Key Steps to successful shopwork

I am preparing to deliver a talk during the pre-show conference
at the Las Vegas JCK show in a few weeks. Here is the title and

Key Steps to successful shopwork

With qualified bench jewelers in short supply, communicating
well with the jeweler who does your work is essential. Learn key
questions your sales associates need to ask when taking in work
for repair or selling a custom design concept. Word pictures and
visuals both matter.

I am interested in what Orchidians feel are important points to
cover. If you have experience in this, what advice would you
give to a newcomer. What have you found to be the most
challenging aspects of taking in custom work and repairs? What
are some of the things you had to learn the hard way? What
techniques, tips, anecdotes do you have to share?

This should open up some interesting cans of worms.

Alan Revere
Revere Academy of Jewelry Arts
San Francisco

Alan, In addition to making my own like of jewelry I subcontract
for a local store doing repairs and stone setting a few hours a
week. There is never enough on the repair envelopes
for me to do the work without questions which take time from our
scedules. Here are some guidelines that I think are a good
practice for salespeople to use when taking in repairs: Chains:
Measure them. Note where break is ( ie. 3" from male end of
clasp). Put the type of chain it is. I may be repairing 6 or
more chains, and it’s nice to have a description on the envelope.
Ask customer if they want to be advised about any potentially
"trouble spots".

Rings. Describe them (lds yellow mtg w/ white stone solitaire,
as opposed to saying lds 14ky dia eng. ring). Salespeople must
be trained to size fingers properly. Ask women if they swell or
if they presently are swollen. Some fingers (mine included) go
up and down one whole size in a day, and you have to reach a
happy medium. If a ring is broken or has been cut off thier
finger, make sure to get a finger size and not just put “solder
ring together”. If an old ring comes in with worn prongs, have
the salesperson tell the customer that they will call them back
with an estimate, instead of guessing that it needs one or two
prongs. Often stones will come out and loose in the ultrasonic.

Custom work: I have the salespeople screen the customer to see
if they can get by with a Stuller mounting or something to that
effect. If it is truly a custom job, I have them scedule an
appointment with me. The important thing is that I am physically
in the store. I don’t see how stores survive without an in-house
goldsmith. I have to be able to ask lots of questions and
sometimes communicate directly with the customer, and no they are
not turned off by my hands, shorts and t-shirt, and tripoli on my

Alan, your talk sounds very important. Have you thought of
writing an article?

Wendy Newman

Good advice Wendy Sometimes a photo Copier in the area of the
take in can also be very helpful. You can then copy the piece
right there and make notes for the bench jeweler. You can give
the client a copy at the same time.

Alan, I couldn’t be in more agreement with Wendy’s response.
Communication is the most important key in jewelry sales,
repairs, and discussion of custom orders. Having been in retail
jewelry,as well as being a designer and wax model maker, and also
as teacher…I have found that unfortunatly a large percentage of
retail jewelry sales people know very little about the product
they are selling. A great asset to many retail jewelry stores
would be educating thier employees about the products that they
are selling, teaching people not only about the metals and
but also about repairs, and metalsmithing, so that
they could more effectively understand the products that they
are working with, and be able to in turn write more complete
repair orders and possibly even sell custom work. This might be
costly to the business to accomplish, but in the long run, most
likely boost sales and save time and heartache for the people
behind the scenes. Jill King (waxmasta)

Hi Alan, what a great topic! It seems to me that education is
the key to successful communication with your bench jeweler. Any
new sales associate should be coached in the fundamentals of
jewelry construction along with their education in the aspects of
the particular store. These points should include:

  1. Heat v. stones - the added cost to repair pieces holding
    heat sensitive stones.

  2. Basic setting types - prong, gypsy, bezel, channel, etc.
    (including the repair aspects of these settings such as worn

  3. A brief lesson in karating - gold percentages and platinum

  4. How settings can be effected by sizing.

These are just some quick thoughts, I’m interested to see what
other contributions may come. I always welcome interested sales
people into my shop to experience castings and repairs firsthand

  • it provides a great visual reinforcement. As for custom work,
    I almost always meet with the customer in my clients’ store and
    sketch on the fly during the design process. This enables me to
    immediately steer the design towards a practical resolution, and
    visually demonstrate what the finished product will look like. I
    would also encourage those jewelers doing chain store work to
    hold quarterly repair seminars in their stores to educate the
    staff in jewelry repair. The more the “non-jewelers” in our
    industry know, the better off we all are.

Good luck, Mike.

Dear Alan, I had to add my comments on this subject, as I have
seen the direct results recently in my own business. My senior
sales person has always discouraged the sales staff from
"bothering" either myself (designer, wax carver, stone setter,
et al) or my repair/finisher as we are always buried with work,
and we needed to be “left alone”. I have always maintained an
open door policy, but I figured the people were being "trained"
somehow, maybe absorbing the knowledge through their poors,
because after all we do everything right on premis, right?

About three years ago, we hired a lady who has an intense
curiosity about our work, and spends a great deal of time
watching me work, and asking questions. She refused to spend her
slow time doing “keep busy” work, and simply couldn’t understand
what was so wrong with trying to learn the entire process. Yes
this has caused some dissension among the staff, but I have
watched the process occur and attempted to gauge the results as
best as I could. The benefits so far include:

#1-Higher sales totals
#2-Higher average "per item" sales
#3-Much higher average profit margin per sale
#4-Far fewer problems to be resolved on each order.

Knowledge is the key to success in any business, and often times
we lose sight of this basic fact in the quest for productivity.
I often repeat the quote:" The only things that get better with
age are wine and meat, everything else requires effort of some
sort". People are a classic example of this.


Alan, Great topic! I think one of the areas that needs greater
attention would be communication skills on the part of both the
jeweler and sales associates. I once worked for a large jewelry
retailer for years and found that a commissioned salesperson
would often be too eager to ring up the sale and not be concerned
with the customer getting what they wanted. This would often lead
to hours of lost work for the jeweler and aggravation for the

In custom work especially, customers sometimes have a hard time
visualizing what the finished product will look like. As
jewelers, we have a mental picture of what the item will
ultimately look like based on our past experiences. We need to
paint this picture to the customer as closely as possible to
avoid possible rejection or dissatisfaction of the finished item.
This can usually be accomplished with a detailed sketch, photo
or wax pattern.

I have learned that often a customer may not say anything to
you if he/she is unhappy with an item that you made and will take
it somewhere else to be “fixed” by another jeweler when in fact;
the whole problem originated from lack of communication. Many
times a customer will pick a ring that has a heavy texture but
will “want it to be high shine.” Or, a customer will bring in old
mountings with 20 or 30 diamonds and want them “scattered” into a
new mounting. It is difficult, if not impossible to make a ring
with that many stones in it and still have the basic design of
the ring left. What they will end up with is a “diamond” ring
that just shows the diamonds and little if any design.

Some other areas of concern (on the sales associates part) would

Proper use of the calipers. Measuring the stones properly to fit
in a blank mounting is critical, especially for channel set
mountings. I have had too many headaches caused by someone
mis-measuring stones.

Using a loupe to check for any cracks, chips or large inclusions
which can be risky when resetting stones. Extremely thin girdles,

Writing on the take in form that a stone is a “ruby” or
"emerald" when the stone is actually a synthetic or cheap
imitation. I always stress that the sales people write “red
stone” “green stone” etc. If the customer objects, then the
stone needs to be examined by the gemologist to confirm its
identity before it is removed from the mounting.

Valuation of the item should be based on the current replacement
value and not on what the customer thinks it is worth. It should
be noted on the take in form and signed by the customer.

Explain to the customer exactly what will be done to the custom
job or repair. Educate them. Tell them in details how a ring will
be sized or a chain repaired. This will build their confidence in
you and your establishment.

Make sure the promise date can be kept and tell the customer
that if any problems arise and this date cannot be made, you will
call them to let them know.

Make sure your take in forms are well designed and have spaces
for all the vital areas such as: description, work to be done,
phone numbers, valuation, signature, follow ups, etc.

This all is very basic stuff to most people, but it is
absolutely essential to customer satisfaction.

Ken Sanders

Dear Mike, Thanks very much for taking the time to give me such
good feedback. I really appreciate it and will certainly
incorporate some of what you had to say in my talk. If you think
of anything else, or if there is any way that I can help you,
anytime, just let me know.


Hello Alan,

I have read most of the reply’s to you and they seem fairly
complete. I would like to add one more thought ( if it’s already
been posted sorry).

Most sales people have pricelist to go by, and if they would
give an estimate based on what they think the repair might cost
and have an OK from the customer to spend X amount. This would
free the jeweler from having to give estimates and then wait for
the reply. This would also free the sales staff up from having
to make calls. When I was doing trade work I can’t tell you how
many times I gave estimates only to have them turned down. If
the store would have given the estimate up front it would never
have gotten to me. I estimate I spent and hour a day estimating
jobs. I did not pass this time on the the customer, but the more
I think about it this time should be added in to the cost.

Best regards

Bill Wismar

Mike: How true! I read your post to Alan concerning helping
people in your sales staff to understand your work. Back in the
mid-70’s, I used to know an elderly gentleman, long gone now who
operated a jewelry repair shop employing several bench persons
for over 50 years in the Detroit area. I knew him later however,
in semi-retirement and living in Traverse City, MI. He told me
stories of master jewelers who purposely kept from
apprentices fearing loss of their status and position within the
shop. You too likely have heard stories of years spent sweeping
floors and running errends before being given “the priveledge” of
watching a jeweler at work (dut not asking any questions lest you
disturb the master!). The trade’s history is full of these
stories. Jealousy and parinoia running rampant. You should be
congratulated for your willingness to make time and teach this
person what they wish to know. Indeed, this very service is
dedicated to that principal and I’ve certainly benefited from
it. In sharing knowledge, we strengthen ourselves as well as
helping others.

Best Wishes;

More thanks to Steve, Jill, Etienne, John, Bob, and the others
who responded to my query with their own experiences on this
topic. Obviously it is not only vital to the business of
jewelry, but it also provokes lots of discussion. You are all
invited to my talk at the JCK Show at Las Vegas on June 3 at
9:00 am. As mentioned, if my notes become organized enough, I
will post it on Orchid.

Alan Revere
Revere Academy of Jewelry Arts
San Francisco

Hello Steve!

I am hoping, as we all are I suppose, our postings on this
matter can have some small impact on sharing and growth among
the human jeweler population. Another thing! If I ever say how
many years this has worked for me or how far I walked in the
snow to school. Please ignore me, and any others that shove time
down the younger peoples throats. The one thing they of course
have no answer for is the 35 years you’ve done it this way!
Cheers to sharing! we all grow! Won’t the customers be impressed
with our treatment of each other, and the surge in capabilities
of our trade! Wishful thinking? Let’s hope not.

I’ve been trying to send (for 2 days)an answer to you regarding
your mokume etching situation, and have now added a bit on your
bench vacuum response. I would like to have the ability to paste
it to this, but don’t know how. I’ll keep in returned mail and
find a way. Be patient with my computer skills.

I have is that right?

alot of great comments have been made about many aspects of
taking in jobs and the relationship of customer to salesperson to

until recently, i performed trade work on what i thought was a
large volume. with one other bench person i serviced 7 large
chain type jewelry stores. some of the sales people cared more
than others and knew more than others. but to tell the truth, i
always wished that the sales people as a whole could be more
professional. many times i spent alot of time communicating
procedures or problems on an individual basis. this would be
done with the salespeople, managers, and district managers.

no amount of communicating could make my world perfect. but in
retrospect if i had held a seminar type meeting with all my
clients every six months or so, many adversarial transactions
could’ve been eliminated.

best regards,

geo fox

Dear Alan, In reply: indeed we would all like to go to your talk
in Vegas on June 3rd, but please remember that quite a few of us
are a few miles longer away from Vegas than having it just
around the corner. I therefore sincerely hope that you will be
able to organise your notes so that all we poor orchid people
who are not exactly in the vicinity of Las Vegas on June 3 also
would hear/read a little of it. And i konw a lot will follow me
when I thank you in advance.

Kind regards
Niels L=F8vschal, Jyllinge, Denmark
phone (+45) 46 78 89 94

=A1 ---- ) \
/ L=F8vschal
\ /

To Niels from Denmark and others, Regarding the talk I will give
next week in Las Vegas, I appreciate your interest and the fact
that Las Vegas is more than a short drive from Denmark and
elsewhere. At this point the talk is still coming together. It
will probably be in outline form, which I am more than happy to
pass on. Perhaps the easiest would be for me to post it on my
website so that anybody who wants can see it and download it. I
will include all the responses which I have received, and which
have formed a major portion of the thanks to those
who responded.

Alan Revere
Revere Academy of Jewelry Arts
San Francisco