OK James. I’m assuming you are a stone setter, trying to figure out
what are acceptable losses. I’m going to speak to you as one
professional stone setter to another, just as I was once spoken to
when I asked for advice concerning broken stones. I hate to be as
blunt as I’m going to be in this post, and avoided doing so in my
first post, but here goes.
I’m reminded of military leadership discussing “acceptable losses”.
To the grunt on the battlefield and the doctor in the local town
treating civilian casualties there is no such thing as “an acceptable
loss”. To the four star general and to the professional stone setter,
there shouldn’t be either.
Perhaps I was not clear enough, you seem to have missed my point. As
Phil and Jeff both suggested, and as I tried to say, don’t plan on
breaking stones - just don’t break them - period. If you really are
having enough loss due to stone breakage that you feel the need to
keep a chart of it, you are breaking far too many. As Dan says, “the
answer better be “0”!!!”.
A cavalier attitude towards stone breakage is totally unacceptable
in the trade. In my humble opinion, creating a chart to predict
losses due to stone breakage over the course of a year is a
demonstration of just such an attitude. If you want to be a
professional stone setter, you really need to change your thought
Rather than spending time trying to predict your losses to stone
breakage, your time and energy needs to be better focused on
preventing breakage in the first place. If you don’t get a handle on
it soon, and by soon I mean by the next time you chuck up a bur, you
may not be doing this for much longer.
hope to collect enough real life data to model this loss of
revenue during the coming year.
Using Dan’s example, if you damage one 17ct Burmese ruby, your
revenue loss for the year and for a long time to come might have you
cutting lawns and delivering pizza for the rest of your life. This
is real life data for a professional stone setter.
You can’t chart the loss to your reputation or the number of future
jobs you won’t get by keeping track of broken stones, and that is
where the real loss of revenue will be. Think of a surgeon tracking
the loss of revenue to his practice based on the number of wrong
limbs amputated per year and you might get an idea of how you should
be approaching this subject.
Use each stone you damage as a learning experience, and never make
that same mistake again. This was the point I was trying to
illustrate, and maybe save you learning a lesson or two of your own
with damage prevention measures I have learned from my mistakes and
those of other setters I have worked with over the last thirty-plus
With the rare exception of jobs like pave’ing 1.5mm peridots in 18K
white gold you should never “count” on breaking stones, and even
then, the number of broken stones better not be more than a couple.
It is possible to do setting work to this standard, although it is
sometimes considered to be not worth the extra time. Such an
"acceptable loss" should be weighed against the time spent and should
be a rare exception to the rules, never just accepted as a normal
part of the business. Sorry if I gave the wrong impression using that
as an example before.
If they are a customer’s stones, even 1.5mm peridots going into 18K
white, consider them irreplaceable and do what you have to do to not
break any, even if that means turning the job down Because in the
eyes of most customers, that is exactly what they are, irreplaceable.
When such a loss is unavoidable or the risk is great as Phil
discussed, the customer must be consulted, and you may just have to
Sometimes not breaking a stone means not setting a stone. Your
professional reputation is at stake, even if the customer says “go
ahead anyway”. It’s just fine until you really do break a customer’s
stone. Then it’s not alright anymore, regardless of their previous
OK. “See? I told you so” just doesn’t cut it as a defense, and
certainly won’t do much to expand your business.
I recommend that you tear that chart up, delete the file and
consider taking a stone setting course. There are many very good ones
around, check the archives for recommendations. Then make it your
personal goal to not ever damage another single stone for the rest of
your life. This is the kind of goal a professional sets for himself.
Others that have posted have obviously adopted such a goal at some
point in their career, specifically Dan, Jeff and Phil. Every
professional stone setter I know worth their pay has as well.
Just because perfection is not humanly possible doesn’t mean you
shouldn’t strive for it. You sure aren’t going to get anywhere near
perfection without at least trying.
I’m not posting this to be contentious, or to put you down in any
way, James. I offer it only as a fellow professional that wants to
see you prosper. I made a promise once to help people achieve
success and avoid pitfalls that I know about, and that’s my objective
here. Please accept my constructive criticism in the spirit in which
I give it. My Mom would have called it “tough love”. My Drill
Sergeant would have called it “a little dose of reality” and then
would have told me to drop and give him twenty.