Jobs that you want to run screaming from?

Is there a Law of JewelryLand that says that just because a customer
wants something stupid done we have to do it? 

Here Here! The customer is NOT always right! I don’t think people
talk about this stuff enough! Does anyone have some good stories
about “the one that got away because I sent it packing” stories?
Clients that absolutely had to have you make them something, even
though you told them why their idea should never EVER actually be
turned into a tangible piece of hideousness? Even if it wasn’t
hideous, maybe it was a technical monstrosity and you had to explain
to them WHY?

I’ll start…everyone put on their laughing hats:(It’s not a very
high brow story, I’m sure some of you out there have much more
breath taking monstrosities that you may have avoided over the

I worked at a body piercing and tattoo shop through college where I
had the dubious task of making all the cheesey stripper jewellery.
(To the uninitiated, “stripper jewellery” is any normal piercing
jewellery, but it has to be in gold. Some things should never be

Anyways, one of the first things I had to make in gold was a labret
stud for a tongue piercing in 14 karat with a 6 mm bezel set cubic
zirconia on top. (It’s a 14 gauge post with a flat disc soldered on
the bottom, and an internally threaded bezel that screws on the

No, I can’t think of anything worse to put in my mouth, but the guy
who ordered it obviously disagreed. And I told him that the 14 kt
would go brown and ugly in his acidic mouth. And I told him that
the peril of chomping down on the stone and having tiny shards of
cubic scraping his throat. And I told him that if bacteria began to
grow behind the stone that it could be a breeding ground for some
new form of germ warfare. But my boss, being the short sighted and
greedy guy that he was, said, “Hey! If this guy wants you to make
it, then just make it.”

Now I don’t know about you, but considering the red tape a person
has to go through to actually GET the piercing, it seems completely
backwards to provide them with a piece of jewellery that could some
day hurt them.

I voiced my opinion to the customer and my boss, and gave up after
one go around. I probably should have refused to make it on the
grounds that I’d get my butt sued by this guy when it broke in his
sandwich some day, and I’d get thrown to the sharks since I was the
new girl in the shop. After three years there let’s just say I
learned to say NO.

I wonder whatever happened to that guy…

I could probably relate more of these tales than anyone would care
to hear so I will limit myself to one. I had a couple come in (quite
a few years ago now) who had come up with a design for a ring with an
emerald cut sapphire in the middle and a flanking emerald cut diamond
on each side. They wanted the stones bezel set but they didn’t want
to see the bezel. It also had a row of tiny granules all around the
lip of the bezel and they wanted the stones butting right up against
each other. The only way to produce the design was to completely hand
build it. First they went to another jeweler to buy the stones.
Then they came to me. I told them repeatedly that the bezel was
going to have to show or it wouldn’t hold the stones in. Then I told
them that if they butted the stones up against each other the way
they wanted it to, they were going to break, either when I was
setting them or soon thereafter. They (actually mostly the guy) was
insistent that I produce the ring exactly the way they wanted it.
So I made it up but left the bezel bigger than they actually wanted
because I knew the stones would fall out if I didn’t. They came in,
looked at it, and insisted I remake it with less bezel. Of course in
the process of redoing it one of the stones chipped which I then had
to have recut. I did it the way they wanted and sent them on their
way. Two weeks later they came back in. They had gone to another
jeweler, who had taken one look at the ring and said (rightfully so)
that there was no way in the world that the bezels would hold the
stones. (Why they believed him even though I had told them the same
thing myself no less than ten times, I don’t know.) They wanted me
to remake it again with the bigger bezel. I did. Since then they
have been back three more times with stones they purchased elsewhere
and attempted to get me to make more pieces for them. You would not
believe how adept (and successful) I have gotten at delicately
suggesting that they go elsewhere to have their work done. For some
reason though, and I haven’t figured this out, they keep trying to
get me to do more for them.

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

i have sometimes gotten those poor people that bring what they think
is precious jewellery for me to “fix”, only to have me tell them
that, sorry, it’s only plastic. the gems too. sentimentality can go
a long way in value, no?

which brings to mind the tortoise shell necklace (yes now illegal,
this one acquired when tortoise-harvesting not banned, many years
ago) that i got asked to fix. i should have just sent it along to
someone more experienced from the get-go…less worry!

cheers! erhard.

    Does anyone have some good stories about "the one that got away
because I sent it packing" stories? 

Hi Cynthia and all; I’ve got so many after 30 years in this business
that I can’t remember them all. The charms for genital piercings,
which I declined to fit for the customer were unsavory, but here’s
one that was disturbing as well as just gross. Guy comes in with a
45 caliber slug, nicely mushroomed on the end. Says he had it removed
from his leg (where his brother shot him) and wanted it mounted in a
ring. It still had bits of flesh on it. And I’ve learned to be cool
as a cucumber when someone comes in and fishes the stud earring out
of their nostril piercing and blithely hands it to me to clean.
I’ve known of people who wanted chains permanently soldered on their
wrists (and one “professional” woman who had one soldered around her
waist) but these are anecdotes from other jewelers. I’d have
suggested rivets. I’ve flush set diamonds and rubies into gold
dental crowns. This is done, obviously, before they are in the
customer’s mouth. I always seal the stone with a thin rim of watch
crystal cement before burnishing the metal down on the stone, to keep
the back of the stone from becoming dirty and thus dulling it’s
glint. One of the most unusual requests came from a couple who had
gotten their “wedding rings” in the form of tattoos where metal
rings would be worn. I duplicated the tattoos in yellow and white
golds for them to wear over the tattoos. For technical challenges, I
had a guy wanted to wear his 18K Rolex Presidential on an 18K clip
bracelet, pave on all surfaces with 0.15 carat diamonds. The watch
(minus the original band) had to be removable for maintenance. I
forged the clip from heavy sheet and pierced a sort of saddle for the
watch to rest in. On either side was an outer shell, covered, nay,
slathered with diamonds, which covered the 18K bracelet and anchored
the watch. These shells were drilled and tapped and held on with
dozens of counter-sunk gold screws so they could be removed for
cleaning and the watch removed. I had to warn the guy not go
swimming with it on or they’d have to dive in a pull him out before
the watch weighed him down and drowned him (hyperbole, obviously). I
lived in Detroit at the time, so you can sort of get the character of
some of my customers, and maybe guess how some of them made their
money. :wink: I bet some of our folks who’ve worked in L.A. have some
stories along these lines.

David L. Huffman

I do enameled wall pieces. You never really know what color you are
going to get when you order unleaded enamels in the U.S. There is
only one source and colors can vary widely from batch to batch.

For that reason, and a few others I will not do custom orders for
anyone that pulls out fabric swatches. It will never (and I know this
from multiple experiences) be just right.


Daniel, is this a case where a little bit of is
dangerous? A matter of the customer not always being right. Better
still a delicate gray area that the customer is “right” in that it
can be made but not right in understanding the execution.

What I found is that many of my customers look at the finished work
and assume it’s both simple and quick to make. It’s a complement to
one’s work if you make it appear simple to make no matter the

As to why they continue to come back to you? Well sounds like a trust
issue to me. Maybe you’ve taken the time to inform them where others
haven’t. Like a good plumber they bring you a problem and you provide
them the solution. Informing them as to why it can or cannot be done
a certain way building trust.

My 2 cents worth
Have 3 cents, that’s 2 if I gave it all I’d
have no “cents” at all.

Daniel A very familiar story indeed. I too have run across demanding,
manipulative people, who will gladly take many miles, once you give
one inch. Although I’m not necessarily referring to jewelry
making… You mentioned it was quote, “mostly the guy.” The miles
demanded from me were taken by, mostly the woman…

I suppose the reason they keep coming back to you instead of other
jewelers, could be that the other jewelers have learned to say N O,
and mean NO !

Therein lies a good lesson for every one of us, in all situations of
life and not just the gem and jewelry business…Learn to say NO and
mean it…


    i have sometimes gotten those poor people that bring what they
think is precious jewellery for me to "fix", only to have me tell
them that, sorry, it's only plastic.  the gems too.  sentimentality
can go a long way in value, no? 

I got one of those once. An elderly friend of my father’s asked me
to restring a long string of “hand-knotted black onyx” beads she had
broken. When I got the thing from her, it turned out to be heavy
black plastic, molded right onto the string. The string had rotted
away between two beads. There was no way to restring it, and the
woman could not be convinced that it wasn’t black onyx. I finally
figured out a way to shatter two of the molded-on beads to get them
off the cord. That left just enough cord intact that I could knot it
back together. I felt so bad about the woman being so attached to a
string of junk plastic beads that I couldn’t even bring myself to
charge her for the repair.

Now I follow the advice of the friend whose shop equipment I bought
last year. “Don’t take in ANY repairs unless you made it originally”.

–Kathy Johnson
Feathered Gems Jewelry

Daniel, Any of us who have been in business for more than a few years
have met the wise ass customer who knows your craft better than you.
He, or she, will have the gall to tell you exactly how to make their
ego monument even tho they have never made a piece of jewelry in
their lives…they are the quintessential control freaks who
live in a world of their own…with frequent forays into the real
world to manage other people’s lives. Most of us don’t have your
patience, Daniel. I usher them to the door in such a way that they
will never come back. You might think that these types will bring
the rath of others upon you, but experience tells me that they are
known far and wide for their bullying ways and the listener will
quietly chuckle to themselves. Ron at Mills Gem, Los Osos, CA.

I have taken on repairs more times than I care to count where I
felt sorry for the customer, and out of sympathy knowing they would
have a hard time finding someone to fix it, or find someone that
would be reasonable, I took it in. I solved their problem, but I
created one for myself.

 When I first started my business, I took in every repair that I

had any hope of fixing. After ten years, it is really hard to turn
down some repairs, I just have a nature that wants to help solve
someone elses problem, and I still don’t realize how much time and
effort it actually takes to fix the piece.

 When I sat at the bench  looking at the piece I wondered what I

was thinking when I took it in. The definition of insanity: doing the
same thing over and over the same way and expecting the results to be

I am diligently working on limiting myself to repairing only what

is purchased at my store, and goldwork I know I can get well paid
for. It is still hard to turn away things that I know I can fix.

	When I first opened my store I had women in their 70's or 80's

that had costume jewelry and I knew they had no idea of how much just
the labor would cost to fix their treasures. If I could do it simply,
I would do it and not charge anything. I knew they would not be
purchasing new jewelry from me. Fortunately those type of jobs don’t
walk in the door anymore.

 Since I have 30 or more repairs , custom pieces and stock for the

cases on my plate at all times, I have to try and have a sense of how
I think I will have time to do all that. A constant struggle for a
person who is organizationally and time management challenged.

Many times I have agreed to do something custom that I had no idea

of how to do, basically jumped off a cliff without knowing where I
would land. This has always worked out for me since I am good at
problem solving. I got paid to learn whatever skill I needed, learned
about the materials, and only did the job if I could do it with the
technical skill of a professional. This also taught me to have
discipline, I already had commitment and responsibility. I also was
never afraid or ashamed to adopt someone ( sometimes without their
knowledge or consent) as a mentor and seek advice.

That's where I am in my process. Working with metal and stone is a

creative use of my obsessive compulsive disorder.

Richard in Denver

About 20 years ago I worked in a shop who’s owner had a rather
interesting solution to the difficult customer problem. He would chat
them up, and while their attention was focused on the conversation,
slowly maneuver them out the door. They would find themselves
outside, on the sidewalk, saying goodbye. We found it quite funny,
and effective…

Rick Hamilton

Dear Richard, I can certainly relate to your experience and I have a
hunch that most of us would agree with your predicament. We’ve all
been there and the problem is ongoing. I too like to solve problems
for people, but before long you find that you have cast yourself in
the role of a psychologist. You are trying to mitigate the emotional
problems people have by taking on their sentimental jewelry ikons
that should never have been purchased in the first place. Playing
hero will make you a victim and you will get entangled in the
personal problems of the maladjusted customer. I finally got rid of
a customer yesterday who has been taking advantage of my sympathies
for the past couple of years. She is a divorcee. mother of a young
child and works nights in a job that gives her ample discretionary
income. Her principal source of emotional gratification comes from
buying crap from T.V. hucksters. Some of it is good stuff , but a
lot of it is overpriced crap. She has come to me for a free
evaluation each time she made a purchase. Much of the time I would
tell her to send it back for credit. However, in some cases she was
so emotionally involved with the item that she would either have me
rectify its’ shortcomings or, at a later date come back with
something that could only be repaired by agonizing manipulation or
modification…you all know what I am talking about…you start
at one end while the other end falls apart. Yesterday she came in
with her latest bauble…a so-called coin pearl set in a foil
thick 14 k ring. The disk shapped freshwater pearl was set high up
on four vertical wire prongs which were not notched or bent
over…Ah, the miracle of crazy glue ! I told her that I
wouldn’t touch it and she launched into her usual routine " Oh, but
I just love it !..I’ve never seen anything like it
before…couldn’t you just… No bloody way…enough of this
nonsense ! I sent her packing.The moral of this story: they will eat
you alive if you let them ! I am a jeweler, not an enabler and not a
psychiatric counselor. I know how you feel, Richard. You want to help
whenever possible, but your business also has to survive and it
won’t if you let people walk all over you !

Ron at Mills Gem, Los Osos, CA.

Hi David! Oh my goodness, it’s obvious that I have so much more
unsavouriness to look forward to a my career unfolds! That watch
thing sounds like the most insane creation a customer could ever
dream up. Oh and the bullet thing! So street. East side.

I have spent many nights seeing concerts in Detroit from 1991 to
about 1997, when my parents lived in Sarnia. I kind of developed
this weird love/fascination relationship toward downtown Detroit
during those years. I’ve had my ride stolen, as I come out of St.
Andrews Hall at midnight, everyone leaves in a hurry, and you notice
your car is not where you parked it… My friends got car
jacked… I’ve had some weird old crack head stick his tongue in my
ear when I refused to buy one of his mini flags… Another guy
tried to sell me his kidney when he found out I was a “foreigner”,
apparently it’s easier to sell organs to out of towners… Ahhh,
those were the days. It was an education in American urban reality,
that’s for sure. Toronto’s NOTHING like that, even in the "worst"
parts. Isn’t Eminem from Mount Clemmons? Ha ha! That says it
all… You must have more strange stories from some of your more
flamboyant clientele, I’d love to hear them!

Hi everyone :slight_smile:

This is exactly what I am looking to avoid:

       	 I have taken on repairs more times than I care to count
where I felt sorry for the customer, and out of sympathy knowing
they would have a hard time finding someone to fix it, or find
someone that would be reasonable, I took it in. I solved their
problem, but I created one for myself. 

A co-worker lost his son in an accident. The son’s WJHL hockey
championship ringstone was fracture damaged and he wants to repair it
and size it so he can wear it. He is is asking me if I can repair it
for him as a learning project. ( sure… no pressure!!!) It is more or
less a Josten’s type championship ring. I can cut the Ruby cab he is
asking for as a replacement easily enough.

I havent had a close look at the metals, but the synthetic stone is
sort of “pressed” into place with the edge beveled over the stone.

I dont know a lot about stone setting yet, but the thought of
digging this stone out of there without irepairable damaging the
setting seems a little daunting to me.

Is it something I should look at as a first repair or should I give
him the cab and send him packing to someone else?

Cheers… Tim Randles Edmonton Alberta ( Beginner

Tim, If it is actually a Jostens THEY will put a new stone in it for
you if you send the ring to them.If it is made by a different co I
would still see if they can replace and repair it for you.Is it
Silver,Gold or Palladium? Regards J

Hi Tim, Orchidians…

If this is a Jostens’s ring, they essentially offer a lifetime
resizing guarantee…free except for nominal handling…

Back when I struggled through for my sheepskin (BBA) the first thing
I bought myself was a Josten’s University Class Ring…

20 years later I had it resized (do fingers get fat as one ages…?)
a size up, and the stone replaced…

About $20, re-oxidized and polished, resized and re-stoned…

As far as I know they only offer synthetic stones, except for black
onyx or mother of pearl…

I had contacted a local jeweler for the work (the setting daunted me
also), and he told me about the Josten’s guarantee…they do stand
behind it…

One thing…they have a clause to check stating that if the repair
cannot be successfully made, a duplicate is authorized by you…

I refused that option, because under no circumstance did I want to
have a different ring for any reason…Which I think might apply
in your co-worker’s case also…

Hi Tim,

If it were me, I’d suggest he contact the mfg of the ring. Many
times makers of class rings & such use proprietary materials &
processes that make repairing/sizing them tricky at best. A lot of
them do repairs/sizings at a very economical price.

Don’t know if I’d want to risk a friendship over damaged ring with
great sentimental value.


I recommend that you check for a trademark in the ring. IF is is
Jostens’, I have found them to be VERY helpful in repairs to their
rings, even if sent by jewelers who are not Jostens dealers.
Disclaimer: I am not a Jostens dealer, but had good luck with them.
Their phone # is 800 854 7464. David Barzilay, Lord of the Rings

Tim, To their regret, every goldsmith has taken on this very job, or
one just like it. I’m sure that you’ll get a ton of replies along
this line.

Don’t do it!! Unless you have extensive experience in class rings,
you’re in for trouble.

The best way to go, is send it to the mfg. Many of these are
guaranteed for life anyway. I know from experience that Jostens and
ArtCarved repair them surprisingly inexpensively, and fast. I hope
this is helps.

Best Regards,
Robert Wise Jewelry