My question is, what do you do in this situation? Is it the
setter's responsibility? Would he be liable for the stone? My
client will be extremely angry, but the setter doesn't seem to
think this is any of his business.
There are several aspects to this.
First, despite all the skills and training, stone setting, even
diamond setting, is never going to be absolutely 100 percent risk
free. Stones chip and break, sometimes through neglegence of error or
poor judgement or whatever, but sometimes simply because what seemed
to be the best approach wasn’t. Some stones, may have hidden risks or
features the stone setter may not be aware of. Yes, in a perfect
world, we’d always notice everything about a stone, make all the
right moves, and never make mistakes. But mistakes do indeed happen
to the best of us. (well, maybe not Leonid or Gerry. But the rest of
us… (grin)) Any stone setting who tells you there is never any risk
and they never have problems, is probably not quite being totally
honest with him or herself (though some folks get close, I’ll admit)
So anyway. There’s always a risk.
Second, how much are you paying the guy to set this stone? He didn’t
sell it, so he makes no profit based on the sales value. And often
the labor charge to set the stone is many times less than the value
of a fine gem. Lets say it’s a five thousand dollar sapphire. And the
guy is going to charge you fifty or a hundred bucks to set it (and
many setters might charge a good deal less for simpler jobs, yet the
risk is still there). Should he/she really be expected to shoulder
the whole risk of the value of the whole stone for a small fee?
Well, perhaps. It all depends. Some setters will carry insurance
against such losses, but many others might not. Some setters will
cover damage up to a certain limit, and after that, it’s on you. Or
perhaps they’re willing to pay for recutting/repolishing of a minor
The answer to your questions is simple.
This is the wrong time to be asking these questions.
You should have worked out these liability issues before giving the
setter the job. Never assume anything here, as some shops or setters
will be able to insure or cover such losses, and others won’t. For
those that won’t, you’d then need to see that your own insurance
covered such a possible loss.
In my own case, just as an example, I do a little side work for
fellow local artists, including some setting work. I do not have
liability insurance covering broken stones, and generally have
limited ability to self insure. So I make sure clients bringing me
work understand that I limit my liability to no more than 100
dollars. If they aren’t happy with that, they can find someone else.
If I chip a stone, I might already have a replacement they’ll accept,
and if I do, that’s an easy way to deal with it, especially with
smaller stones. Or, I would usually be willing to cover the cost of
recutting a chipped stone. but as I said, my maximum liability limit
is 100. And for jobs where I’m unsure whether I can do it safely, I
may only be willing to take the job on condition the customer assumes
all risk from any cause. And while such accidents hopefully are not
common, everyone still needs to understand the terms beforehand.
The appropriate time to have these discussions and make sure
everyone knows who’s liable for what, is before the job is started.
And with anything of significant value, consider a written signed
statement of either who’s liable, or who waives holding the setter
responsible, or what. In writing is the safest… In cases where the
stone already belongs to a customer, and you’re only making the
setting, it’s not uncommon to ask the customer, the owner of the
stone, to assume some or all of the risk.
Hope that helps. Sorry for the situation you’re in though…