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[Looking4] Hold harmless agreement

I need some help, please. I’m an individual studio artist who works
primarily in sterling and I’m looking for a (sample of a) short
written agreement for customers to sign when they bring in repair
items – something that states that I will complete the work to the
best of my ability, but that I am not responsible for replacement of
items should the repair fail and that they state what they think the
item is, but if it’s found to be less than that, blah, blah, blah…

What prompted me to really think twice about needing this was when a
new customer came to my studio last week, along with her cousin, a
previous customer for whom I had made a custom ring. The new
customer wants a similar ring designed for her. And she brought a
pair of her grandmother’s ‘gold’ earrings, asking me to remove
several of the 2mm ‘rubies’ from said earrings and set them in her

My initial thought was that the earring settings were not real gold
but plated, as I could see where the gold had rubbed off over time –
but I didn’t point this out. The customer mentioned that though these
had always been referred to in her family as "granny’s ruby earrings"
she thought they were more likely to be garnets.

After she left, I opened the prongs and removed the first three
stones – and found them to be foil-backed glass set in an epoxy-like
substance. Now I’m holding everything exactly as it is until I can
get her back to my studio to show it to her. These are the things
people don’t like to hear. And I’ve been the bearer of bad new before
when someone brought what she thought was a ‘sterling’ bracelet for
repair and I had to tell her it wasn’t.

So, I’m looking for the best way to handle these situations – and
something to have customers sign before I begin a repair, that
clarifies the fact that things may not be what they think they are –
and that repairs may be more difficult or not possible using the
methods I use, depending on what I find once I get into the work.

Many thanks in advance –

Lil McKH Jewelry


First of all you should not even consider accepting a piece of work
unless you are absolutely certain that you will be able to make the
necessary repair.

Furthermore, if you repair something the customer has every right to
expect that the repair will not fail.

You should have the correct skills and tools so that you can
evaluate with confidence the materials that the item is composed of.
You might want to get a gold testing kit so that you can correctly
determine whether or not the metal is indeed gold.

If in doubt about the stones have the client take the piece to a
gemologist for testing.


You could have prevented any problems by not doing what you did when
you did it: You should have tested the “gold” and unset the stones
in front of the customer.

So, I'm looking for the best way to handle these situations 

Communication before taking in the job.

Lil- ALWAYS disclose any and all identifiable flaws and potential
risks to the customer when they bring the piece in. Always loupe the
item and test the metals or stones if necessary in front of the
customer and point out all flaws in stones, the need for tips, any
cracks in the mounting, etc. Inform them of the risks before you
start work.

Clean, look, disclose. This should be your mantra when taking in
customer’s jewelry. It’s for your protection. If you have a
litigious client you may have to buy her some very expensive rubies.
Pretty much all trade shop price lists have a disclaimer on them,
but they don’t really hold up when someone tries to sue you. Once
you’ve touched it, you are responsible.

"My Grandfather would never buy a cheap imitation. Or “He would only
buy the best blue white perfect diamonds. You must have switched

Sorry to be such a fuddy duddy but it’s important.

Have fun and make lots of jewelry.
Jo Haemer

Boy, what a mess, I would always tell the client that what they
brought me was not what they think it is. I would test with a gold
tester ( a tool that the client’s appreciate since it is as objective
a tool as you can work with) prior to intake. I think your intake
procedure needs looking at. I would also note on my intake paper work
that they are " red stones" which I could not at that time identify
and tell the client what I was writing and have them initial that

Intake is extremely important, diamonds are notorious for being
switched and that kind of allegation could ruin a business. Diamond
and gold testers are great tools to demonstrate to a client about
what you are writing on the intake paper work. I have written on
intake paper work " white stone" and have done a map of the stone if
the client is telling me it is diamond but I can’t ID it as such. I
then have them initial that notation. Even if they have a cert with
the stone, I still take the time to ID it. I do all my investigation
in an area where they can see me, not in a back room. Clients are
coming to you because they trust you, they are leaving their jewelry
with you out of trust. To call them after the fact and tell them bad
news is inappropriate and will destroy that trust. Better to get the
bad news out of the way, less head aches for you and then they know
they can trust you to tell them the truth even if it is bad. If they
don’t like it and decide not to use your services, better for you.

Sam Patania, Tucson

Many years ago an employee of mine took in an engagement ring for

The job card said diamond but it was plain as day that it was not.
My stomach was turning as I dialed the phone to ‘clarify’ its
identity. Bags of relief when the husband says, “yeah I know its a
cz, I couldn’t afford a real diamond when we got engaged. But I can
now. Can you put a real diamond in it for me?”

Ultimately any waiver could potentially be discredited in court if
it ever comes to that. What you can do is never let it come to that.
And besides, a waiver like you describe would probably serve to
foster distrust in the first place. A good policy is to iron out
everything while the customer is still there. If I sense significant
distrust I politiely turn the job down.

That usually gets some puzzled looks.

Thanks to all for input, answers and suggestions. Although answers
made me feel like the ‘not-so-smart kid in the class’ for accepting
the customer’s items and not noting to her at the time that I thought
what she had was less than what she thought – that’s exactly what I
needed to hear. And in the strong manner some of you put it. What you
said was for my own benefit – and you’re right.

I’ll be ordering a gold-testing kit immediately. Great idea. I’d
never thought of it. As for a diamond-testing kit – not now. At this
point in my career (still relatively early), if someone has diamonds,
I’m not the person they need to see – so I’m sending them to a
professional jeweler with their fine diamond jewelry.

Having come up on the artisan/crafts side over the past few years,
I’ve been making my own work, and only this year have people started
bring things to me and asking whether I can repair or integrate their
items into a new piece. So I’ve not had need for a signed 'agreement’
or ‘intake form’ before now.

Several of you mentioned the ‘intake process’ or ‘intake forms and
descriptions’ – would you share with me what should be included?
The idea of testing the metal in my studio as the customer watches
makes perfect sense. (Since mine is a one room studio, there is no
back room, so as long as I do this while they’re there, they get to
see.) I also think it is a good idea to photograph the condition of
the piece at my photo set-up while they watch. (I’ve always done this
after they left, but can change that.) Should I weigh/measure
piece/stones? I like someone’s suggestion of noting 'red stone’
rather than whatever they say it is when I don’t know that for a

Anyway, to share the follow-up on actual situation: I had both the
new and prior customer back to my studio Tuesday morning to do a
first fitting for the ring. After that, I told the new customer that
I needed to show her some things I’d found/observations about her
mother’s earring and offer her some options. Her first question was,
“Is it bad?!” I then pulled out magnification for her and pointed
out where the gold had worn off of the earrings and then let her look
at the foil backs of the three small stones I’d removed as well as
the ‘epoxy-like’ substance down in their settings. (At this point she
told me that she knew they were from the 1950s and that she’d “shown
them to a jeweler who said they might be garnets instead of rubies”
– who knows if that’s the case or not…)

I talked with her about how the most important aspect was that they
were a special family heirloom because of their sentimental tie to
her mom. Because after just pointing out that they weren’t
particularly expensive pieces, I felt I needed to validate their
significance and let her know that I understood their importance to
her. Then we discussed options: I could reset the stones in the
earrings and we could leave stones off the ring; I could reset the
stones in the earrings and we could pull one of my supplier catalogs
and order some small rubies for the ring; I could proceed with
setting these stones (whatever they might be) into her ring – with
the understanding that if they are glass/crystal rather than stone
then there is the possibility they might crack while setting. She
agreed on the last option and offered to leave me the earring with
all seven stones, in case some do break before I get three set. That,
I think, went as well as it could have. Now, I hope the setting goes
as smoothly.

From now on these are discussions I’ll have first off with customers
– for their benefit and mine. But, back to my initial question –
and a new question that’s come up based on comments from those of you
on the retail jewelry store side – what kind of forms/paperwork do I
need when I take in something from a customer? Any help with that
would be most appreciated.

Thanks! (and so sorry for being long-winded here… I was a writer
for 25 years in my ‘past life’ so I’m always sharing the 'whole’

Best to all -

Hi Lil & All,

I have just read this post and agree with what has already been
said… However, now you are in an awkward position and must move
forward…I would immediately contact this customer and get her back
in your studio–perhaps with your customer/her friend.I’d tell her
that while dismounting you have discovered some issues that she
should know.

First, I would take out the earrings with care in front of her/them.
I’d have a list of issues on a piece of paper listing what you had
disc overed. I would hand her a loupe so that she could examine the
foiled back stones that are loose and show her the ones still
mounted in the earrings…You need to carefully explain what the
stones are and you could perhaps have a small real ruby melee there
to compare…

Secondly, I 'd show her where the “gold” has worn away on the
mountings and these are plated. Then I’d point out the epoxy…Then
you could proceed with her on how you can or cannot work with these
stones for the custom order…

Needless to say, this should have been pointed out in the beginning,
in front of her…I’ve worked retail part-time for many years and
what a customer hands you, in their eyes, is priceless and full of
sentiment…The value in reality may be $0.00 or it could be
$1,000,000.00. But to them, it is irreplaceable. They have given it
to you because of trust. I have had the displeasure of telling a
customer that Mom’s ruby ring is not a ruby or gold from the 1930’s
and had to tell a newly engaged lady that her 1ct. diamond solitaire
ring is not…All this was done tactfully and with great care. But
done to protect them as well as me.

Been there & had to do it,
Jo-Ann Maggiora Donivan,
from finally sunny SF,CA

Lil, it was brave of you to ask the question in the first place, and
smart too. I hate feeling not so smart or looking bad but it’s the
only way to learn, so I have to get over my bad self.

I took GIA courses to learn stone IDing, Colored Stone ID and
Diamond Grading. Both these courses have made me money. I use an
order form from Rio to intake work which has a stone map pattern on
the back which is very helpful. Photographing is good and word
description notated by the client. Give the client copies of
everything. Education in stone ID and gold testers and printed intake
forms and experience. Intake can be time consuming and the education
expensive, don’t forget to charge for t in your repair costs.

Sam Patania, Tucson

Lil- If I understand you correctly the customer is going to have you
set her old foil backs in a ring. If this is the case…

Run! Run away as fast as you can!!! If they don’t break when you
try to set them, they will most assuredly break within a few months
of daily wear. That’s why we don’t see glass foil backs set in fine
jewelry. You did make a good move in trying to turn a potential
disaster into a new sale of some real rubies. If she wants a life
time of wear, she should go with the rubies. Really.

Have fun and make lots of jewelry.
Jo Haemer

Lil, if you’ll entertain customer goods, I suggest you make it a
point to learn about diamonds. Once you get passed the paranoia of
misidentifying a stone, you’ll find diamonds are the most benchie
friendly stone to work with.

And there’s good money to be made resetting customer diamonds. In
fact its a whole market segment unto itself. Let me amend my
comment… serious money.

Unfortunately I can’t share the classroom materials I received on
take-in procedures because they are copyrighted. However, they are
very important and worth beginning to educate yourself, even if you
only occasionally do repairs. Here are some references about take-in
procedures which may help you:


If you take in items to be repaired, it might be a good idea to
photograph the items at take in time.

A good way to photograph them is with a Dinolite USB camera. These
cameras have built in illumination & have adjustable (up to 400X)
magnification. The nice thing is since they are USB cameras, they’re
very easy to use &it’s very easy to record a picture(s) of the item
being taken in. Since the record is computer based, it’s easy to make
several different shots of the item.

You can see the Dinolite camera at: This site
is controlled by Wayne Emery, a frequent contributor to Orchid.

Just a very happy customer.


Run! Run away as fast as you can!!!!! If they don't break when you
try to set them, they will most assuredly break within a few
months of daily wear. That's why we don't see glass foil backs set
in fine jewelry. 

Normally, I’d agree. But just recently I’ve seen two pieces of
jewelry, one old (victorian age), the other modern (from india)
which feature odd genuine stones (diamonds in the old one, rubies in
the new) which had been given an odd treatment. In both cases, the
stones had been set into light weight bezel cups, made from dapped
thin sheet metal, the stones just barely set into these with metal
just barely burnished over the girdle. Then this assembly was set
into prongs (in the victorian piece), or into another larger bezel
(the indian one). In both cases, the obvious goal was the traditional
use of “foiling” behind the gem to reflect light back through an
otherwise transparent stone (rose cut diamonds, very shallow
facetted ruby)

The kicker was that at first glance, in both these cases, these bezel
cups looked for all the world like foilback rhinestones until one
looked closer. A lot closer. A simple loupe made me suspicious, but
it wasn’t obvious. I had to put it under the microscope to be sure of
what I was seeing, and only then realized that these were, in fact,
natural stones with an unusual treatment. And whomever did that work
was rather skilled. In both, the reflector cups under the stones were
nicely bright, had kept dirt out well, and increased the visibility
of the stones without calling instant attention to the fact that the
light wasn’t being reflected by the stone, but by the cup underneath.

I’ve been a jeweler for almost 40 years, a bit of a lapidary for
longer than that, and a graduate gemologist for 31 years. But these
were the first examples of this type of treatment I’ve seen. Or at
least, the only ones I rememeber. And given the amount of repair and
restoration work I do on antiques, this was a surprise.

All of which reinforces the comments by others that if you work with
jewelry, getting some professional training in gemology is pretty
much essential. If you’re going to be working on other people’s
jewelry in particular, rather than just making your own, then you
really owe it to yourself, to your customers, and to your repuation,
to be both sure you know what you’re doing, and careful not to get
careless when taking work in.

Still, there will be times when you look something over very
carefully when taking it in, but later, when you sit down at the
bench with a bit more time, and maybe better light or your
microscope, you may yet find you missed something. When that happens,
well, we’re all human. Don’t be afraid to pick up the phone and call
the client and explain what you’ve found. Most customers are not
just itching to assume you’re incompetent or a liar or something.
Give them the honest truth, and go from there. This applies just as
much if you’ve found the unforseen circumstance after you’ve started
work. And it applies just as much if you actually do have a problem,
such as causing accidental damage to a customer’s stone. Communicate,
be honest, and treat customers as you yourself would expect as honest
and fair treatment if you were on the other side of the counter.

As to responsibility, you’re obviously responsible for any damage
you cause through incompetence of mistake. If you look the work over
carefully before, you may be able to forsee things which present
undue risk, in which case the customer can be offered the choice of
whether you should proceed at their risk or not. And if you find
things later that are not your fault, such as in this case, well,
you know it’s not your fault. You may not have seen it earlier, but
you didn’t cause it. So don’t freak out. You’re not responsible for
the jewelry not being what it seemed. Again, it’s simply a matter of
honesty, communication, and being fair both to yourself and your
client. Most people understand and appreciate such treatment.

Peter Rowe