The David Geller Philosophy on charging to use a laser welder
I started learning jewelry repair when I was 10 in my father’s shop during the summers. Willard the shop foreman trained me at bench skills and he told me there were two skills to master to be a good jeweler.
• Setting stones
• Using a torch
Over my 50+ years in the industry and in my own store/shop training bench jeweler I have to agree this makes or breaks a jeweler.
Being taught by an excellent teacher or a great school can make one an excellent setter. But today Cad/Cam with creating waxes on a mill or printer can make the seats and layout stone setting thus bypassing some problems in setting.
What about the torch? The laser welder has solved this problem in such a degree that a ten year old can master repairing jewelry near emeralds and opals.
A torch produces 1600 degrees of heat and placing a piece of solder on the gold when the gold reaches the temperature with a torch then the solder melts and joins the gold. Heat travels and can do harm to nearby stones, a patina finish and also make other areas that were fixed or assembled fall apart.
A laser welder uses a high concentrate of heat so quickly and so concentrated in space that a jeweler holds the ring in their hands while doing this repair. The heat doesn’t travel to other areas.
You can heat stones the colors of the American flag
• Red: Faceted rubies
• White: Non filled diamonds
• Blue: Faceted sapphires
Other stones can’t take the heat or they’ll shatter. For the past 2000 years other stones had to be removed to do any repair near them. Laser welders can do this repair without removing them and not harming the stones.
It costs $25,000+
This one fact scares many jewelers away but shouldn’t. Payments of about $300+ a month is just like having a very part time jeweler working for you who can do soldering you’ve never been able to do!
So how to charge for this new skill and expense?
Firstly using a laser welder for most repair jobs will make it go 50% faster! No more adding protective coatings or refinishing massive areas “burnt” by a torch. Have 20 charms to put on a bracelet and solder 20 jump rings? While the person with the torch is on #8 the laser person is steaming the bracelet and putting it in a zip lock bag for delivery.
If the job goes faster don’t charge any extra (nor give a discount). Just get the extra profit from the speed.
When do we charge more?
• When it takes longer to do the same job
• When it benefits the customer against problems or extra charges while you repair their jewelry.
Sizing many rings with a laser welder can take longer. So take this emerald channel set eternity band.
To size the ring it is cut at the bottom and the heat could easily travel up to the bezel set emeralds and ruin the first ones. Can be done with a torch but still sketchy as heat travels to them. If these were diamonds we wouldn’t care if they got really hot, they’d be just fine.
The normal way of sizing this ring smaller is to cut out a piece and bring them back together, using a torch the solder would melt and run between the pieces and make it solid again in no time. Lickitey Split! Picture on the left.
On this fragile emerald sizing job to use a laser we would cut out a “V” shape and using a laser with gold wire we would slowly melt the wire and fill in the “V” cut to form the bond. If you’ve ever used a caulking gun at home to fill in cracks around a window or tub you get the feel of “filling it in”.
This could take 50% longer to do this job but we’d reduce the chances of harming the emerald to almost nothing.
Using a torch. Likety split! Using a laser-Takes Longer
Because it will take 50% longer to do we will charge 50% MORE to size this fragile emerald ring.
Let’s go back to the emerald ring. What if the ring had split between TWO EMERALDS?
Almost just give up! Using a torch all emeralds would have to be removed, weld the ring and reset them. You could chip or break the emeralds and you might charge $50 to $100 PER STONE to remove and reset the stones. This is over a $500 job to fix a crack.
Using a laser this would be almost as easy as sizing a ring because the stones don’t have to be removed.
Just because the job would be done very quickly isn’t the point.
The point here is we have invested in a $25,000+ machine to not harm a customer’s ring, cause damage and saving hundreds of dollars to the customer from not resetting stones.
We will charge 50% more to do this job for these reasons.
So here’s the laser pricing plan:
- If it goes faster just because you’re using a laser (like soldering chains/tipping on diamonds/soldering jump rings, etc) don’t charge more, just get extra profits because of the speed.
- If using a laser to do an excellent jobs will take more time (like the emerald ring example) or is a benefit to the customer then charge at least 50% more than normal repair prices.
In our repair book there are laser 50% higher prices to do:
You should too.
Willard would be so proud.
Director of Shop’s Profits