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Could you write a check for $100,000?

JewelerProfit tip-Could you afford to write a check for $100,000?

Could you afford to write a check from your checkbook RIGHT NOW for
$100,000? With nothing in return?

By now you probably now I’m outspoken and I can defend myself very
well. There are only a few things I have a tussle with when speaking
to store owners and it concerns customer’s values of their jewelry
while it’s in your store in a job envelope.

I’d say over 75% of you DO NOT give the customer a receipt with a
stated value and description. You think it’s too much work and you
"don’t want to give out free appraisals." Many of you think you’re
saving yourself by writing on the receipt "yellow metal, white stone"
and no value or value is $75.00 or less. “Hey, they signed it!”.

“Look here, David. We can’t be expected to know what every
customer’s jewelry is, whether it’s real or not. We’re busy.”

Funny, you wouldn’t let a supplier sell you goods that you didn’t
expect first, would you? You’re supposed to be an expert in the
jewelry business, so be one.

The reason I asked you if you could write a check for $100,000.00
with nothing in return is I just spoke to a jeweler who did. He had a
loss and it came out of his pocket (no this is not the jeweler I
spoke of 2 weeks ago-update to follow).

I just hung up with a jeweler who was burglarized (seems like they
all call me). He had a dial up burglar alarm, a backup cellular
phone, TL-30 safe and insurance. They came in from the roof, cut a
hole, disarmed the phone lines and then disarmed the cellular backup.
In addition, destroyed the bell so when it did go off, it didn’t make
any noise. They were professionals.

Then they used a laser torch of some type and opened the safe. All
undetected in the dark of night. Took $325,000.00 that was in the
safe of inventory.

They also took all 100 job envelopes-customers jewelry.

The jeweler was reimbursed for the inventory-dollar for dollar. He
had a point of sale program with each piece listed.

He was under covered for customer’s jewelry. Why? He NEVER ASKED the
customer they value.

He had to pay $100,000 out of his pocket. In his words “Thank
goodness we are a strong company, otherwise it would have put me out
of business.” This store does about a million a year in volume.

If you do a million, could you write a bunch of checks that add up
to $100,000.00 just because?

See if this sounds like you. He USED to use the coin envelopes with
the numbered stub on top that is given to the customer. No
description at all and of course no value.

Phew! That’s an easy way, isn’t it?

And it cost him, out of pocket $100,000.00! Guess what? That was
only 100 job envelopes.

Now he does EXACTLY as we had done and I have been preaching for

  1. He bought from Impact Specialties (they sell my job envelopes and
    our designer forms (800) 543-4264 or three part job

  2. He fills in the description of every item in the envelope.

  3. He gets a value from the customer, OR corrects the one the
    customer states if it’s too crazy, OR he tells the customer what its

  4. The customer gets one copy.

  5. The other copy is REMOVED for safe keeping and placed someplace

Leaving the envelope, with and jewelry inside. Now he
knows the values in the store, periodically adds them up so he can
tell the insurance company how much to insure his customers jewelry
for while in his possession.

This is exactly what we did (thank goodness we never had a problem).
On any given day we had 450 jobs in house. I was petrified of the day
we would have a robbery or burglary and I had to face FOUR HUNDRED
AND FIFTY Mrs. Smiths and Mrs. Schwartz’s about their lost jewelry,
much less not having money to pay for it. By the way, the insurance
company doesn’t give you a profit on replacing their jewelry and
guess what else? If Mrs. Smith gave you the ring to have a new shank,

He found what I found. On the AVERAGE you can figure each envelope
was worth $1000. We insured customer’s jewelry for $450,000 all year
long with an additional $150,000 at Christmas as we remade a lot of
customer’s jewelry for presents.

In addition to buying coverage for our customer’s jewelry, we bought
an additional amount to cover customer’s jewelry OR OUR goods while
out of the store that we sent to a vendor.

I knew one store doing $350,000 in business that had the same thing
occur. He under insured customer’s jewelry by $150,000 because he
didn’t get values either. Unlike this fellow, only took him 2 years
to declare bankruptcy.

There’s a 2 store chain I know (can’t tell you who) that does over
25 million in sales. One store was held up at gun point before
opening and the safe was emptied. They had under estimated customer’s
jewelry for over ONE MILLION DOLLARS. They could afford it.

They now ask for customer’s value with signatures.

I want you to train the staff to start getting values. Not next
week, not after Christmas but NOW.

Here’s how. After writing it all up, ask this question just this

“What value shall I put on your jewelry while we have it in our

Notice I didn’t ask what’s it worth? (The only come back from the
customer would be ‘I don’t know, what do you think?’) “What value
shall I put on your jewelry while we have it in our store” gets you a
more direct response. If they say “I don’t know”, it’s either

  1. They don’t know, or 2. They want to see what you think.

If they don’t know, ask “Do you have it covered under your
homeowner’s policy or have an appraisal?” or maybe “Do you remember
what you paid for it?”

If they say “What do you think?” come back with:

“We’re not trying to do an appraisal, just having values for our
insurance coverage. Do you remember what it cost you?” See how I went
past the question?

If all else fails “Well, in our store this type of item is tagged
for around $900, I’ll put that down if it’s O.K.” Most times it will

You’re not trying to be precise. You just need “close is good
enough”. The customer is not going to TAKE YOU. Even if they did,
could they get you for $100,000? Don’t think so.

What if they have a 3/4 carat round, J, SI2 and tell you $15,000?
Briefly educate them about what it sells for in your store. If they
don’t back down I’ve told people politely “We are responsible for
theft while in our possession but that amount is way beyond what we
deem necessary. We’ll have to decline working on your ring, I’m so
sorry.” That usually solves it.

We’d do almost 9000 jobs a year and probably didn’t have 6 problems
a year with this procedure.

So start getting descriptions and values keep receipts separate from
job envelopes and add the values up 4 times a year.

This is one area you probably have a slim chance of having big
problems (burglary or robbery) but if it happens, this are could wipe
you out.

David Geller

Sheesh. After reading this, I’m deliriously happy that jewelry is a
self-supporting hobby-level business for me, not my bread and
butter. I do it because I love the materials and the results, but
that would disappear pretty quickly for me under these conditions.

Those of you who make your living this way: You must be pretty

Tas <–sort of cowardly, I guess


I cannot afford to write you a check for $100K right now. I will
someday have that kind of money. If I had that much money I would
buy myself a jewelry store here in Kansas City, Missouri.

I am a Jewelry Lover and have always enjoyed jewelry. It’s in the
genes. My Mother used to sell jewelry for Park Lane back in the
1970’s and early 1980’s. I love Park Lane jewelry. My favorite
designer right now is either Chanel or Schiaparelli. I have designers
tastes on a beer budget. I think the saying goes, “Champagne tastes
on a beer budget.”

That was certainly a very interesting e-mail message that you wrote.
Thanks for sharing.


Those of you who make your living this way: You must be pretty


It is a creative use of obsessive compulive disorder. When I opened
my retail bussiness with no savings and no income, after 6 months I
realized either I was stupid or I had faith. Thirteen years
later…I do what I love, and love what I do.

This does not mean I have control over stress in my life. I did learn
recently what to stress over and what to let go of when my wife of
twenty two years was in intensive care for two weeks on a respirator
and then in a care facility for a month due to catastophic

She is learning to comb her hair and walk again (54 years young)
being basically quadrapaligic after being in a drug induced coma. It
has been a rough go for the last two months, she is doing better
every day with no setbacks. And I learned that I had strength I did
not know I had, and I am a lot less whiney.

I had to be there for her first and also keep up with custom wedding
bands, engagement rings ect. that I had committed to.

I was extemely proactive 24/7 about everything that was being done
medically and care wise. I intervened several time in what I believed
were circumstances that were critical to her recovery.

I am extermely fortunate to have a business where my customers
largely are from the neighborhood where my business is located. We
arel ocated within two blocks of business in a residential
neighborhood and we have personal relationships with many of our
customers. There were literally hundreds of people praying for my
wife. They were incredibly supportive as they learned of our
situation. It truely is a community, and I am very grateful.

Richard in Denver


25 million in 2 stores? Could you hint how they do that?

Here in Holland the customer should insure his own jewellery. Not the
store. It’s covered under the “temporal elsewhere” clause.


Those of you who make your living this way: You must be pretty

No I cant write a check for 100 grand, and I took an uninsured hit
for aprox $30,000 in late November 2002- a masked individual smashed
the front of my store out during the night, and smashed glass in all
the cases, grabbed what he could in less than 3 minutes, and ran as a
person walking home from work saw him and yelled. My alarm had been
disabled, but we got him on camera but that didnt help. In my city,
the likelyhood of this being a police assisted operation is very
high. I am still in business, but I don’t think bravery is the
issue. I often wonder if stupidity mught be more like it. But then I
have been at the bench for around 35 years so its really all I know
how to do. I have been self employed for so long that I seriously
doubt that I could handle working for someone else now. I probably
would be deemed as one who 'doesnt work and play well with others’
at this stage of the game. Ed in Kokomo

Sorry, can’t give out the name, but they are well known. Might be
your way in Holland, but you don’t want me to exchange American
customers for Holland customers, would you? We sue and win.
Responsible retailers buy insurance on everything here.

David Geller

510 Sutters Point
Atlanta, GA 30328
(404) 255-9565

David Geller’s recent post reinforces the importance of careful
description and documentation of customers’ jewelry received for
repairs and cleaning an reminded me of one of the most powerful
learning experiences of my 30-year career. Perhaps the story of my
disaster will help someone to avoid a similar painful experience.

I work out of a studio behind my home and while I primarily create
one-of-a-kind work, I occasionally do repairs as a convenience for
my customers. As it happened, a woman contacted me some years ago
about doing several small repairs for her and had her niece deliver
the items: a light weight gold charm bracelet with a half-dozen
charms, a simple white gold cocktail ring set with a pair of 6 mm
pearls, and an old-fashioned 10 karat man’s signet-style ring which
included a flush set round white stone about 3.5 mm in diameter.
Both rings were to be sized up and two charms soldered to the

As I customarily did, I wrote out a receipt for the items being left
with me, describing them as accurately as I could. Having no way to
test the “round, white stone” in the gents ring, I described it as
such rather than record it as a diamond. Here I made the first of
several major mistakes. I failed to ask the customer to establish a
value. I also failed to photograph the items.

Several days later, I completed the work required and brought the
envelope containing the work in from the shop, setting it temporarily
on the end of the bar which separates my kitchen and dining room.
This was where I typically left tools, notes and work prior to
delivery or to remind me to carry them out to my studio. Unbeknownst
to me, later that day one of my cats decided to treat the bag of
jewelry as “prey” and knocked it from the bar, where it fell into a
trash can which my son later emptied. By the time I had realized
that the jewelry was missing, had searched the house from stem to
stern and finally pieced together what had happened, my customer’s
work was in the city landfill. Regretfully, I contacted the woman and
explained what had happened, offering to either replace her jewelry
with comparable items or compensate her for the value of the lost
jewelry, anticipating that my homeowner’s insurance would cover the

Of course, my customer was upset (understandably so!) and decided
that she wished me to find replacements for the lost items. After
much searching, I was able to purchase good matches for the cocktail
ring, charm bracelet and charms and delivered them to her. It was at
about this point that my customer declared that she had decided she
was not interested in replacements after all and wanted the full cash
value of her lost jewelry. She also produced an appraisal which she
claimed was for the gent’s ring. Many details about the "appraisal"
left me suspicious, but the kicker was the description of the small
stone, listed there as being a “.75 carat brilliant cut diamond, v v
1 clarity, of excellent color.” NO WAY!

Ultimately, when I contested the fishy “appraisal” and my customer’s
exaggerated value for her work, she sued me. The judge found in her
favor, and required me to pay her $5000 for jewelry worth about $1500
on a good day. On top of that, I was stuck with the replacement
jewelry I’d purchased at her initial request, a substantial
attorney’s bill and a claim against my homeowner’s insurance that
resulted in cancellation of my coverage by that company. Inthe end,
a cat, a crooked customer, and my naivete cost me close to $8000.

My point to all is to carefully document what you receive, backing
your verbal description up with a Polaroid or digital image, ask the
customer to assign a value, and be sure your insurance covers what
you think it does. (Oh yes, and don’t put valuable things where
klepto cats can disappear them!)

Walk in Beauty,
Susannah Ravenswing - who learned from her mistakes
Jewels of the Spirit
Winston-Salem NC