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Stone setting rant

Hi All,

Been a while since i last posted here, but a small rant about stone
setting is in order from me today. Yesterday i recieved a message
number os stones have fallen out & the rings returned from the
wearers… Alarm bells! I am very careful to make damn sure every
stone is secure when it leaves my workshop. It has been said by 2
seperate goldsmiths who work for the same company that my setting
style ( which i believe is correct), is abit on the fine side with
not a great deal of metal over the stones…

I saw another chaps work with stones buried almost up to the table,
safe as it may be this is wrong in my opinion. In the last 3 years i
have been complimented that less stones have fallen out since i
started working = for the company (despite the uncertainty of these
2 “goldsmiths” who incidentally are good at their work but 1 has
never done any setting and the other is very young in the trade and
though has done abit, is well behind my setting experience of 19
years. Now heres the bit that got my back up… This work which is
(smallish) mass production, has been coming to me from these seperate
goldsmiths 1 of which always cleans up the castings first (as you
do), and the second often sends partly cleaned castings (maybe sized
roughly but still alot of filing ect to be done). Now despite warning
(more than once) about the possibility of stones coming loose because
of the work done to castings AFTER setting, nothing changes but they
still come crying to me when these few stones fall out. I don’t
really care how or what order they want to do things but: I can’t set
stones incorrectly (too deep) just so they can cope with hamfisted
metalwork after the fact Be responsible for anything coming loose if
any castings come to me un “prepped” properly. I was taught that
stone setting should be followed by

nothing more than a polish (ok, maybe a sizing) but even then a
re-check of stones is in order. The fallen out stones came from the
un-prepped workshop…need i say more? How do you get the cotton
wool out of peoples ears so they LISTEN?!


When you obtain your item for setting, give it a quick 'once-over’
look. Does it need any further ‘cleaning’? Is the ring the correct
size, this must be done BEFORE setting. Has the jeweller followed
certain requirements in his pre-polishing? If you can see that some
of these procedures are lacking, bring this up to the manager
immediately, before leaving his store.

Let him know that your setting might be compromised due to the lack
of basic jewellery procedures.He must know that your setting must be
put into the hands of an experienced jeweller. Chris, I would have
heart-to-heart talk with this manager over a cuppa and discuss these
items. Let him know you have some concerns after your setting is done
and be ‘open’ with him.

BTW, do you have your own ultra-sonic cleaner at your office? I use
mine religiously…


Chris in the 33 years I have been doing jewelry work I have found
that the quickest way to get people to listen is through their
wallet. Don’t set stones on unfinished pieces. Charge (extravagant
prices) to do the finish work that should have been done before the
pieces are sent to you. Or increase setting prices on unfinished
pieces to offset the cost of redo work. Get their attention through
their wallet.

Frank Goss

I have no idea how to get the cotton out of people’s eats, maybe you
just can’t and they have to replace the stone at their expense, not

Absolutely, setting the stone, especially flush set is the last
step. You can not possibly “finish cleaning up a casting” around an
already set stone unless the stone is set so deep you can afford to
take metal away.

Perhaps when the venders send you those partially finished castings
that you can say you will not guarantee your work unless they
provide you with a finished casting.(except polishing)

Just my 2 cents.

The fallen out stones came from the un-prepped workshop.....need i
say more? How do you get the cotton wool out of peoples ears so
they LISTEN?! 

Easy…You refuse to set stones in work that has not been properly
finished. Until you do that, that shop will continue to have
unreasonable expectations about the pieces that they send you to be
set. You will continue to be frustrated when your good work will not
hold up to their finishing. After all, if you go ahead and set the
stones in unfinished work, it must be acceptable to finish it like
that… No?

When you stop accommodating, they will stop taking advantage.

2c from the peanut gallery…

Lisa, (Birdfeeders filled yesterday hanging on the tree right outside
my window. Cats are spending day sitting in front of same, watching
"Bird TV") Topanga, CA USA

Lisa Bialac-Jehle

Why not charge them a bit extra, with a written statement that due
to the unfinished condition of the work you are unable to do the job
correctly and so can offer NO warrantee, as any further work will put
settings at risk. When you hit people in their back pocket they tend
to pay attention, but honestly sloppy crafts people seldom change.
At least by charging them extra now, you will have had them prepay
for any future work they try to get you to do for free!

You get them to listen by telling them (in writing) that you only
warrant your workmanship up to the point where another craftsperson
does any work other than minor resizing (stipulate what you consider
minor) and a final light polishing.

Any other work voids your warrantee. End of story.

This is how it is with computers (your can add peripherals and
software but no in the box hardware, right), washing machines etc. so
why not your work too?

End rant.


I just delivered a bangle bracelet yesterday afternoon. It took me
about 22 hours of rigourous setting on very porous 14kt ‘hard’ gold.
I said to the client about his tough gold and his overall porosity
everywhere and this unfinished after-casting cleaning. Basically we
discussed the results openly! “Gypsy Setting” baguettes was a
complete challenge because of his gold!

He was very understanding…I did say to him that if any thing
happens to my diamonds during the clean-up, I cannot be held
responsible!..plain and simple!!!

No one should be having to be put under scrutiny and redicule while
any ‘object of art’ is to be mishandled after the act of setting!!!

This cleaning can at times be rather damaging, not too mention the
polishing process as well. I’ve seen many of my setting projects
almost destroyed by a polisher who has simply no idea on the
rudiments of stone setting polishing. This can be so different from
basic ring “buffing”!


I dont really understand why people are saying refuse the work. Why
you would do this I just dont understand. Its paying work and
sometimes you cant afford to say no.

My solution would be to do the work required on the piece or pieces
and pass that charge onto the customer.

You can be smart about it. Get a contract jeweller to do the work to
the piece if you are not able to do it yourself.

A jeweller wouldnt charge more than a few dollars to emery and
polish a casting ( you should add a bit on top of this for your
trouble). Then you have a perfect casting to work your magic on. On
the invoice put a seperate charge for “prep work” and then your
setting charge.

You never know your contractor might do such a good job your
customer will be sending you raw castings to complete from scratch.

Good luck.


i mirror many that have said :

  1. you can only get results through their wallet… so charge for
    cleaning castings if necessary…but before charging let the
    "goldsmiths" know, IN WRITING, that your new policies are X…they
    know that they can take advantage of you due to your personal
    integrity as is easily gleaned between the lines…a not-so-simple
    letter will get thier immediate attention and if they want to
    continue to offer quality to their clients they will retain your
    services…as they sound rather lazy as it is (one tip off is in their
    sending you improperly prepared work), and betting your prices are
    low-balled cost:value wise

  2. refuse to do their preliminary work for them…based on your
    skills, overhead, and the stones to be set- whether melee or
    reasonably sized, and the stones characteristics, and your
    materials, consumables and labour time invested price the work
    competitively and publish that new price list for services…you may
    find you pick up more clients as well…Funny how increasing one’s
    prices makes the services offered more in demand…All too often I
    have seen very experieinced jewelers/goldsmiths/metalsmiths charging
    1960’s rates for their expert work…Time has come to raise your
    costs, and pay yourself for your experience, dilligence, and
    integrity…while many use david geller’s rates…I find them somewhat
    out-of-pace with reality…so do an assesment on your own of costs not
    overlooking a single line item, the time it takes you and what you
    think that time is worth based on the years that you have invested in
    perfecting your skills ( that’s where I differ extensibly with
    Geller’s figures- a novice should not charge as much as a 30 year
    practitioner of goldsmithing arts and sciences!!!) add to that figure
    you arrive at based on the competition available to the goldsmith’s
    you are contracted with… if no competition is locally available
    that provides the same level of expertise then your services should
    be at a premium…the W. C. G. may offer you some assistance in
    arriving at that figure and in discovering the competition in your
    area, if any… at

  3. It seems as though it is time to draft a new catalogue of your
    services and policies:

Either charge a fee for cleaning castings and work received that
requires preliminary labours before you can begin the setting
process or refuse to take the work in “as is”…again, figure the
costs of labour, materials, overhead ( keeping the lights on and
running heat or cooling while you work for instance !), and the
disposition of any scrap generated by your procedures.

List everything you are willing to do under contract and assess a
reasonable fee for each line item have a section for special
circumstances ( i. e. - rush jobs, stones that are provided yet you
deem unfit for setting, etc. ) Clearly spell out what you will
guarantee and for what period of time. If it’s in black and white it
cannot be misinterpreted. I would tend not to guarantee any work
other than your own, equally, loss of stones -through normal wear
and tear-should be covered by the seller of the jewelry not the
setter…The jeweler knows what standards you, or any setters operate
with and they get what they pay for…If yours is the premiere skill
level available charge appropriately and guarantee to the
jeweler-not the client- that you will back your setting as long as
the etting is done to YOUR standards of height to stone table, choice
of metal /material to stone and base ( for example one may opt not to
set a melee in 24kt bezel if it will be knocked about in daily wear,
and potentially deform readily given the softness or the shallowness
of the material surrounding the stone(s)… at which time , on
initial inspection, you make note on your service order that you
recommended 22kt. rich yellow instead of the 24kt that the
designer/jeweler desires, and that you will not warrant the material
provided against deformation, but you will warrant that the stone was
set properly upon delivery and for x period of time, that should
differ from your standard warrantied work. I personally guaranty my
original work for the life of the piece given normal wear and tear by
the original individual or corporate purchaser,. Pieces that i do not
design, or that I have no control over once it leaves my studio are
expressly the responsibility of the seller, with some noted
exceptions ( repair work, replacement with stones not original to the
piece or different from the gem material initially incorporated into
the design, etc. ). the point is to think through all the potential
problems and spell out your disposition with regards to each so that
you are not responsible for any work you do not wish to cover any
potential future costs of repairing or replacing through no fault of
your own.

If you need an further suggestions on organizing our paper systems,
or developing paper forms, policy, etc. feel free to contact me, but
know that it may be a few days in responding.

Dr. R. E. Rourke

Thanks for the replys, Most of the advice is in place, trouble is
with refusing to do work can lead to not getting it back. Since
where i am the trade is so small i can’t afford that to happen.
Trying to get everyone to “get the message” so that everything flows
nicely with minimal hassle is not an easy task!I’m marking unfinished
castings on the invoice so that if a problem occurs they know not to
come crying to me anymore : >


Your idea and proposed action does have merit. Let them know
verbally and charge for for your "extra and additonal"
services…“Clean-up prior to setting…$–.--”. quoted at your hourly
setting rate. But stress that “any further modification due to
additional cleaning cannot be judged as inferior setting
practices”…THIS IS YOUR WARRANTY! Sign and let him see your note.

Although your trade is quite small, from your past e-letters, you
must stand up for your quality and skill level…You are now speaking
with authority!..Be gentle, but be firm!..


Since where i am the trade is so small i can't afford that to

Aye that’s the rub.

But…you could perhaps assess that market a bit more. Do you have
direct competition for the accounts? How good are they and how’s
their pricing? Will your problem account jump ship for a few measly

Or…do you have the upper hand and just don’t realize it?

What is the dollar percentage of comebacks/complaints you are faced
with? Do you still make a reasonable profit on their work, even with
redoing some things? Can you compensate for the (hopefully) small?
losses in some other way?

Its funny ya know, jewelry retailers will get very cheap when it
comes to small expenses yet will overspend on expensive purchases.
ex: investing in a non-moving inventory of some particular
manufacturer while chiseling with a source that generates money on a
daily basis. Pennywise as they say. Before you take a harsh stance,
KNOW what their response will be and what your alternatives are.

Its very easy to suggest to you that you lay down the law, but you
are the one who has to deal with the reality of of your situation.

Consider offering to cover lost stones only if you do the complete
work on the piece. Then you have control. and a bigger pie slice
from which to cover those losses.

Trying to get everyone to "get the message" so that everything
flows nicely with minimal hassle is not an easy task 

Yeah, Chris sounds like he didn’t so much need advise as just “a
rant”, as he said. There’s really two kinds of setters (those who
think there are two kinds of people, and those who don’t - I like to
remember that). Like me - I’m a goldsmith who learned how to set
mostly out of necessity and convenience, and I send out work that’s
over my head or that needs a finer touch. And then there are diamond
setters (or stone setters, as they prefer) who mostly can’t do much
jewelry work beyond the setting part. Kind of like the punter on a
football team - that’s what they do. I charge double for fixing
other people’s mistakes or doing their job for them - no kidding.
But a setter often doesn’t have the luxury of being able to do that,
because they don’t know how in any real way. Some do and some just
plain don’t. The only solution when you’re on the receiving end is
to say, “This isn’t ready yet, take it back and make it so.”, but as
Chris said that’s not always so easy… Anyway, just a bit of

Hello, everybody,

Oh Chris!

It sounds like you’re handicapped a little bit here. Folks are
always ready to criticize when it isn’t their work involved.

Perhaps you could require that you do all the prep work for the
settings, and refuse to warrent any setting done on a ring that
isn’t finished out. I worked with an inlayer who requested that I
leave channels unpolished so that she would be able to work better
with the metal.

You could also consider leaving just a little bit more metal over
the stones, in deference to the goldsmith’s criticism. Nothing gives
momentum to people like having “evidence” that they are correct. Put
this in the same category as “petty tyrants.”

Good luck, I wish you all the best. Must get to class- macroeconomics

Susannah Page-Garcia