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Responsibility for your jewellery craft


#1

i will appologize to you all in advance for this rant. if you are
not interested in hearing a rant delete now.

as a trained craftsman i have always believed that i need to stand
by my work. if i make something that is defective in any way it is
up to me to make it wright weather it is an issue with construction
or a design flaw. in saying this i have had it up to my eyeballs
with customers coming in asking me to fix problems with jewellery
when it is very evident that the producers of the jewellery have not
tested a design properly before putting it into production. My main
rule is, if you have to tell a customer they need to be careful with
the ring you just made them than you have not done your job
properly.

we make jewellery out of gold silver platinum and all sorts of
precious metals and stones. we do this because they last for a long
time. it is up to us to design jewellery that maintains the
integrity of the materials. if i sell a ring for 10000.00 made out
of diamonds and platinum my customer should be able to do there
gardening dishes play football in it without having to worry about
it falling apart.

the jewellery industry needs to think a bit more about how jewellery
is crafted and make fashion take the second seat. One of my best
examples is the illusion setting fad. this setting unless
constructed properly should not be sold to anyone that has a life
more active than sitting in a chair watching TV waiting to die. this
type of setting needs to be very carefully hand made, something that
can not be done on a mass production scale, or it will fall to bits.
this means that i get rings sold by all those jewellery stores that
have off shore manufacturers in for servicing because they refuse to
deal with expensive issues that should be covered by recall.

this only looks bad on the shop that sells the item and i end up
having to spend extra time listening to the rants of some one else’s
unsatisfied customers.

Please stand by your work

please take the time to make sure your designs are practical and dont
ever sell a fragile bit of jewellery to a mountain biker.

Les Riddell


#2

Excellent Post Les! I never mind reading rants when they have such
an important message.

With the wicked weather lately, I’ve had more time to work in my
studio, and spent most of yesterday morning trying new ways of
construction for simple pendants with stones. Even though my work is
vastly simple compared to many, I still want it to work.

I consider the weight, form, size, construction, wearability, all
the issues the buyer might encounter.

I use the same issues when I design and make outerwear for horses,
not jewelry related, but critical when people are buying them for
their horses. (Hmmm, maybe Harry would like to try some cuffs on?
No.)

I think spending time on actual construction, design, use, and
longevity, is not only fascinating, but critical.

Dinah, who was horrid at math, and is relearning it all over again.
It saves so much time.


#3

Les, I couldn’t agree more a out craftsmanship. But are you
maintaining that all jewelry should be worn while gardening lifting
weights or rock climbing?

Can’t agree with you there… I build things with the rigor that you
delineate in your post. But, alas, not all materials are created
with an equally inherent durability. Some structures and designs are
indeed more fragile and cannot withstand gardening, etc. And I tell
my clients so.

I am also confused about your position. You say that all work should
be tough enough to garden in,etc. and then you close by saying that
you shouldn’t sell a fragile ring to a mountain biker…

Take care. Andy


#4

I know what you mean about some of the schlocky stuff out there.
Because I repair sooner or later I see everyone’s problem jewelery.
It used to be a pet peeve that it seemed like people held me to a
higher standard. It used to bother me, I felt it unfair. Then I
realized, hey, they’re coming to ME for answers. they’re not going
to the guy who got all their money for the piece. What does that tell
you? They have lost faith in that seller/maker. They’d rather pay me
to fix it right than wait around for months for the maker to try to
correct it if they can, and sometimes they can’t or won’t. Its
opportunity knocking!

Every time something like that happens, and you pull a rabbit out of
the hat…your stature and reputation grow. And you get paid. That’s
tough to beat. Make money now, and be setup to make even more money
later. Its become SOP to make a new client by referral on a problem,
and have that client turn into a repeat $pender.

But I never bad mouth the problem stuff that comes my way. I remain
positive in solving their problem. I will point out whatever
deficiency or situation I see and give a plan to fix it. No snide
remarks.

the jewellery industry needs to think a bit more about how
jewellery is crafted and make fashion take the second seat 

Although I can relate to the sentiment, the fact is that its fashion
that spurs the sale. Customers are thinking, “Oooo, pretty” they’re
not thinking, “Oooo, built like a brick house”.


#5

Hi Les. I totally agree with you - and your apology is accepted for
your rant. I think there are more jewelers than you know of who do
stand behind their work - I do - and am a firm believer that if I
think it’s not going to stand up to the “rigors” of normal wear and
tear, then it goes in my junk box or on my bench for reworking. I
agree that we should attempt to create pieces that will hold up
regardless, but then there are always those persons who will find
some way, some how to ruin what you have done. And yes, it is not fun
to repair other peoples work especially if you feel they could have
done it “right” the first time around and saved you the repair. And
I’m sure we’ve all had those experiences. But thanks for your words
and hopefully if needed they will be heeded.

Kay


#6

andy i did say it was a rant.

i know that some of what i said was conflicting but some times you
must say all the things on your mind to sort them out. im sure you
got the general gist of what i was getting at. when i design a bit of
jewellery for someone i look at how they are going to use it. how
active they plan to be. if they are going to were it without taking
it off. weather it is going to be a ring a broach or earrings. i try
to include my client in the decisions about design and structure as
well as materials that might suit there needs. i dont sell a big opal
in a ring to the champion sand castle builder if they plan to were it
in the next comp. there are plenty of pros to having a bit of
jewellery built like this. but what the big chain stores have that i
dont is hundreds of thousands of dollars of stock to choose from. if
an active customer is wanting something that they are going to make
into an extra limb and on impulse want the 3 gm ring with the 10 mm
round emerald set in a 4 claw setting they should be shown something
else or strongly told the issues around wearing it. If a strong
setting is without a doubt defective on return, the shop should stand
by the sale with a replacement or fix.

I have no problem fixing other shops jewellery and taking money to
do so. it most defiantly builds my rep and business. i am very carful
about what i say about other smiths work but i can not help feel
empathy and compassion for someone that was led astray weather by
intention or not.

sometimes the stand i take with a client borders on harsh and
insulting (in my place of business the customer is not always
wright) sometimes they walk away without getting me to do work that
day. a very high percentage that walk away come back to have me work
for them. fashion is a big part of this industry but a couture dress
was never meant to be worn to the office. you can not expect to get
return customers if what you sell them draws blood from everyone they
hug or shake hands with and you will never get a referral from
someone that purchased a much loved ring that is only ever admired
from the safety of a jewellery box.

Les


#7

This is an interesting discussion. I had an interview with Marthe
LeVan, editor of Lark Books several weeks ago. She is an avid jewelry
collector, and discussed the many different types of work she
collects. Some pieces she expects to last in their "purchased form"
for many years, perhaps to be occasionally refinished or re-polished.
Other more “temporary” pieces she owns she only expects to last for a
few months, never to be worn again. She is fine with that
expectation.

So how long should a piece of jewelry last? A difficult question. So
much depends on what is expected of it, the materials used, and the
craftsmanship of the maker. If you are selling work you make, do you
want an angry customer coming back to you to repair or rebuild your
creation?

I don’t think there is a set answer to these questions. There are so
many variables. I would only suggest that jewelry is a unique art
form that is fastened to the human body, and unlike the abuse we put
our bodies through, jewelry attached to it cannot repair itself.

Jewelry is mostly made with soft metals, often set with stones that
can scratch, chip, or break. The engineering that goes into work
designed to last for many years is incredible to contemplate.

So besides just learning to be good craftsmen, we have to be good
engineers, too!

Jay Whaley


#8

to Les Riddell: you go guy!

your entire post was rock solid and a couple of sections resonated
with me enough to support:

some of the leading books on jewelry design/illustration/rendering
are guilty of perpetuating ‘blue sky’ practices - they show positions
of the stones, etc. but critical construction details are not only
lacking they’re not even in the realm of possibility - take your
reference to ‘illusion setting’, the ‘illusion’ being true to its
definition and just another jeweler wannabe trying to be different.

... this [poor construction practice] only looks bad on the shop
that sells the item and i end up having to spend extra time
listening to the rants of some one else's unsatisfied customers. 

at the first words of a sad tale of jewelry needing repair, or the
person starting to unfold tissue to reveal whatever, i cut it short,
wearing a sad face, “i wish i could help you but repairing other
jewelers’ mistakes is not financially worth my time; time spent on
repair work is time i need to create my own work. i’m sorry.” (yeah,
right) the person might try to argue with my technical explanation of
the time and effort to fix the problem, but they can’t argue with the
finances involved.

keep posting your intelligent opinion, Les - ive
spending more time on how to do it right means less time on re-doing
it.


#9
critical construction details are not only lacking they're not even
in the realm of possibility - take your reference to 'illusion
setting', the 'illusion' being true to its definition and just
another jeweler wannabe trying to be different. 

I do not understand the reference to “illusion setting”. An illusion
set ting is a white gold plate that a diamond is set in to make the
diamond look bigger, what does this have to do with a jeweler
wannabe?

at the first words of a sad tale of jewelry needing repair, or the
person starting to unfold tissue to reveal whatever, i cut it
short, wearing a sad face, "i wish i could help you but repairing
other jewelers' mistakes is not financially worth my time. time
spent on repair work is time i need to create my own work. 

In this economy I am grateful for any repair work I can take in to
keep my employees employed and my doors open, and good repair work
leads to sales and custom work, that is my experience. My hourly rate
for making my own jewelry applied to repair and the mark up for parts
for repair and the fact that a repair is pre-sold work is a benefit
for me. I cannot sell all my work as fast as I can make it, so I do
rely on my guaranteed sources of income, repair and custom.

Richard Hart G.G.
Denver, Co.


#10

This is the perfect thread to bring up again, the fact that we as
jewelers are enabling the QVC’s of the world. I realize that repairs
make us money, but so do sales. If we were to stop fixing the junk
people would stop buying it. It may take awhile but eventually the
customer will re-learn quality and buy from us, the local jeweler.
If we keep fixing the junk for them, they will continue buying it. I
have already taken that stand, I will not repair the platinum clad
jewerly or size any light weight rings.

Bill Wismar
www.metalbendersgallery.com


#11
some of the leading books on jewelry design/illustration/rendering
are guilty of perpetuating 'blue sky' practices - they show
positions of the stones, etc. but critical construction details are
not only lacking they're not even in the realm of possibility 

I have personal experience working with designers. I am not going to
mention any names. Just enough to say that it was a very large
company known for it’s designers. None of them had any clue of
details of construction. They would drop their designs and it was up
to you to figure out the details.

On a more general note. Craftsmanship is a state of mind. If person
is pre-disposed to craftsmanship, anything that person does would be
done with craftsmanship, even the most mundane tasks.

There is a video which on the net. To find it one must have Itunes
installed. If you have mac, you all set. If windows machine - itunes
is free download from Apple site. Once you got the itunes, go to
Itunes Store, then ITunesU, select list of colleges and pick Harvard
University, display list of all the courses and select Science and
Cooking. Most of the lectures crap, but number 2 is something else.
The name is Sous-vide Cooking. First 20 minutes are not interesting,
but when recipe demonstration begins, it will be worth your while.
Even if you are not interested in cooking, it is still make sense to
see it. The guy really knows the meaning of craftsmanship.

Sorry for convoluted navigation, but there is no direct link.

Leonid Surpin
www.studioarete.com


#12
An illusion set ting is a white gold plate that a diamond is set in
to make the diamond look bigger, what does this have to do with a
jeweler wannabe? 

There is another type of illusion setting. Coronet cluster, when done
with diamonds alone and the center stone is the same size as cluster
stones, is known as illusion setting, because from the distance it
looks like a solitaire. I have done some engagement rings in that
style. Seven 10 pointers are less than a grand, even if in super
quality. You get 9 mm head which looks spectacular.

Leonid Surpin
www.studioarete.com


#13

In years past, I used to do a lot more repairs than I do today. The
laser had not yet made an appearance in jewelry repair shops. I
prided myself with fine-jewelry repairs I would do that had been
refused by other jewelers. I built my reputation this way. However, I
did not work on costume jewelry. Anything plated and set with
rhinestones was turned away. I always had to be mindful of what
solders jewelers in the past might have used on the piece I was
repairing, and be prepared for anything. Experience with repair work
can teach you to refuse certain jobs that could be a disaster.

I’ve always felt that however un-creative repair work might be,
doing lots of it is a fantastic learning experience.

I also think that having a customer come to you for a repair is a
way for them to get an idea of your craftsmanship, level of
experience, pricing, and timeliness. Often a new customer with a now
fully repaired and refinished piece of jewelry becomes a continuing
client, who then orders a more expensive custom design.

People have an innate distrust of jewelers, based on tales of
switched stones, etc. Having a simple repair or even a ring sizing
done for a customer helps establish this trust factor between
customer and jeweler.

We can’t always depend on custom work for our livelihood, but often
repairs will keep the bills paid.

Jay Whaley


#14
If we were to stop fixing the junk people would stop buying it 

Junk is a relative term. I won’t fix something unless I have a
reasonable expectation of success. Plated stuff? no I’ll
pass…usually. However if Mrs Gottrocks asks me to fix a
sentimental costume piece, being that she spends well with me, I
cannot and will not refuse her. I’d rather keep her.

The QVC customer is not our customer anyway. I say QVC in a
metaphorical sense. The person who seeks out very inexpensive jewelry
is not likely to buy from a guild type store because of perceived
cost. They THINK you’re expensive so they shy away. Price is their
motivator. I like the customer whose motivation is quality. But I
full well realize that the quality conscious client may own 'junk’
too, to be blunt. I’m using junk not as a pejorative but as a
descriptor, relatively speaking.

One of my best customers complained to me recently about how her
acquaintance was treated at another place, the gist was she was
spoken to insultingly concerning the size of her newly acquired
engagement ring. My customer will be bringing her in for a consult on
how to ooomph it up, which was the reason for the visit to the other
place. So I win because some lofty minded jeweler refused to
accommodate a sincere request. Can’t beat that with a stick.

Way long ago I was out to dinner at a hibachi. Across the
table(well, griddle I suppose) sat a woman who said to her companions
about me something like, “He’s my jeweler, VERY expensive”. At first
I was insulted and a bit hurt. After I realized that I didn’t really
know just WHO she was it dawned on me that she was just blowing
smoke, trying to impress her dinner mates that she shops in an
expensive place. And that is I believe the mind set of the ‘QVC’ type
buyer. Faux. Do we WANT this kind of client? Personally speaking, no,
not me. I’ll gladly fix costume for Mrs Gottrocks but not so eager
for Mrs. Fakerocks.

But its sometimes tough to determine before the fact just who is
what. I did recently have to tell someone I could no longer take her
work. This was after she complained that I had the nerve to charge
her ten dollars to reset a stone. So some people get the royal
treatment and some don’t. Tricky.

My fingers hurt now and I can see you nodding off, so bye.


#15

Isn’t it kind of incumbent on the jeweler to explain the pros and
cons to the customer? In other words, make a recommendation whether
a certain design is appropriate for the use the person intends to
put it to? If someone insists on wearing an opal ring everyday while
building sand castles, I would have to advise that that will
eventually ruin the ring. On the other hand, if the person insists
on proceeding against recommendation, isn’t that their prerogative?

I am just starting out in the business end, should I have people
sign something that protects me from this?

Mary Barker


#16

I’m still a bottom feeder who hasn’t sold a thing yet, but I want to
try my best making stuff people will likely.

Still, I can’t see why people simply shouldn’t treat precious stones
and metal with the respect they deserve.

Or has the average level of classiness in H. Sapiens go so low that
jewelers can only make indestructable shlock for them?

As for me… My tags always say: “.999 Fine Silver. Please Handle
With Care.”

Andrew Jonathan Fine


#17

At our tiny store we specialize in custom work. We carry only our own
one of a kind work. We will repair anything that we can. We have a
customer who actually works at QVC. She has a busload of jewelry she
has gotten from her place of employ. We have sized, repaired,
retipped, re-what ever she has needed over the last few years. We
have NEVER dissed any of the pieces she has brought in. Last week she
came in after not having been by for about 6 months.

As we chatted and caught up on our relative states of health and
well being, she mentioned that the reason she has not been around is
that after all these repairs we have done for her, she wants us to
make her a custom piece. She has been busy during her hiatus from us,
selling many of her QVC pieces on EBAY in order to put together the
money for her new heirloom. Cool.

Peggy Wilson
Harbor Jewelers


#18
I've always felt that however un-creative repair work might be,
doing lots of it is a fantastic learning experience. 

I used to think of repair work as uncreative and possibly a bit dull,
but after the first few repairs and wowing the customers, who never
imagined that their broken piece could be made to be like new and
sometimes better than new, I now find that I really enjoy repair
work. The customer satisfaction is worth it for me, just as much as
making them a brand new piece.

Helen Hill
UK


#19

A sign at a first-class tattoo parlor - “Cheap tattoos ain’t good,
good tattoos ain’t cheap”. Pretty much sums it up.

Dave Phelps


#20
Still, I can't see why people simply shouldn't treat precious
stones and metal with the respect they deserve. 

There are several answers for that, and all are rooted in behavioral
artifacts and psychology. Goldsmith must be aware of it very keenly.

Why some men wear pinkie rings? I am not implying that everybody has
the same reason, but the custom started as to show off how rich one
is. Pinkie is the worst finger to put the ring on, because stone is
unprotected and susceptible to damage. So what could be better
indication of one’s wealth than to wear large expensive ring on
one’s finger. But god help the goldsmith if the ring would actually
be damaged. The facade that people maintain in public is not
necessarily reflect their actual personality. So we design pinkie
rings with cabochons and thick heavy bezels around it.

Here is another example. I had a client, whom I made a cocktail ring.
In about two months, she brought back complaining that stone is
loose. I examine the ring and she was correct. The stone was loose,
so tightened the stone and gave ring to my assistant to polish.
While waiting for it, we talking and I notice that she has a peculiar
habit. He carries her car keys with some other keys in her hand. Her
car key is that large electronic key made of of carbon fiber. When
she talks, every time she finishes the sentence, at the place you
would place period if it would be writing, she taps the key on the
table. I mentally project the position of other end of the key, and
it was exactly agains her ring finger. So it was quite clear why
stone got loose. I wonder how often she changes her car key. The
constant hammering cannot be good for the battery inside.

People do a lot of thing without realizing that they doing it, and
jewellery has to stand up to that.

Leonid Surpin
www.studioarete.com