Trim the stone?

Andy…I tagged this question onto the Glue Debate thread because
it poses a similar moral question: is it acceptable to slightly
modify a stone during setting?

I know that this is a common practice in the industry, where speed is
important and broken stones can eat into the bottom line. In a
high-end studio like mine, it is assumed that we don’t do
that…or do we? Doesn’t it make sense to trim a little from the
edge of a couple of princess diamonds to achieve that perfect fit in
an eternity ring? Or do we remake the ring .10mm larger? What about
trimming those baguettes so they will follow the swirl of the
channel? And those triangle amethysts that you’re about to
set…hell, that tip’s gonna break anyway.

You raised the issue of disclosuRe: is it OK if say that I did it?
The issue of ownership of the stone would certainly affect my
decision. If it’s my stone that I’m setting into a spec. piece, I
should have the right to alter anything that I wish. If I don’t like
the way that the lapidary cut it, I’ll change it. If a client’s
stone is questionable (like a fire opal without a girdle), I can
insist that this work be done before setting, or refuse the job.
It’s the little stones that I worry about. If I need to trim a
little to get the stone to fit properly, will I go to “Goldsmith’s
Hell”? Or is this just good setting technique? Does the size of the
stone affect the decision, or the material?

I’ll admit that I have, on occasion, added an extra polished facet on
the tip of a triangle. In my opinion, the lapidary should have put
it there in the first place. But few lapidaries know how to set
stones…they simply expect that the setter will figure it out.
I’ve also repolished the surface of a scratched opal, and even
trimmed a tiny bit off the edge rather than risk chipping it when I
closed the bezel. Do I need the client’s permission to do this? Do
they really want me to call them over little things like this? Of
course, we’re not talking about a noticeable change here, just a
little tailoring…

So what do you think? What are the acceptable boundaries here?


zaruba, I am both a lapidary and a stone setter. My experience is just
the opposite of yours. Most jewelers do not know how to properly
trim a stone. They butcher them with metal working tools. Making
the stone unusable if removed to put into other jewelry. Jewelers
treat small stones as acceptable replacement. They take chances and
break them. Anyone can order a replacement and have it there the
next day. Charge the customer a little extra and order more stones
so you have replacements on hand. My opinion is that if you must
alter a customers stone in any way you should first tell the
customer. If you break their stone you should tell them before you
order a replacement. Honesty is sorely lacking in the repair
business and custom jewelry business.


Ans. as a client, not a jeweler. I would want to know if the jeweler
or stone setter is changing ANY thing about my stone. It is my stone. I
may want to have it reset in the future, and a bit chopped off here or
there, without my permission would make me extremely angry. I believe
the client has the last word on this. NO one should mess with a stone
or any other personal property without the owner’s knowledge. Upon
as to why it is important to change a certain facet,or
add one, I might say sure, no problem. But it would be awful to find
out down the road my stone has been altered without my knowledge.

I stand on the side of customer rights. Sorry. No changes without
consent. M

Andy, If the best manufacturing houses have stone trimmers on their
staff why not us? Oscar Hyman sends all necessary pieces for
trimming. Last I knew they had 4 people for only this work! I
myself have a long background in lapidary work and see nothing wrong
with extremely minor modifications. The weight lose is in the one to
three thousand of a carat. The benefit of this trimming of tips on a
marq, pear or princess cut is the reduction in breakage. Both in
setting and in customer use. If the mounting takes a blow to the tip
on a door or other hard surface the small space surrrounding the tip
may collapse and contact the stone. Chipping the tip. I only touch
up stones with thin to missing girdles. I tell my clients about this
before hand, their choice- their risk. I have not been turned down
by anyone to date. Wholesale or retail makes no difference. the
object is to create a piece with longterm durability. Yes I want
something here a 1000 years or more with my name on it to reconized
as great work(?)!!! Marcus Amshoff

having just received my ‘black & blue belt’ in stone cutting &
setting via the mail, i feel behooved - behooven - beheft - compelled
to respond to the ‘trim & perish & trim or perish’ question. 1. if
the stone under discussion is yet to be cut, i explain the final form
with reasons for any digression - ‘if i cut spectrolite (rainbow
moonstone) with that angle, it will be against its very opinionated
cleavage & will likely splinter later if not sooner.’ or ‘if this
opal isn’t set a little deeper in the ring it will wind up in opal
heaven.’ 2. if the stones are mine in a spec piece i describe what
i’ve done & why to any prospective buyer, prefacing it with ‘if you
ever want to reset this/these stone(s) …’ 3. only as a mechanical
designer in aero-defense was everything required to adhere or be
justified - " … i mean, did rodin have to explain that his bronze
statues were hollow & just where every joining was located? did tony
smith list where he got every piece of steel? … & as i always say:
“jewelry design isn’t rocket science, people - it’s the innovative
manipulation of known properties into pleasingly aesthetic, lasting
configurations.” ive

Hello M! I believe the same was true for gluing stones. As long as you
have no problem asking for permission and explaining your reason for
your course of action. That is the difference between being ethical
and doing something wrong. Disclosure is the best route. Tim

Hello Marcus! Just wanted to say your post 11/16 was well stated. For
all your points I found your brevity impressive also. Points well
taken, I not only agree, our discipline is the same concerning this
matter. I suspect many others have similar policies. Sometimes good
clarity is lost in verbosity. I lean that way too often myself.
Thanks, Tim

It sounds as if you are close to correct on all of your comments. I
am a master gem cutter and goldsmith and I find that I do similiar
changes to gemstones that I did not cut because as you say most
cutters think the setter will figure it out. The risk of not
correcting the gem for the setting is much worse for the customer than
changing these small things, to both protect the gemstone and to make
a perfectly set piece.

Ashley de Dayley-Valleis
Remmy Co.

Augh. I’m reminded of a small child with a complex puzzle who gets
frustrated and then just smashes the wrong piece down. “If it doesn’t
fit, I’ll MAKE it fit!” Of course, the puzzle can’t ever be put
together again.

Why not just do the job right to begin with? We’re metalsmiths,
right? Can’t we take the time to plan things out so we don’t have
to cheat? Jeepers. I wish some of the jewelry consumers out there
could read this board. They’d be horrified that professional
jewellers would even CONSIDER trimming a stone without telling them.


Always wondered how you “high enders” managed to do such nice work.
You cheat. Wish I could trim a few diamonds once in a while. Just
last week, I polished a scratch off the top of a customers stone, but
it wasn’t an expensive one. I thought I might havescratched it
myself somehow. While I was showing them the wax for approval, they
mentioned dropping the stone in the driveway. Yes the glue issue
should be dead as a door-nail by now. But it’s not just a macho
thing. (For me it is, but I take after B. Cellini, and am known to
call my competitors out to a duel, once and a while). But seriously,
trim your own stones whenever you like. If you get too casual about
trimming the customers stones, without informing them, I would worry
more about law suits than I would “Jewelers Hell”. It’s not hell,
anyway. . .just a level in hell. The problem with glue is not a
problem. Just

David, If following the practices used in the highest end of our
profession is cheating; then being a gluesmith is in the same
category. Maybe you need to learn faceting and recutting along with
simple touch up work. REMEMBER some cut these stones from a rough
crystal or fragment. They have been adulterated from nature
already(surprise?)Oscar Hymans’ pieces go to Tiffany, Harry Winston
and the top jewelry houses in the country. Where do yours go? The
trimming work is done by professionals, not metalsmithing hacks using
the wrong equipment. If you don’t know how; learn how or don’t follow
this practice. This is not done with a separating disk in your
flexshaft! Your other choices are possibly to reset all the
surrounding stones, leave a gap or several gaps, chip one or several
stones on final setting. You may also have to remake the entire piece
to eliminate these problems. What are you willing to do? ALL trimming
requires the stone to finished to original conditions, polished facets
and girdle. The stones show no signs of alterations or miss cutting.
How many of what you already set are well to finely cut? I’d guess
the percentage is less than half on a good day. Cheap stones
generally have poor cutting and finishes. We have choices to make in
creating our pieces. As our knowledge and skills increase our work
should become better. As to the ethics in this business some will
choose the high road of informing the customer and some not. Do you
do this also with glue? Disclosure to any customer is the ONLY
responsible choice. And as to taking after Cellini, how were his
ethics? He used metal leaf backing and pigment behind his stones to
enhance them. It was a standard practice of his day. Would you do
this behind opals you set? I suspect not by your tone. Choose your
heroes to follow always knowing they have feet of clay as we all do.
To choose to follow a trade practice that results in a high quality
product will not likely result my or others ending up in Jewelers’
Hell. Lack of ethics and deceit probably will send some to this
place. Inform the customer let them choose if its being done for
them!!! When you create on spec produce the best work you can by any
ethical and sound means. If you can’t reach the level it needs to be
done at send it out to a specialist for that service. Know you
boundaries and limits and improve your weaknesses. GET BETTER at you
work: Your not dead yet! Marcus Amshoff