Back to Ganoksin | FAQ | Contact

Ethical question


#1

Hello, Orchidites! This question came up recently at the store where
I work: I do a custom ring design for a customer. Sketches,
drawings, wax, etc…It turns out nice. So nice that we would like
to make a mold and reproduce it as a stock item for the store. Is
this…ethical? Does the customer have a right to assume that their
ring will never show up again? There is a common perception that
most women will die if they see another woman wearing the same dress,
so I would imagine the same would apply to jewelry, especially a
wedding/engagement ring. Of course, any reproduction wouldn’t, by
definition, be identical, (different gems, slight variation in size
and shape…) but it seems to be a matter of degrees, here…I would
appreciate any feedback from all you wise and wonderful jewelry gods
and goddesses. Thanks. -BK in AK.


#2

Dear BK, Usually, when a jeweler is commissioned to do a custom piece
of jewelry, the customer does indeed assume that their piece will be
unique. Talk to your customer, they may be receptive to the idea.

Dean D. Amick
Hamilton Jewelers
Princeton N.J.


#3

I believe this question falls into the area of copyright. The artist
retains the copyright to reproduce the work, although the consumer may
own the original.

Consider a 2-D artist who makes an original oil painting. They make
slides for reproduction in magazines and portfolio. They also make
prints, which are also sold. The buyer of the original oil painting
pays a premium price compared to those who buy the limited production
prints, but the buyer of the original has not bought the copyright
and/or the reproduction rights. To do so, they would pay an additional
price equal to what the artist could reasonably expect to get from the
prints. The artist would also sign a legal form saying they have sold
their copyright to the buyer.

In the order of the jewelry world, you may add value to the original
by signing the piece with your own signature, and perhaps adding the
word “original”.


#4

Assuming that you design and make the ring the design belongs to you.
Even if the customer brings you in a design to work from, if you
actually execute the piece it belongs to you. You do, however, have
to make sure the customer understands this. We have a separate price
for a custom job that the customer doesn’t want duplicated
(approximately twice the normal price) and have yet to have anyone
take us up on it. All of our order forms have a statement to the
effect that we own the design at the bottom and all order forms have
to be signed. Despite all this you might get some grumbling but
remember that YOU made and designed the piece. We get people in
periodically who look at something in our case and start complaining
that it is their design, but almost every time it is someone who had a
ring made up based on an existing design in the case. Occasionally we
have had to show them the casting date and number of the original
piece so that they can see how much older the piece is. People will
think whatever they choose to no matter what you do so make sure there
is something they sign acknowledging who owns the design.

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


#5

If I ordered a custom ring I would expect it to be one of a kind
unless it was represented as a production item. If I were willing to
settle for a production item I probably would not pay to have
something custom made. -

Deb


#6

BK: If you charged the person for design work, wax pattern, ect. it
would be unethical for the store to use the design without
permission. If you didn’t charge for the design, etc., it’s yours to
use as you see fit. In terms of customer relations, you might
consider selling the design to the customer before you use it.

T.S.


#7

Brent, I think that if the customer is under the impression that she
or he is purchasing a custom designed piece, that implies that it is
one of a kind. I think that the only ethical thing to do is to
approach the customer and explain that you were so happy with the way
the design turned out that you would like their permission to
reproduce it.

Joel
@Joel_Schwalb
schwalbstudio.com


#8

We have one customer who we have been making custom jewelry for for
the past 4 years, and Because we keep “his” pieces “his” he has
refered too many customers to count! Most folks request a custom
design for the reason you stated, they don’t want something everyone
else has… In my opion, if it is custom for That customer, that is
where it should stay. (JMHO)

Lydia
Mistress Jewelry


#9

I have had this happen also. What I have done in the past is ask the
person if they would mind if I reproduce this design because I think
it will be very popular. When I do a one of a kind I charge one
price, and it’s there’s only. If they don’t mind if I reproduce it,
then I lower the price significantly. Some people couldn’t care less
and would rather save some money. Other people want an original and
are willing to pay for it. Maybe this will work for you. ~Poppy~


#10

Hi Everyone! What I do in this sort of situation is deal with it
prior to it’s being a problem. I tell the customer when I take the
order that I reserve all rights to the ring to re-produce, ect.
However, I do not charge them for designing, wax carving, ect. If
they do not want me to recopy the ring at another time, then I will
charge them for the design time, wax carving, ect.(Charges estimated
in advance) Generally though, most everyone is happy to have “the
first” ring produced, and hey! it was designed for them! I’m happy
too, because it increases my production.!

Tara in Vancouver where it is just another fabulous morning!


#11
    If I ordered a custom ring I would expect it to be one of a
kind unless it was represented as a production item.  If I were
willing to settle for a production item I probably would not pay to
have something custom made.  - 

If the ring did not exist before the order than you are still going
to have pay to have it custom made whether or not it becomes a
production item later. The other question here is what do you mean by
custom made. When a customer comes in my shop and sees a series of
rings and they want one made up with a slight variation, that is still
a custom made ring. Does this mean that the customer designed the
ring? Of course not. The other thing to remember here is that when a
customer does come to you with a design and you take that design and
interpret it into metal it becomes something you have created. It may
look like what the customer wanted but you made the design up based on
what you believe to be the best and safest way. That imparts
ownership on your part. My ultimate feeling on this though is that,
as with everything in this business it all comes down to disclosure.
If you tell the customer up front that you own the design (or give
them some option for them to own the design) then you do. If you
don’t disclose it until later then you have a problem.

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


#12

I think we’re running into a difference between what’s legal and
what’s ethical. Theoretically, if I design a one-of -a- kind piece,
the design is mine, and the piece belongs to the customer. It might
be legal for me to use that design over and over, but since it was
sold as one of a kind, it isn’t exactly ethical to make knockoffs of
my original to sell at the same price. Also it diminishes the value
of the original if it is indistinguishable from the others. However,
if I were to keep the basic design but make modifications in
subsequent pieces that would distinguish them from the
original, it might be a solution to the ethical problem. Dee


#13

I usually don’t like to moralize, but this string seems to be going.
I am retired now. Now the worlds greatest jeweler, but in my time
made a few good pieces. I always felt that when a customer came to
me and trusted me enough to interpet and or make practical their
ideas, the finished design was theirs and I was simply the
professional jeweler they contracted to make “their” piece of
jewelry.

As most of us know, especially those who spent a lifetime at the
bench, there is very little that is truely original. Once and a
while someone comes up with a truly unique piece of art that is also
capable of being worn. In some of my conversations with the academic
jewelers, the design was the thing, wheather it was practical or
confortable was not important.

If I came up with a design, modified it, desided the best way to
present it and made or contracted it to be made, it is my ring. If
all I do is execute your ideas to the best of my mechanical skills it
is your ring. In times past, the best ways to compliment a jeweler
was to say that he/she (although it was only in my last 10 or so
years of working that I a really met a working woman jeweler) was a
good bench man/woman or a just that the/she was a good mechanic.

don


#14

Dee, The issue here, as I understood it, was that the piece was a
custom work piece. It is unclear whether it was represented to be a
"one of a kind piece", which means that you have to go back to my
statement that it is a question of disclosure. If the jeweler said "I
am going to make you a one of a kind piece that no one else will have"
than both ethically and legally they cannot duplicate it. If, on the
other hand, the jeweler said “I am going to make you a new piece that
I haven’t made before, but I am going to keep the rights to the
design” then both ethically and legally they have the right to
reproduce the piece as much as they like. While it would be nice to
make every single piece one of a kind and totally unique, if you plan
to make a reasonable living in this profession, then it is necessary
to make up multiples of your own work. For that matter, it is part of
establishing your identity as a designer to have multiple similar
looking pieces that create a body of work representing you. It in no
way diminishes the value of most fine jewelry made to make up exact
duplicates of a unique design. If it did then I guess none of those
big name designers out there would be able to charge what they do for
their work. Daniel R. Spirer, G.G. Spirer Somes Jewelers 1794
Massachusetts Ave Cambridge, MA 02140 617-491-6000
@spirersomes www.spirersomes.com


#15

Don, The difference here is in how you saw yourself as a jeweler. I
don’t believe you saw yourself as a designer but as a craftsperson.
This is not an insult and there is absolutely nothing wrong with that
perception. The man who taught me to make jewelry used to say that
the difference between an artist and a craftsperson was that an artist
could make one but a craftsperson could make a pair. (As it happens,
he was both an artist and a craftsperson.) There has always been room
for and a need for both types of jewelers and for any that could cross
the barrier lines and be both of these things.

However, when someone has seen my work somewhere and comes to me to
execute a design based on the scope and breadth of the designs that I
have done and do, then when I physically design and make the piece for
them it is my design. It will always reflect something of my design
and craft work. I will use the colors and textures of gold that I use
on my other work that distinguishes it as my work. Ownership is
thereby imparted to me. If I viewed myself ONLY as a craftsperson
then I probably wouldn’t claim that.

To give an example of this: A customer comes in the store, looks
around at my other work and says to me “I want a ring with fig leaves
on it all the way around it with fig berries and a stone in the
middle”. I have to draw up the design, figure out how to make it fit
in the existing space, make the model and actually create a finished
textured piece with a gem stone set in the center. When I have to do
this, I have created the design. It is not the customer’s design
because they came in and told me that is what they wanted. It is a
part of me. It is a part of my body of work. I have performed both
the design work and the technical work. And as long as I have made it
clear to them up front, the design belongs to me and can be
reproduced. Well I guess we’re back again to what I keep saying. It
all comes down to proper disclosure.

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


#16

Hello All, My story deals with just the opposite side.A few years ago
I bought a beautiful moonstone cab which I intended to set in a gold
ring for my wife.Being quite creative, I designed a ring who was an
original and unusual design for a ring + stone combination.Very
pleased with myself I went to a jeweler who took an instantaneous
interest in my design .Naturally I was flattered but a bit cautious
by his enthusiasm, so I inquired about the future of my design.His
answer was simple: “I cannot give my commitment that I will not use
your design in the future”.Very disappointed I left the store and on
my way home I saw an add about a jewelry course in my neighborhood. I
took eight lessons, learned the fundamentals , fabricated the ring
and got hooked on jewelry. The rest is history. SIMCHA from Holy land.
P.S. It seems that the reason to became a jeweler may be an
interesting topic.


#17

Hello All, My story deals with customer side.A few years ago I bought
a beautiful moonstone cab which I intended to set in a gold ring for
my wife.Being quite creative, I designed a ring who was an original
and unusual design for a ring + stone combination.Very pleased with
myself I went to a jeweler who took an instantaneous interest in my
design.Naturally I was flattered but a bit cautious about his
enthusiasm, so I inquired about the future of my design.His answer
was simple: “I cannot give my commitment that I will not use your
design in the future”.Very disappointed I left the store and on my
way home I saw an add about a jewelry course in my neighborhood. I
took eight lessons, learned the fundamentals , fabricated the ring
and got hooked on jewelry. The rest is history. SIMCHA from Holy land.
P.S. It seems that the reason to became a jeweler may be an
interesting topic.


#18

Maybe it’s just me, but I really, really believe that if a ONE OF A
KIND piece was contracted with accustomer, then it should remain an
absolutely one of a kind… On the other hand if the jeweler who
made this one of a kind piece, sees a potential for more pieces that
cold be manufactured at a profit and offered for sale to other
clients, then it certainly is the responsibility of the jeweler to ASK
the original customer not only for their permission to duplicate the
piece in question, but also to offer some monetary reward for using
what was to be really a one of a kind. This allows the customer the
chance to recover what ever he/she thought this one of a kind was
really worth t them as a single non-reproachable item. Anything less
would in my humble opinion be theft and deceit on the part of the
jeweler or artist who made a contractual (by implication if nothing
else) agreement to produce what the original customer thought he/she
was contacting for. I doubt very seriously that the customer come to
the jeweler wanting a one of a kind piece made for him/her and later
find out hat this same jeweler lied the piece so much that it was
mass, or more that one made without his/her permission. Further more
it’s questionable at best, to reproduce this piece without some sort
of reimbursement for all the time both parties spent in producing
this----dare I say it againOne of a kind, and the value lost when
it no longer a single one of a kind!!!


#19

What about a piece that is very similar? I often create a design,
then modify an element or two to create other pieces. A customer could
argue that the original design was exclusive. Personally, if I
commission a one-of-a-kind piece, I would have very different
expectations than if I purchased a unique piece at a show/store/etc.
How could I possibly know that it was one of a kind? The jeweller
might have sold out on the copies of that piece.

Food for thought.
Jennifer


#20

Richard, I thought this thread had run its course but apparently not.
First of all define “ONE OF A KIND”. Does one of a kind mean a
variation on an existing design? An ancient design? Something Celtic?
Something with circles in it? Then tell me how the customer plays a
role in the creation when they come in and say they want a design with
fig leaves on it? Or they want to add fig leaves to an existing
design? What about if they come in with an Art Deco pin and they want
you to make a ring that matches it? If someone comes in with a 3
dimensional mockup of a truly unique design (something I would say has
only happened in my store once or twice in 19 years) then I might
concede that they owned the design. On the other hand, even if they
do that, how do you know they didn’t go in a museum somewhere and get
the idea from something they saw there? Or from some advertisement in
a magazine?

In my experience, one of a kind is an often abused and misused term.
I COULD call all my pieces one of a kind because each time we make
them up by hand we polish them a little differently or we put beads in
different places, but I don’t. All of my work as a designer flows out
of the work I have done in the past and even some of the pieces I
think are truly unique came out of something I have done in my past.
If a customer comes in and contracts me to do something based on my
designs and the type of work I do, then it naturally will look and
feel like my other work. That is what they are paying me for. That
is also why I won’t do certain types of settings that I don’t like and
don’t think look good in my work.

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