Back to Ganoksin | FAQ | Contact

Will you set opal or other soft stones in engagement rings?


Orchid folks. I keep running across this dilemma. Customer comes in, and loves the idea of setting an Opal in their engagement ring. Or a matched pair of opals. I launch into my usual talk about why opals are not ideal for everyday wear, and that because I have to support and stand behind our work forever, I really can’t set them. And they insist.

Do you relent? Not lecture at all?



I always make my reservations very, very clear…and then make them whatever they want. I made a beautiful opal diamond wedding band for someone I know and she wore it for 30 years without damaging anything more than minor scuffs. Most are not so careful. I think that as long as they understand they will likely be back buying replacement stones every so often, that you should make them happy and give them exactly what their heart desires. Life is short.


Seth, as a maker, I agree with you.

But as a customer, you better give me what I want or else I will talk bad about you to other folks and then learn how to make it myself.


I think this applies to so many aspects of “making,” whether they be technically inadvisable or just artistically undesirable. I’ve been asked to make a couple of custom pieces using a combination of design elements that I personally would never choose. The customers, however, loved them, as well as the final pieces.

In the end, as long as they’re adequately informed (maybe even in writing), I guess the customer is always right. Fortunately, in my limited experience, I haven’t been asked to create anything I’d be embarrassed to put my name to. Maybe others of you out there have. That would be another interesting aspect to hear about.



I think the response to this will vary based on how long someone has been doing this. I know when I first started I was very adamant about not doing things like that, but as you become more comfortable with your skill and your customer base you start being more open. I did a his/her set in 14kwg with howlite and they are fine coming in every so often and having me replace the stone and I loved the way the rings turned out. At the end of the day as long as you shared your reluctance and informed the customer, you’ll be fine and, hey, that’s repeat business!


I’ve never really understood opals (along with a number of other soft stones) being used in rings as frequently as I see them. However, as long as the customer understands their shortcomings and potential dangers, I’ll make them whatever they’d like (though that it isn’t to say I don’t attempt to persuade them away from it for the sake of their long term satisfaction with their piece, but as long as they know the dangers and still want to proceed, I’m happy to do whatever they’d like)


I agree with apparently the majority, what the customer wants, the customer gets. I’ve done wedding / engagement rings with blue zircon, opal, tanzanite, labradorite and even elk’s tooth. But I do have a frank discussion with them before work begins on the care and feeding of such fragile stones. I usually compare it to clothing and tell them that this piece will be like a fine silk blouse or a cashmere sweater as opposed to a Levi’s jacket. You would never treat a cashmere sweater like you might denm or leather, never taking it off when weeding the garden or rock climbing and expect it to survive for fifty years so you could pass it on to your grandchildren. The same philosophy applies to fine jewelry, especially that which is created using fragile or delicate stones. Just like everything else you own, it will treat you the same way you treat it.

It is amazing to me how few people ever realize or had it explained to them that jewelry is just like anything else we own, it wears out with use. I can’t tell you how many times I’ve heard “My grandmother wore this for fifty years, my Mom wore it for another thirty and it never had a lick of trouble until so-and-so cleaned it”. Jewelry, unlike anything else, is expected to be absolutely bullet-proof. I blame it on sales people and others in the trade that don’t seem to be at all concerned with the customer’s long-term satisfaction with their product compared with their desire to close the sale.



That’s a great analogy with clothing. I’ve never heard that one before, but it is absolutely perfect and so easy for the customer to understand!


I agree with Erich, what a great analogy, Dave. Love it.



Hello Seth, You cannot relent. The client has come to you because you are the expert. They respect your opinion. Don’t change. have fun. tom


I tell people that they want to use materials for engagement/wedding jewelry that will last as long or longer than the relationship.
I also ask them if the ring will be sentimental, or do they want to replace gems as they get damaged.


I rarely set any stones in my work. I can but I just choose not to unless the work is s custom piece and the customer insists. From my shop the stones usually go into Kilt Pins so I put in something durable in a simple bezel setting and something affordable to replace.

In the rare bracelet with a stone that I make the inherent safety of the piece is critical to me. I turn down jobs that I feel won’t be safe to wear. All the time.

Don Meixner


Against my advice, customers wanted lapis inlays on one side of each ring, tourmaline center.
Both lapis inlays broke within 2 weeks, tourmalines were damaged.
They were mad at me…


This is where as a professional you must take charge of the situation. We
are after all “The Experts.” If making jewelry was easy, everyone would do
Folks come to us because we are professionals. Tim and I refuse to make
anything that will fail.
Would folks go to a physician and insist on having a medical procedure
that the physician would say will undoubtedly fail? I think not.
So tell the unpleasant truth. Be professional about it. If customers
don’t trust your expert judgement then fine. You don’t want clients that
don’t trust you to do the right thing.
Have fun and make lots of jewelry.
Jo Haemer


Of course they were. . . .it seems like with some people, unless the ring is made of adamantium, they’re utterly shocked that anything could ever go wrong with it and even more surprised that they could have had anything to do with it.

I pretty much never take on projects that I’m uncomfortable with from a structural point of view just to avoid those kinds of headaches. The exceptionally rare occasion that I do, it’s only after I’ve basically told the customer that their request is a disaster in the making, emphasizing how easy it will be to break and how careful they will need to be while wearing it, and really emphasizing how expensive it will be to fix. I drill this point home repeatedly until they reconsider their design. So far, I’ve only had 1 or 2 still want to continue. To the best of my knowledge, they’re happy as a clam with their piece, but I still don’t like those potential sword’s of Damocles dangling out there over my head.


This topic is very similar to something I see even more frequently, the question of restoring or repairing old jewelry for use as bridal jewelry. What do you tell someone that brings in an old, worn-out engagement ring that they bought online or that maybe was given to them by Grandma when they bring it in to get it sized? It seems to be the same play with different actors, but quite often it involves even more of an imperative.

How do you guys handle that one?



Has anyone designed “protective” settings for rings with soft stones like opals?


Wish I could help on that one, but I got so sick of repair work that I gave it up 16 years or so ago and now just focus on my line. Nothing like going to resize a customer’s ring only to discover it was resized in about 3 places over the years and needs to have the entire shank rebuilt. No thanks.


I always launch into the education about soft gems when I get this request. I also try to push men in particular into thinking about fire agate. Kinda opal(ish) without the need to be as careful. That works quite well. But for ladies. That never seems to work. I will recommend that the client use a man made opal (such as Gilson) due to them being tougher than a natural opal and Gilson warranties their own gems.
So I make sure on the order that I state that I recommend against this and do NOT warranty or guarantee the gem.
A couple of times I have replaced opals. And a couple of times, the opal seems to be ok. Depends on the person.


As a general rule, yes. Fragile stones need something to protect them. Even if it is just a slightly higher design on one side that will tend to be hit before the gem.
But sometimes that does not fly with the client. I tend to be a fan of curvilinear designs with the tops of the gems set even or below the metal. It is a pain in the ass to set but the stone has a much longer life that way.