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In-store jewelers

I wonder if any of you who operate trade shops have had experience
with some of your accounts wanting an “in-store jeweler”. I operate
a fairly busy trade shop and we service perhaps fifteen mid to large
size jewelry stores. A couple of them have remodeled their mall
locations and have included a pitifully undersized “corner” for a
jeweler. They then make it known that they expect a man or woman to
sit in their store and be available to do their goldsmithing. Most
do not have the volume necessary to support a goldsmith, but make big
promises to get there if only they had a person on sight. If our
shop won’t do it…then they will find someone who will. We have
tried to explain the kind of volume that it takes to make it a full
time position so that it is financially feasible, but all they seem
to see is that little closet with a window as the answer to all of
their problems! It has been frustrating because we hate to just back
away from the account. I don’t want them to learn a lesson at my
expense. By the same token, we have to be vigilant with our expenses
and labor costs. I guess my inquiry is looking for some solutions,
and perhaps you have had experience in working through this dilemma.
I wish I could find some studies that have been done and some numbers
to back our position. Kevin R.

It could be that they’re not expecting the repair/custom operation to
be self supporting. They may think having a bench jeweler in the store
will encourage folks to think of them as a ‘full service’ organization
with a resulting increase in other business. In any case, if it were
me signing on as their ‘bench jeweler’, I’d want a very good
multi-year contract. If not, you might be out of a job in a year.



It is a sign of good times . the economy is booming…more chain
stores are popping up like crazy…in the last 20 years i’ve seen the
in store jlr and the service center come and go…the in store jlr
can’t make a living for more than 3-5 yrs due to high turn over of
mall store mgrs it is a revolving door type situation…the service
centers don’t work out to well because all the infor between cust,
salesman and bench jlr breaks down in the scheme of daily life…so
they all revert back to shops like mine and yours. if we can stay
afloat during the transistional periods…my advice is to send a
fairly good employee to the store for two or three days a week this
is a pain but it will keep you in the loop. good luck lisa

Kevin: I spent about 10 years working as an instore jeweler for large
Mall Jewelry stores. Here is the best and the worst of it.

  1. You are usually on a lease operation basis and you are allowed to
    do work for other accounts on the premises i.e… Your private clients
    and other jewelry stores. The draw back to this is you are always at
    the command of the store you are leasing with. Their work comes first
    and must always be done quickly and perfect.

  2. the lease store usually provides a price list which you must
    follow when charging for their work. If you can talk them into letting
    you do custom work it helps the gross as well as the bottom line.

  3. You usually have set hours and days they want you to be in the
    store. Very little flexibility here.

  4. The lessor always seems to play a little game that goes like this.
    When it is to their advantage you work for them and when it is not to
    their advantage you work for yourself. they always choose the way that
    is best for them.

  5. Check with the malls about use of flammable gases. Most malls will
    only allow water torches after a major mall explosion connected to a
    acetylene torch and a remount jeweler.,several years ago.

  6. I have made a reasonable living as a lease operation and sometimes
    a very good living, but you usually need 3to 4 accounts to do really
    well and stay busy . I usually solicited nearby stores,out side of the
    mall, or pawn shops for their repairs and picked up and delivered on
    the way to and from the store I was located in. Lease operations are
    not some of my happiest times in the industry over the last 25 years
    but also not the worst either. A lot of politics involved with store
    personnel and and regional managers etc. One store I worked in for 3
    years had 7 store managers in that same period. Then there is always
    the sales people and the regional and vp’s etc. can get crazy. Hope
    this helps. If I can be of any other help or give other information
    feel free to contact me via e-mail. Frank Goss

The store that I work as a bench jeweler in has been running that way
for about 50 years now. Granted, it is not a “mall store,” but a
private, family owned place that does enough repair/custom work to
keep myself and one other very talented goldsmith busy as well as a
local repair shop that gets a fair amount of work from us. Th
customer really likes to know that we are right there on premise,
easy to see, easy to get to, their precious items stay
right there in our store etc. It does work very well for some of us. A.J.

I had a trade shop for 10 years and have run into this quite a lot.
This is the way I see the problem, and have approached it with them.
First, for me to pull one of my jewelers out of a well equiped shop
to work in their closet and be unproductive for me costs me at least
$200 per hour. If they would like to pay that kind of salary, we may
talk. Second, if they would like to actually have all the necessary
equiptment in their closet, that would be more enticing. No one can
do a proper job without the proper tools. Quality work takes
quality/the right tools. Next, as you said they need to have
sufficient volume to support someone and their salary. Many many
stores do not. It is too hard to get a good set of hands. To give
them up is not smart business.

Last,  what if you get tied up with a big project. How much money

should you have to lose for them.

Just some food for thought.
Phillip Scott

Kevin, I work in one of those “pitifully undersized corners” I have a
large window that looks out into the hallway of the mall so people can
see me work.I also do work for three other stores in the same room.My
corner is about 6x10.It is much more efficiant than the large store I
used to own.I don,t lose anything in a room that size and my tools are
layed out better I have a rolling mill ,buffer,ring
strecher,steamer,ring cutter and my bench set up.I have drawers and
cabinets on each side of me which gives me plenty of room for storage
and I have a small stainless steel sinkI get tons of work just from
the fact that Iam there.I work on a split with the store most repairs
are triple keyed .Example ring sizing down 18.00 store gets twelve I
get six…Customs and special orders are keyed(%50).I have a line in
the store that I key with the store.Most galleries take fifty percent
anyway.I keep all my scrap.I set my own hours.I make a very good
living out of that store and I am only there three days a week during
the off season.I hired and apprentice to help me. To free me up so I
can do more art style jewelry.The store I have a bench in does much
better than the stores I don’t have a bench in.If you are in the
buisness you know most people 1.don’t like to leave their
jewelry2.don’t trust jewelers with the ring their grandma just left to
them.It works for me right now.I would be interested to know if anyone
knows if those repair while you wait kiosks are makin it or not.Best J
Morley Coyote Ridge Studio where the harvest moon is sailin across
the heavens

Please give me you opinions involving employees, training, and paying
everyone while training.

This is the scenario. I recently bought equipment for design and CNC
milling. I paid for the training, and the employee was paid a wage
while in training. I am now expecting a commitment from them to take
an extra two hours a week as homework on their own time. Everyone
thinks this is unfair. As a small store owner, am I expected to pay
everything, and get no investment from an employee? These are the
same people who want increases in their wages, but are not willing to
take on more interest outside of their 40 hour work week. I am
frustrated. Andrews

Hi all I am one of those people that has a kiosks in the mall. Not
one. But 2 malls. I do all the big stores and the small one also. I
have ran into the same thing. I also have lost jewelers to the same
thing. However now they are not working. once they get the big head
and go on to work for a store they never make it. I pay good and
every week.they in 4 or 5 weeks they are looking for money to
pay there bills.and then a never takes money to make
money.and it takes time to make it start turning around.wood i open
anther one Ina another mall. yes. its a good buiness.if you are on top
of it all the time. 12 hours a day 7 days a week is hard but it pays
off. some day I will sell the 2 stores and them I can say it was all
worth it. Linda

I had a problem a year or so ago that a store I worked with was too
large a percentage of my business. When they made demands that I
felt were inappropriate or just plain stupid, I felt pressure to
compromise. I solved the problem by increasing my business in other
areas and decreasing the amount I did for them so that they were less
than 10 percent of my business. I no longer had the problem with
feeling like I was compromising my business or my goals.

It sounds to me that you have already made up your mind that you
can’t work the way that the mall store wants you to, but perhaps they
are too important to you financially to say no.

There are other reasons why not having any one store as too large a
percentage of your income is important as well. Personally, I think
having your employee in a store where you can’t control them is also
a serious business problem that can’t be overlooked.

Larry Seiger

I am afraid I agree with your employees Andrews. I have a nine person
shop and I automatically pay them for any work related time. Your
employees are not getting the financial benefit that you will from
the profits generated by there work on the CNC. You should be
grateful to have your talented employees and compensate them for
their time. Or course some will rise to the top, they will become
more interested and may of their own free will spend time on there
own advancing their knowledge. Those people will be the ones who get
the jobs that use the new system. Their production/profit per hour
will be greater than the others and they will be better compensated.
But for the sake of good employee relations don’t expect them to use
there valuable free time to benefit you. Remember you and I may be
workaholics who forsake all outside interest for our business, but or
employees actually have a life. Mark WI

Well you asked for opinions.

I have several companies in the UK running design.

We expect to have to pay for staff to :- do extra training give then
time off with pay for both the course and the preparation for it give
them time off with pay for exam preparation and to take the exams to
ensure that the work they have with us extends their skills base in
accord with the training they are undertaking.

We expect them to play hard, go to films, immerse themselves in art
galleries, plays, music and culture (cheap and high) and become well
rounded aware profession designers who have their fingers on the

We expect some of them later to lead the culture and to be the
innovators of the future.

When they qualify we realize that we will have to pay them more and
they may leave us for another employer - but hey - that’s business! We
can always head hunt from somewhere else…

Tony Konrath
Gold and Stone

Hi Kevin, I was broke-in doing mall stores. I worked for an
independent in a bailey, banks and biddle and we did about 5 stores.It
was good to be his employee. then,I was offered to be employed by
helzberg as the in-store jeweler and lasted only 1 year. It was very
stressful and the store did ungodly business. I would have to turn
out up to 120 jobs per day by myself. They would make you feel so bad
if anything was less than perfect and with a work load like that
perfect was sometimes hard to find for me. I had to teach myself how
to do everything they asked for, right or wrong, but I tried hard.
Finally I couldn’t take it any more and walked out. I’m not proud to
say that I did that, but it couldn’t be helped at the time. Since
then, I spent 3 years in a silverman’s store as an independent before
they closed them down. It was a very good situatuion because I set my
own hours for the most part and I was treated with respect.Those two
things made the other B.S. tolerable. I now work out of the home,
still doing wholesale for the “stores” and I will never go back. The
people change and change their tactics when it comes to getting the
sale. It seems to bring out the greediness in otherwise decent folks
when they need something and the jeweler becomes a pawn - just get a
new one if this one burns out. Honestly, I would rather clean houses
for a living than work in a mall store again. Please think about it
carefully and realize the worst that can happen WILL. Patty in

We feel all employee training pays for itself in the long run and
offer to pay for any and all expenses associated with it. We do have
a program set up, however, in which the employee agrees to work for us
for a certain period of time after the training (determined by the
cost of the training) so that we feel they have paid us back in some
way. If they choose to leave us before the time period is up, they
are obligated to pay for a percentage of the training costs (again
based on the cost and the time they remained with us). I might point
out to you that unless it is specifically written into a work contract
it is ILLEGAL in most states to force employees to work and not pay
them for that time. Even if they volunteer to work for no pay, they
can later sue you for not paying them for that extra work. The work
contract needs to be something that was originally given to them when
they started employment. If you are going to change the contract it
needs to be done in writing as well and they have to sign off on it.
This is a good reason for anyone hiring employees to have all of your
employee job descriptions in writing prior to employing them. Job
descriptions should include all their responsibilities, hours worked,
pay and benefits, etc. in detail. It is also a good reason to have
regular written job reviews for each employee so that if you are
having problems with them and need to fire them you have the reason in
writing. This applies to small operations as much or more than in big
operations because all you need is one disgruntled employee who sues
you and you can be out of business–either from the settlement or the
lawyers fees–which is a hell of a lot worse than spending a little
time putting all your employee stuff in writing. While we’re on this
topic, you should also have all your work policies regarding sexual
harassment, discrimination, etc. in writing as well. Don’t leave
yourself open to a lawsuit in our wonderful litigious society we live

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

I also work in a pitifully small work area. I would like a bigger
work area, but hey, I cannot complain. I work in a mall (though
thankfully I am not exposed to the general populice) I work for a
small , family owned business. I honestly have more work than I can
do on most days. I would say the repair dept. in our store (which
consists solely of me) generates approx. 30% of the income for the
store. Also, my stock stuff for the store generates another 20-30%of
the income. Alot of the time, we will buy loose stones then turn
around and buy mounting and mount the stones in-store. It makes for
a great markup (rather than the normal 2-2.5 we can sometimes
generate up to a 10 markup) So , that accounts for about 50% of our
business. And then the stock that is made from scratch demands even
higher amounts and costs the least in amount (more in time, but the
benefits are surely there.) If I have to hand make a piece for a
customer, I tell them it would cost about double of what it would be
if I could find it in a catalogue. Most of the time the work is ok’d
(the rest of the time, you don’t really want to accept the job
anyway) Restoration work is another big money maker. Anyway, this
is my point… I started in my father’s footsteps as a jeweler and
designer. The retail store came as a result of these things. We
make a fair living. We have been in business for over 25 years and
people love to be able to come in and talk to the jeweler. To be
able to say, “i trust this person to work on my ring” or whatever it
is. We make our living on the bench. If we didn’t have the bench ,
we could be out of business. And I further keep sane by being able
to have my own line in the store, of what I want to do (though most
of the time I do have to keep it saleable to the area, but once in a
while I just do an outrageous piece for the hell of it) and it sells,
and it sells well. But the topper is this, in an age of technology
and internet, sometimes people like to deal with a REAL person,
someone that if they want to, is accessible to talk to. Let me wrap
this up by saying that there is a distinguished difference between a
in-store jeweler, like myself, and those jeweler’s which work for
stores we refer to as “fast food” jewelry stores. By “fast-food” I
am refering to that “revolving door” that was mentioned in an earlier
thread. A fast -food jewelery store has constant
management/ownership/ sales associate changes that to compare them
with a full service jewelry store is unfair. Our business is
operated just like all other jewelery stores of days gone by. The
jeweler, polisher, diamond setter, designer, and what ever else it
all entails is me (with the exception of lapidary work whish is done
in-house by my father) It doesn’t have to involve a full produciton
team to turn around and make money for a business, it only takes one
person who is good at what they do. The only thing that helps this
formula is an employer/manager and sales staff that shares the same
long-term commitment. The commitment of the ENTIRE stores team to
make it a successful business. -julia (working at a small bench in
pennsylvania, but all in all happy)

This is the scenario. I recently bought equipment for design and CNC
milling. I paid for the training, and the employee was paid a wage
while in training. I am now expecting a commitment from them to take
an extra two hours a week as homework on their own time. Everyone
thinks this is unfair. As a small store owner, am I expected to pay
everything, and get no investment from an employee? These are the
same people who want increases in their wages, but are not willing to
take on more interest outside of their 40 hour work week. I am

I heard a very interesting interview on the radio the other day. The
basic premise was that in today’s marketplace employers have replaced
guaranteed employment with education and flexibility. The idea was
that if an employee can’t expect to be employed by the same company,
continually advance and reach the pinnacle of their career at one
place of business, they then demand that they receive as much
education and training as possible. This is in order to have a
marketable skill that they can take with them to the next job, if and
when that happens. There is also an expectation of more flexibility
than in the past. Flexibility in hours, scheduling, dress and in
going from one job to another.

While I don’t necessarily agree with every part of this new concept,
I still think that encouraging an employee to work with you as long
as possible is the ideal, I think that the changes in the fabric of
the American workplace is inevitable. The advantage to the employer
of this type of labor agreement is that if you lose a trained
employee, then there is an expectation that you will have an employee
who is willing to come to work for you from a competing job who also
has equivalent training.

To take on your points…though I think that some employees would
want to learn the skills on their own, it is only right that you pay
for their education. To do otherwise invites a mercenary attitude.
Expecting an employee to do two hours worth of “homework” a week
depends on what the homework is. I would talk to the state labor
department to see if there are any rules that you are bending. It
takes only one complaint to a government agency to start a lot of
trouble. It may be better to pay the overtime for them to do the
work at the job site. You get more control of what they learn that
way. You want an investment from an employee? You are supposedly
getting it in increased productivity. To ask for more than increased
productivity to justify the expense of training says to me that you
then need to offer more to an employee (like increased job security).
Lastly if you are frustrated that they want more money and no extra
work…welcome to today’s marketplace, and the real world. You are
asking your employees to be more than employees. You are asking for
partners. Perhaps you could get away with that when the economy was
slow and people were looking for creative work situations. That just
doesn’t fly today, at least for the average employee.

If you can find employees who will do all you are asking, you are
lucky, or have found someone who is taking advantage of you for all
the training and will bolt at the first opportunity to go work
elsewhere for more money. Develop good relationships with your
employees and expect to make back your investment by increases in

I’ve owned my business long enough to know what an employer expects
but not so long that I don’t remember what it was like to be an
employee. Good luck.

Larry Seiger

I don’t think two extra hours a week is too much to ask. As long as
you make it clear what you expect when you hire the employee,
especially for training, and they have agreed then there should be no
confusion or resentment on anyone’s part. Personally I do not have
time during the work day to do any kind of studying to further my
abilities. I simply have to do it outside of work. The benefits of
doing the extra work pays off in the praise I receive for my
performance and it has put me way ahead of my peers. I have also had
no problems when addressing the subject of a wage increase. My
employers have always supported me in advancing my education, even up
to the point of helping me pay for the classes (GIA Distance
Education) and giving me time to take the tests. I don’t believe that
you are asking too much at all, especially if you are paying them
while they’re in training for you.


Deb, I saw your thread and was wondering if the GIA distance
education is expensive? are they really hard? and also did you learn
as much as you wished from them? I have been thinking of doing the
GIA gemology to learn everything I can about gems and stones. I do not
want to learn how to cut them but I do want to learn about their
values and how to identify them, buying them etc. I have dyslexia and
I need things to be very simple and easy to understand in order to get
it. Thanks for any you are willing to share.Karen

I worked for the guy, in Pittsburgh, who started these. The first
one, was a 10X10 “fish bowl” and we squeezed a jeweler, a watchmaker,
and a salesperson (sometimes 2) in and around the two benches. I only
worked there, for a short time, working at the second location, and at
the time I left he had just opened a third. They were called Jewelry
Service Centers, which evolved into Fast Fix franchises. Who knew? I
should have stayed with him! His name was Bob Goldstein and this was
15 years ago. I think they now push for store fronts, instead of the
kiosks, but there are a lot of them. Curtis