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Even more liability dilemma


#1

I hate to keep asking for advice, but I really need it this
time! Before Christmas I did a remount job, 3 stones in a
freeform ring. One of the customer’s stones was a 5mm round red
stone that I removed from an antique gents mounting. I had my
gemologist test it to see if it was genuine (because it looked
synthetic to me because of the color and clarity, both very
good). It was abraded on the table and the whole culet was just
sheared off, but it was a really pretty face up.

Anyway, her husband just called and said that two of the prongs
had sheared off and the stone was missing. It was in a normal
weight 4 prong 14k gold low base head. I’ve been doing those
common freeform settings for about 17 years now and have yet to
have a stone just “fall out”. The customer said that his wife
was complaining about a couple of the prongs being a little sharp
and was going to bring it to me after Christmas to have me check
it. I told the customer that the stone was probably covered
under his homeowners insurance and to talk to them and call me
back. I would send him a description and a value of her stone.

Two questions:

  1. can anybody give me an approximate value for a 5mm ruby, very
    good color and clarity, but damaged in the manner described
    above?

  2. How would you handle this from a warranty standpoint? I feel
    the customer must have caught the prongs on something or had some
    sort of impact to cause two prongs to fall off ( I always tend to
    be pretty heavy on the prongs just in case…), but the customer
    said she was just doing laundry or cleaning house and the stone
    "just fell out".

Any comments would be appreciated, Thanks in advance,

Wendy Newman


#2

Wendy - you neglected to say whether your gemologist declared it
an actual ruby. In 12 years I have yet to see an actual ruby in
one of those antique gents mounts. However, if it was, the stone
is still next to worthless because of the damage - the only worth
is the “sentimental” value of the stone. When you examine the
mounting, look at the actual breaking surface of the prongs. If
the break appears to be discolored or “druzy” looking, it is
possible that the piece was exposed to bleach or another chemical
that attacked the alloy in the gold. Do any of the solder spots
in the ring show discoloration? If so, that’s a sure indication
of some type of chemical affecting the metal. Good luck, Mike


#3

Wendy, You didn’t mention if this was a long-time customer, or
someone you’d never seen before. It might make a difference in
your perspective since you’ve been doing this kind of mount for
17 years without a problem. Hindsight is nice, but I give an
instruction sheet for the care of rings, ever since one of my
customers did some gloveless gardening in a 2c emerald. Oops! No
housework, especially no doing dishes and gardening. I suppose
because jewelry often seems like pretty sturdy stuff,(metal and
stones), many people think that they can do just about anything
in it. Two sheared off prongs doesn’t sound like she was
dusting, and if two prongs were sheared off, the stone didn’t
just,“fall out”. Best wishes. Lisa @L.Bialac-Jehle


#4

Hi Wendy,

I am sorry to hear about your problem, here are a few thoughts

1- A ruby that size would be approx 0.60cts. and could cost
you $ 800-1000 … since the color and clarity were good.
Sometimes you can get a good buy at an antique store or an
auction, but i dont know how much time you will have. To go thru
their insurance would be the best bet, however their premiums
might go up and thus they will try to hold you responible.

2- If she was doing laundry etc. you can bet she caught the
claws on something. Interesting that in one part the customer
said the claws were sheared off , in another that the stone
"just fell out". When you look at the ring you will be able to
see if the claw have been yanked off ,which would indicate she
caught them on something. If the claws are still in tack then
she may have hit the stone and shattered it and thus it “just
fell out” . If the claws were catching, i think, she had the
responsiblity to take the ring off and not wear it while doing
house cleaning.

In the end it may be more of a moral dilemna rather than a
warranty one


#5

Greetings Wendy-

Why does this sound familiar to me? Of course they are always
"just" doing housecleaning or something,and it just fell out-
they are trying tolay the blame off on your work. You yourself
know what kind of job you did and under what conditions it was
done and if it was done properly. You have to ask yourself if you
want to keep this customer or not and how far you are willing to
go to keep them happy- this will help you decide if you’re going
to eat the replacement cost or not. You should look the piece
over very carefully for any dings, marks, or anything else that
will make you think that it has been misused, and if you find it,
confront your customer with it. I’ve seen this sooooo many times
and the people never fess up and say that they abused their
jewelry and knocked out a stone- it’s always that it was not set
properly or something, especially when the stone is lost. If she
was ONLY doing housework, then ergo, it must be in her house
somewhere or else you have them in a falsehood. If we can find 1
pointers on a shop floor, then they should be able to find the
stone in their own home, right?. Doesn’t ring true to me. I guess
that it’s human nature or someone afraid to tell their spouse
about it. Much easier to blame the mechanic who worked on it.
I’ve seen rings come back a year or more later like this. The
really sticky issues are the legal ramifications of it and also,
the potential damage to your reputation as a jeweler. You have to
weigh all of these things and it is not an easy decision to come
to. I’ve been in the same position and I suspect that every
jeweler has at one point or another. I decided that my reputation
was more important to me than the money, even though I had no
desire to do business with the people again as I felt that they
were dishonest with me, and even though I could ill afford it at
the time, and replaced the stone. At least they can only say that
they lost a stone and that I replaced it free of charge, and not
only that they lost a stone due to shoddy work. It’s the best
possible spin you can put on it at this point. Good Luck with
your problem, your heart will tell you what to do. Regards- Ricky
Low


#6

Sounds synthetic too. Rubies are pretty hard to scratch!

How about the gemologist that examined it?

Sounds like the mounting could have had some porosity too…

but the customer said she was just doing laundry or cleaning
house and the stone "just fell out". >

They always “just fell out” (grin)

Wendy,

I always hated getting those phone calls! Whenever I did though,
I always suggested that the customer bring the ring in to get it
taken care of. Nobody can diagnose anything over the phone.

Once they brought it in, I’d look it over and make sure there
were no obvious signs of abuse (one customer had put hers through
a meat grinder!). If there were none, I would eat the cost of
replacing the stone. It wasn’t profitable to do that, but I
always wanted to take care of the customer. It’s hard to do that
sometimes, but good for the PR.

One alternative is to replace the stone for the customer at your
cost… Another PR thing…

Do you have a warranty policy? If so, it’s good to go over it
with your customer at the time of purchase so the customer will
know where they stand…

And I wouldnt bother the customer with all the details of
replacing the stone. (They dont care that their stone was
damaged… it was granddads ring, etc, etc) I would just tell
them my best guestimate of when the work would be done and thank
them for their patience. If there was any reason I couldn’t make
the promised date, the customer would hear from me as soon as I
knew there was a problem.

Sorry if this jumps around a little.

Dave


#7

hi wendy,

if i had a dollar for everytime i heard ‘it just fell out’, i’d
give you the money to buy a new ruby. i see all types of work by
other jewelers, and most of the time it is the customers neglect
are carelessness that causes a stone to fall out. i personally
offer no garantee other than materials and workmanship, but i’m
a trade shop. you’re customer chose to wear her ring even tho it
was catching, this is like driving a car with a flat, an
aggravating situation that causes more damage. that choice is
not your fault.

however ‘fault’ is not the only consideration. the customers
satisfaction is the vendors responsiblity so you may have to do
something to keep her as happy as possible.

i had a case where a lady ( a business acquaintance of my wife)
had me set her thick girdled diamond in a mounting i custom
made. i thouroghly explained to her that she would have to be
extra vigilant in having her prongs checked because of her thick
girdle. i also informed her to have insurance. well, she hadn’t
had it checked for for 2 yrs 8 mos and when i examined it i told
her she needed new prongs or her stone would fall out. she
declined to have the work done because she thought(!) the prongs
would last longer. the prongs lasted 8 months longer and she
lost the stone and demanded that i replace the stone because
another jewleler had told her that jewe;ry should last for a
hundred years (it does if you keep it in a jewelry box). of
course i refused and referred her to her insurance carrier, she
didn’t have one! she sued me for $1600.00. i came very prepared
to small claims and she still won a settlement of $400.00. this
prods the question: what written garantee do you make? in couort
this lady claimed that i had made no explanation of checking her
stone, or obtaining insurance.

clearly, the loss of diamond in my case wasn’t my ‘fault’ as in
yours but lack of documentation on my part and a little
disagreement as to the facts cost me $400.00.

best regards,

geo fox