Customer dillemma

How many times have we heard…"It’s not that I don’t trust you…but
I have heard what has happened at other places…“etc. I work in a
small country town in country NSW Australia, A customer has asked me
to reset her 18ct Yellow gold engagement ring, into 18ct Rose gold,
well thats not a problem… I hear you say!! Very true… not a problem
til I got THE phonecall… “Now Sharon, it’s not that I don’t trust
you, but, I want to be there when you swap the stones over…” WHAT???
Sheesh I’m glad she trusts me huh?? “… you see I 'm going to give you
my engagement ring…and you’ll be giving me back one that looks
completely different”… ummm well yes isn’t that the whole idea of
the excercise??? hmmmmm… anyway…OK so the problem I have with this
customer is:- * Does she really want to see what i have to do to unset
and reset HER diamonds…??? “OMG… you should see what they do!!” I
can hear the cries. Who is she???.. it’s not that I don’t trust
HER… but you security breach!!! I don’t particularly want
to start a precedent… you know…" you let
* watch you, why can’t
I?” *I don’t particularly want someone looking over my shoulder while
I’m working.

What she doesn’t realize is that if I were to do anything like she is
suggesting I might… there goes my business… and my reputation.

How do you think I should handle the situation??

Stay well

If she wants to watch, sure but it will cost double the estimate…
and reason do you like people watching over your shoulder when you
are doing somehing… ( do you really need her buisness? or is this a
favor you are doing for her???) Bob

With your dillemma I would suggest you let her watch you. Most of
the time I suggest that, they realize I dont have anything to hide and
might gain my trust just by me saying that or they might watch for a
minute or two and then walk away into the showroom or sit and wait.
But there is always that time when your “gut” feeling comes first and
if the sale is not worth the headache. Also plotting the stone, and
letting the customer loupe it when it is loose is always a good idea
But just for futher knowledge its 18kt when referring to karat gold
and 18ct for carat weight. Good luck and be strong = )

Sharon hello!

Well Sharon, your dilemma is familiar. We can blame ourselves and the
media for getting these ideas into customers heads. However you need
to tell it like it is, gently. A gemprint or Sarin report are not
even practical suggestions; the diamond would leave the customers
sight. Tell the customer to find someone else to do the work if you
are not trusted. Might not be how the conversation should start, but
you need to assert your honesty and risk to your reputation. There is
a lot of work out there.

Every time I have heard one of these "watch the jeweler set MY stone"
episodes, a very high percentage of the time there are other problems
with this customer. There is a red flag for you to notice. Usually
you can reason with them and establish the needed trust; watch out


Dear Sharon, I know it,s easy to get your hackles up in a situation
like this, but, the reality is that there are unscrupulous jewelers
out there and they generally dont wear signs around thier necks, so
how is a customer to know? Plus people have been hyped by all the
negative news coverage of our industry. I generally just finish the
ring up ,bring em in, sit them down and get to work.Try to see it as a
bit of P.R., it gives them a more intimate look at what we do and it
can be very interesting to watch if you’ve never seen such a thing
done.I try to keep a sense of humor and be informative.Most people
seem to get a kick out of it.One word of caution though,there are
unscrupulous customers out there also so put all tempting items out
of reach.Just my two cents. Scott Empey -Prism Designs

Hi Sharon, I am a novice in the jewelry Field ( I am a gemstone
Supplier ) but your question got me thinking , Why not make the Ring
in 18k yellow gold BUT DO NOT SET the DIAMONDS , let the Customer
Apply some nail polish to the Diamonds ,( let her use any color she
like so long as its Unusual) Then take the Ring and swap the Diamonds
to the NEW Ring . the Diamonds Will Still have the paint marks and in
the New ring, then show the customer , in her presence use nail polish
remover VOLA !!

please remember you will have to use your words carefully with the
customer or else this will be your last time you will be dealing with
her. tell her back seat Drivers make you nervous and if she is there
it will affect the Quality of your work. All the best

Ahmed shareek
Ahmed Shareek / Crescent Gems
Weekly bargains

Dear Sharon, You are lucky to live in a small town…I too live in
a small town and am a retail manufacturing jeweler. I have had to
deal with this problem ( diamond switching paranoia ) beaucoups times
over the past many years. My immediate reaction has usually been the
same as yours…“if you don’t trust me there is no point in our doing
business !” On the other hand, you can’t really blame the customer;
they have access to media expose’s on the subject and have been
advised that caution is the order of the day.

My advice to you is to cheerfully accept the challenge and invite the
customer to make an appointment while she watches you do her job. You
should probably charge a little extra. After you have done this a few
times you will find that the gossip mill in your small town will
spread the word that you are to be trusted and the ultimate benefit
to you will be a constantly expanding clientele. Furthermore, after
awhile you will have the pleasant realization that people no longer
want to monitor your services. Patience,fellow jeweler in Oz ;we
shall overcome ! Happy crafting! Ron at Mills Gem, Los Osos,

Dear Sharon,

Brign your customer back to your workbench, (make sure you clean up a
bit if you are like me) and take her to school. Sit her down next to
you. Give her a lot of background on what you are doing
and why. Take this person to school. You educating her will leave you
more of an expert in her eyes thay you realize. I would bet she
doesn’t have you do it on following pieces. But if she does, no big
deal. The confidence you build in this person may lead to a lot MORE
business for that skeptical customer or friend of hers. Now make sure
you take your time and show her how careful you are. Remember you are
doing more than selling one job here. I would bet the confidence you
get from her in this project will outway any this indivual sale. You
might even have her do something on the project so that she can say
she REALLY help make her own ring.

I guess I have people looking over my shoulder all the time so I’m
not as concerned, but I have done this with several customers in my
shop and it works well. They leave with even more of a story on how
they had their special jewelry worked on.

Good Luck,
Todd Hawkinson,
TR the Teacher


When a client make a statement like that to me, I thank them politely
for offering the project to me, but I decline the job. I, too, don’t
like someone breathing down my neck when I’m setting stones,
particularly someone who doesn’t trust me.

When someone comes to me with control issues or trust issues, I have
found that quite often, even if everything goes perfectly, they are
somehow not satisfied. A simple job for me can become a headache
that takes up way too much time…time that the client is seldom
willing to pay for. Although lawyers can charge for every minute of
their time, goldsmiths are expected to give it away for free.

When I lived in Florida, it seemed that every month at least one
person tried to scam the store where I worked. They would ask to
have their diamond ring cleaned while they were shopping for an
expensive watch. The eager salesperson would rush it to the jeweler
who would clean it in the back room, and return it to the customer.
The “diamond” was usually a CZ, and the customer would then exclaim
"You switched my diamond!" Luckily, I always spotted it before the
ring left their sight, and they made an immediate exit.

So, just tell your customer “It’s not that I don’t trust you, but I
know of other jewelers who have had problems with jobs like this…”

Good Luck.
Doug Zaruba

Sharon, I happen to have the luck or not of having a huge window in
front of my bench in the little room I work out of in our store in the
mall I work for a chainstore.I have found that most people have an
attention span of about 30 seconds and lose interest.There are some
who end up watching the whole process but most don’t.I sat out in the
front of another store for 2 1/2 years before I moved down the hall 3
years ago and that was much worse.I had one elderly ex watch maker
lean over my bench and his nose dripped into my filings drawer.That
was it I vowed never to work in an open area again.If your bench is’nt
in palin site you should set it up so they can see from a safe
distance.There are security and safety reasons for not letting them
close to your bench(along with health)They have legitimate concerns
for their jewelry too.We had a slime jeweler in our area steal
$400,000 dollars worth of peoples stones over an eight year period.He
got probation and had to keep his store open to pay restitution.He
swapped mostly elderly peoples stones out for cz’s.This has created a
atmosphere of paranoia for every one in the buisness in our area.I
have way more requests but like I said the attention span is short and
after working in a zoo like atmosphere for all these years It is
common place to be watched.Hope this helps J Morley Coyote Ridge

Doug: I don’t set stones, but I do restring for clients. This reminds
me of a situation several years ago, when the manager at Saks Beverly
Hills asked me for a favor, to restring a pearl necklace for a
"difficult" customer in Fine Jewelry.(I never met the woman
personally.) Although the sales associate had the forsight to count
the pearls and record it on the job order,nevertheless, for some
instinctual reason, I still made a photocopy of the piece before I
took it apart to restring. Needless to say, Ms. Lunatic pitched a high
profile Prozac Moment in the store when she came to retrieve her
necklace, insisting that it was missing pearls. She threatened legal
action …until I provided the manager with my photocopy. We never
heard another word from her.This, of course is no help where a diamond
is concerned, just my little “amen” to your message!


and PS: Sometimes picture proof is still not enough with some
paranoid control freaks. If they “intend” to be cheated they will make
sure that it happens, whether you are aware of your role in their
little Mind-Theatre, or not! There was that psychotherapist who asked
me to string glass beads she had bought at a yard sale once…!
Well, let’s just say, you meet all kinds of folks…sigh


My strategy for this situation has been to educate the customer about
the quality and individualistic character of their diamond. With the
customer, look at the diamond under magnification, preferably under a
10 power to 30 power stereomicroscope. You can use a loupe but it is
harder for clients to use since they have to line up the diamond
themselves and locate the areas to be examined. Locate inclusions,
extra facets, naturals or other distinguishing marks (chips, etc.)
and show them to your customer (by the way I charge for this
service). Explain that every diamond has identifying marks. These
fingerprint-like identification marks cannot be rubbed off or
recreated in other stones. You should draw the inclusions on a
diamond grading print and give it to the customer so they will have a
ready source of reference after the ring is done. This ID procedure
has only not worked once. The diamond in question was a perfectly cut
ideal round brilliant, nearly internally flawless 2.5 ct diamond.
There was nothing for her to see, even at 30x except for some tiny,
scattered pinpoints that made no pattern. So, because my shop is so
small, and of course there are liability issues, I offered to pull an
old bench out of storage, put it on the floor and set it up for her
to watch what I did. When I told her that the set up time involved
was several hours and that it would cost an extra $300.00 she balked
and agreed to let me set it at my convenience. We reinspected the
diamond together after the job was done.

Never dismiss a clients concern about trust. Instead reassure her
with concrete steps, answer every fear and let her voice her
concerns. The Freudian approach of letting people talk out their
concerns has it’s merits! After all this she will likely let you
proceed. If this fails, or you don’t want to call her bluff in
offering to do the work on the floor, you must refuse the job. Even
though we don’t want to make an issue of it, the fact is, that taking
in a job is a matter of trust and if no level of creative reassurance
will satisfy her then it isn’t worth the hassle. Anyway, after
setting a precedent you’ll probably be asked to do it again. Anyway,
I myself don’t mind someone watching what I do. I take pride in my
skill and proficiency. My problem with having a client watch is one
of logistics and convenience (I am creatively cluttered and have a
very, very crowded shop. 10’X12’ with a full size, 5 foot tall
jewelers safe, large rolling mill, two double benches, my dust
collector, a 165lb anvil, etc.) As well, clients expect that if you
charge good money to set a diamond it better take a while. Of course,
if your well versed in setting it takes less time than a customer
might think. This likely to cause the client to question the value
of your services (it is also why I don’t do any while-you-wait
repairs. It doesn’t take long to do most rush jobs but I don’t want
my customers to question why I charge so much to do a ten minute job.
They often don’t understand that you have actual overhead as well as
a mortgage to pay.)

Also, always identify every stone you take in. Don’t identify as
diamond, ruby, sapphire, pearl…write down 5.3 mm round red of 6.5
mm round white bead. Also, don’t use words that connote value like
gem or stone. This is standard operating procedure for retailers and
for your own protection. If you erroneously mark a stone as ruby and
it turns out to be synthetic or diamond and it turns out to be
moissenite or CZ you risk being taken advantage of. As well, many
pieces of jewelry are gifts and the giver of the gift may not have
told the recipient that the stones are synthetic…no need for you to
be bearer of bad news. I’ve had clients question this procedure but
when they go to the other jewelers in town and see that they do the
same thing they always come back to me. Just make sure you spend a
little time to make accurate measurements in front of them. If they
want something more specific suggest an appraisal with an appropriate

Hope this helps

Larry Seiger
JA Certified Master Bench Jeweler

I know you don’t want to hear this but I have made a very good
business out of customers like this one, and the best part of it all
is that the so called “high end” chain, and carriage stores send them
to me.

I started out doing everything myself and now 13 years later I have 7
very competent jewelers working with me. The other stores send the
“fussy” to us, the unusual, the particular, and the very
untrusting…We love it!

The real payoff is that usually if you talk them through a job,
explaining all the way, the way a sergeon would; that usually does it.
Their next project is "Phil, call me when you can get this finished
and I’ll come and get it.

It is a great way to build a business. (I know most older jewelers go
crazy just talking to me about it.) But I started with nothing and
haven’t missed a meal in a long, long time.

If I can help, Just call.
Phil Sykes, TreasureIsle, Ltd.

Sharon, I have encountered your situation many times. I simply tell
my client that I would be happy for them to watch. Of course, we have
to make a special appointment and, since I will work on nothing else
at the time, I will have to lay on an additional charge for this
special service. Furthermore, it might take some additional time to do
the job as I will be explaining the process as we go along…sort of a
learning session.

If the client is still willing to go the distance, be all means
welcome them.

In the old days, I never believed that someone would be stupid enough
to switch stones, chip a stone and reset it, etc, etc. Boy was I in
for a rude awakening. I try very hard to accommodate clients in these
situations…maybe they have had a bad experience in the past or know
someone who did. The important thing is to gain their trust. I have
clients today who will not allow anyone else to touch their jewelry
for that very reason. Good luck and hope you make a new friend!! Don
at The Charles Belle Studio where simple elegance IS fine jewelry.

Sharon, I understand your dilemma – I’ve been there myself. I’ve
taken the time to patiently explain that our business is based on
mutual trust, that in the end all I have is my reputation and that I
would’t risk it on something so foolhardy as switching a diamond, etc.
Most people understand and relax, happy to be reassured.

Those who continue to push I’ve walked. I simply don’t want to do
business w/ these people. Even if they maintain that they trust me,
they’re maligning my profession. I don’t believe that any good can
come from an endeavor that is based at some level in mistrust and

My superstitious side says that if I let them watch me set their
stone-- even if I’m a master setter w/ no record of breakage–
Murphy’s law will choose that moment to kick in.

It’s just not worth the risk and the insult to me. If they need
reassurance, then have them bring the stone to a reputable appraiser
or objective jeweler, one whom you both can trust, and have the stone
identified before and after.

I hope this helps. This issue really gets my fur up.

Andy Cooperman

Dear Sharon, I’ve learnt from long and sad experience that some
clients are best done without. I have a firm policy about this sort
of distrust which is unwavering. As soon as one of these ignorant and
paranoid doubters questions my honesty about their stones or any other
aspect of the proposed work, I quietly stop whatever I was doing or
saying and simply hand their jewellery back to them. Usually they are
startled into silence by this. I then say, quite politely and calmly,
that I do not want to do their work because I do not believe that they
are trustworthy. I point out to them that if they are ready to believe
that I will be dishonest, how can I not believe the same of them?
Often by this time they are spluttering that they didn’t mean that I
was dishonest, just “some other jewellers” etc. I remain adamant in my
refusal to have anything further to do with them and start escorting
them towards the door.

Sharon, you don’t need this sort of client - especially in your
situation as a trusted jeweller in a country town. The word will soon
get around and your integrity will soar among the “proper” people who
will continue to support you. Others will have borne the brunt of
these horrible people’s paranoia and distrust too. Unfortunately such
people are always among us, but you don’t have to deal with them.

Sharon, I’m sending you a separate email about the ongoing problems
with trade training. Thanks for your support! Kind regards, Rex

Suggestion from a lurker.

Since you already have a computer it is relatively cheap to add a
digital camera. Take and store on a disk pictures of your customer
wearing the jewelry, pictures of the work order with the item and
pictures showing the key features of that piece of jewelry
(especially where the customer would like you to take note of a
unique feature or as a work specification). Perhaps use a flat bed
scanner for detailed pictures of the jewelry - there should be
archived Orchid posts on the use of flat bed scanners for jewelry.

Make a duplicate on floppy disk for the customer to keep together
with the paper copy of your store’s work order.

Perhaps make floppy disk labels specific to your store’s business and
have printed on it boxes to fill in the particulars of the customer
and a description of the piece of jewelry deposited with you.

Both of you have a picture record of everything and your signatures
on the disk label. In case of a dispute the customer’s disk should
be identical with yours - include this disclaimer on the printed
label and work order.

That should keep any customer happy. You also have a picture record
for any warranty claims.

I must be on a roll on ideas. As a bonus take photos of that piece
after you are done and add it to her disk. It makes an ideal record
for warranty claims or for her to make insurance claims in case of

Kelvin Mok (@Kelvin_Mok1)
Home: (780) 463-4099 | Home FAX: (780) 430-7120

Hello Sharon,

I am a trade stone cutter exclusively now but many years ago I had a
jewellery store and rock shop I have had customers that want to watch
what I do for reasons of trust, interest and unavoidable part of the
job. The latter was a lady that required me to solder her claspless
gold chain making it continuous…around her ankle!

Those customers that are interested because they have never seen
faceting equipment are usually satisfied with seeing the machine and
getting a brief explanation of the process sufficient to remove
whatever mystique they imagined. No I don’t get to sit in the back of
a Lincoln driving up and down Park Avenue whacking away with a hammer
and chisel.

On a question of trust you have to ask yourself if you are prepared to
put up with the hassle and just how much of a premium to charge to
make it worthwhile, don’t forget to add a healthy charge for stage
fright. If you want to back out, just return the trust "If I
show you my secret methods that I have developed and perfected over
the years, I’ll have to kill you afterwards.

I have experienced “customer participation” a couple of
times which didn’t turn out well, they both were the result of
customers not believing my opinion but assuming their suppliers words
were gospel. My fees are based on an allowance of 2 1/2 times as long
to do the job and double normal shop charge per hour. A prepaid
deposit of 40% puts me ahead no matter what happens and the remaining
funds allow for compromising in a poor result, necessary both times

One is reminded of the sign seen in many garages that goes something


$ 75 per hour
with customer watching $150 per hour
with customer helping $300 per hour

If you just aren’t comfortable with the situation even if you get to
work slowly and explain as you go and get well paid for your 'cos
that’s what it is, there are two ways out. Tell her your insurance
company prohibits such participation and advise her to get her stones
appraised and mapped by a competent independent lab, explaining that
this will be necessary for her insurance policy and
appraisal anyway. This will allow her to satisfy herself that the she
gets the same stones. Alternatively offer to make the pieces and refer
her to a professional trade setter for the diamond swapping. That way
you alleviate yourself of the responsibility but have no fear of
either losing a customer nor getting bad mouthed. Most of the big
boys use independent professional setters that do nothing but set,
that’s how we have some dozen or so that seem to be always busy here
in Vancouver. Don’t be frightened of sub-contracting work and not just
in situations like this.


Tell them that your insurance company doesn’t allow customers in the
work area around the benches. Your reputation is worth much more than
any diamond she could produce and it is not for sale (or trade). Offer
to do the job while she/he waits and charge accordingly.
Be nice.

sharon - have been offline for awhile & you have probably already
gotten a workable answer to the ‘i’m right here over your shoulder,
don’t pay any attention to me’ customer, but here is my offering at
the altar of ‘my god, where do THESE people come from?’ episodes in
life: let her know that you do that kind of work only after midnight &
only in the nude. also that she could be perched on the back of your
work stool peering at every move you make, but if you were the type
of person who would change customers’ stones for lesser value ones
you would have perfected the undetectable surreptitious swap by now.
since she is the one concerned advise her to have an x-ray made of
her ring stone made before & after the work, the fee she will pay
isn’t really that much & that’s the only way to professionally solve
the problem. AND, “while it isn’t that i don’t trust you, i would
like my payment for the work in cash only”. ive