of the professional jewelry artists have different
concepts and ideas as well. I have attended a few classes only to be
taught two or more concepts of what a good solder joint is. One with
a fillet so small it takes magnification to see it and the others a
blind person could feel. All of the instructors where supposed to be
jewelers and all taught at reputable schools. I myself have seen what
I believe to be beautiful pieces with non standard shape stones but
the bezels were uneven and some had minor kinks. Would I consider
these to be “schlock” pieces, I think not. Because I know that with
these particular stones a bezel setting would be impossible to keep
an even edge on or to prevent minor kinks. Prongs would have left an
unsightly stone edge and back exposed. Not to have done the pieces
would have prevented the artist from exploring and the consumer from
experiencing the beauty of the pieces. I have to smile at those of
you who have compared yourselves to the tv shopping networks, K mart
Wall mart etc. With the exception of a rare presentation on the tv
shopping networks your work is far superior because your work is by
hand and has weight, most of the network jewelry is machine made. I
believe each of us needs to help our customers by being upright and
honorable, working with them through the design and creation stages,
this is the education that will work. Explain in detail the practical
aspects of your designs, how a prong works and why a ring is not made
of 22 kt gold. A person will purchase what they can afford if they
like it and feel it will last a long time. Whomever of you have repeat
customers have already performed some form of education.

Now control of quality/workmanship. Nice idea but there are many
problems with the concept and execution of such an idea. I am not a
jeweler in the sense as you all are. I depend on a job in the 6:00
a.m. to 2:00 p.m. manufacturing sector. Designing and creating jewelry
is a hobby and my sales are more or less to pay for my hobby. I have
been in the Quality Profession for more than 20 years and have seen
what “controls” can accomplish. If the “controls are too tight they
can break a company and prevent many other companies, who are
completely capable, from doing business with you. If the “controls"
are too loose well, you are back to where we are now except you have
the headache of possible testing and keeping records proving you are
abiding by these “controls”. Guess what my friends, no set of
"controls” comes complete without some sort of audit. If you think
the “controls” are going to improve the workmanship standards, you
need to think again. Those who do not practice good workmanship now
will only go underground, it will not hurt them. Those of you who do
practice good workmanship will find yourselves with a new added
expense which may cause some of you to go underground. I realize that
you are thinking ‘oh no not me’ but you will find survival is a
strange bedfellow sometimes and it causes the best of us to do some
pretty dumb things. I have seen this happen to the old “Mom & Pop"
shops who have been in legitimate business for 10 to 20 years. Do
"controls” really work 100 %, no. Let us take for example the
statement one of you made that Europe has “controls”. If you have
checked out QVC, HSN or any of the other shopping networks some of
their jewelry comes from Italy, India, etc. How many of you have
purchased cut stones from Sri Lanka, Burma, China etc. only to
discover that the pavilion is slightly off center or the girdle is too
thin/uneven or worse yet the table is off center. No, I don’t think
"controls” will work and would be too costly for some of the jewelers
on this list. It is up to us to police our own areas and this can be
done through education, but don’t expect the consumer to go to
classes to learn about jewelry. You must volunteer this
instruct your customer on the workmanship and functionality of your
pieces. Most consumers do not carry loupes or mm gauges to measure
the thickness of a prong or the shank of a ring. The consumer wants
something they like, can afford and from someone they can trust. One
last thing, for those of you whom are not aware, you already have
"controls", they are in place and being followed. The “controls” I am
talking about are honor and integrity, without which you would not
have customers comming back three or more times.

Alright I have gone on for too long on my soap box.

Tom Timms
Arizona USA

 To keep it in perspective, I also was office manager for a
well-known colored stone dealer in Los Angeles. Once we sent a $5
garnet  ON MEMO to a Zales store. It didn't sell, and when it was
returned, the stone paper had the "price" on it.  They had been
asking $75 for it." 

I would not usually defend the chains under most conditions, however
let’s look at this situation. First of all a salesperson gets a
request for an inexpensive garnet. Perhaps they spent a half hour of
their time talking to the customer to get them to the point of asking
to see the stone. Then they have to research where to get the stone.
Let’s assume that they have a good listing of who carries what and
it only takes them a few minutes. Then they have to make a long
distance call to get the stone. The stone is shipped to them and
they pay for the shipping (most dealers bill for shipping regardless
of whether you take the stone or not). Someone at the store has to
log in the stone when it comes in and get it sorted to the right
order. Then the salesperson has to call the customer and spend more
time with them showing them the stone and attempting to sell it.
Perhaps they were lucky and actually made a sale of another stone
that they got from a different source. They still then have to spend
the time logging the stone out, packing it up and shipping it back.
So let’s look at the real costs of selling that one stone.

One hour of salesman's time:  $12.00  (this doesn't include taxes paid on
the salary either)
Two shipping charges:           $10.00  (if they ship through the mail )
Time spent logging in, shipping back etc.:  $6.00
Cost of phone call:                 $1.00
Cost of stone:                        $5.00

Total cost                              $34.00

Now take into account all of their normal operating expenses,
including rent, insurance, mall fees, cleaners, electricity,
advertising, etc.

The odds are that IF they had sold the stone for $75.00 they
wouldn’t have made a penny on the sale. They probably would have
made any money they did make on the setting they put it into.

Of course this is the reason why most jewelers use sliding markups
on their goods, starting with much higher ones on small items (like
$5.00 garnets) and much smaller ones on larger items (like $5000.00

Daniel R. Spirer, GG
Spirer Somes Jewelers
1794 Massachusetts Ave
Cambridge, MA 02140

There is no sense in competing with the stuff that is coming in from
India, Bali, Thailand and Mexico… that the stones are almost never
high quality and they are seldom artisically cut.

I have to echo Ron’s comment on this. On a recent trip to
Charleston, I was looking forward to checking out some of the jewelry
shops and boutiques in the historic Market District. I was dismayed
to find little-to-no American made jewelry. Almost everything was
produced offshore.

I was, however, surprised to find the quality of the metalsmithing
has improved dramatically over what I had seen in the past from this
type of jewelry. Almost scary, considering the retail price points…
until I looked at the stones. Kind of on a par with the junk stones I
toss aside for my daughter to play with when she gets a little older.

I think that’s still our greatest opportunity to differentiate
ourselves. Until those folks source and start using decent quality
we’ll continue to have the upper hand with discerning

All the best,
Dave Sebaste
Sebaste Studio and
Carolina Artisans’ Gallery
Charlotte, NC (USA)