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How a Trained Jeweler Protects Himself




For years retail jewelers have risked their reputations and costly legal action by accepting for repair, resetting, or special orders stone-set jewelry or loose stones either as represented by the customer or with a sight identification listed on the envelope. The average customer knows little or nothing about the jewelry he owns and, more often as not, has an exaggerated idea concerning the value and quality of the stones in it. Thus a jeweler who accepts a synthetic stone as natural or a flawed diamond as perfect without comment, simply because the customer claims the stone to be so, is taking a grave risk. When the customer looms later that the stone is synthetic or flawed, he will usually believe that the jeweler made a substitution while the piece was in his possession. If so, the least harm that may befall the jeweler is the loss of the customer and, in all probability, the customer's friends. With increasing frequency, legal action seems to be resulting from such situations. The attendant publicity may all but ruin the firm. This condition, prevalent throughout the trade, harms all jewelers much more than they realize. Many such incidents are never brought to the jeweler's attention because the customer considers himself unable to prove his case in a court of law, so he merely spreads the story by word of mouth.

Since you have not yet learned gem identification, the means available of protecting yourself consist of recording carefully the merchandise you accept. At the present time you may protect yourself by marking job envelopes and receipts thusly: "Stone stated by customer to be________". This will take care of the identification problem. In other words, if the customer says that her stone is a genuine ruby, the envelope and receipt should bear this notation: "Red stone stated by Mrs. Brown to be a genuine ruby. Before accepting stones, flaws that are detected with the loupe should be pointed out to the customer. This is a vital step. In addition the merchandise should be described in detail: the nature of the piece, measurements of large stones, how the metal is marked, etc. If precautions of this type are not taken the jeweler has only himself to blame for problems that arise.

A short time ago a jeweler with an established reputation accepted for mounting a large diamond. The woman who gave it to him believed the stone to be "blue-white and perfect" and to weigh over two carats. Some time later, in an appraisal, the stone was stated to have a definite tint of yellow and to be highly flawed. The woman went to court, sued the jeweler for substitution, and won a $2,000 judgment. Long time acquaintances of the jeweler knew him to be a man of unquestionable integrity. There was no doubt in the industry of his innocence of the charge. The only basis the woman had for her belief that the stone was blue-white and perfect was the statement regarding quality that had been made by the layman friend from whom she had purchased the stone originally. Yet a jury, tending to distrust jewelers, awarded the damaging judgment against the jeweler.

Many more examples similar to this one could be related. The fact is that every stone taken in for repair, a new mounting, or special order work should be handled in a manner that obviates the danger of either unhappiness on the part of the customer or legal action. Actually, the precautions are simple and not at all difficult to put into practice. A mounted diamond that may have been flawless when it was sold will sometimes become chipped or cracked during wear. If the flaw is pointed out to the customer at the time the ring is accepted for repair or other work, there is no question. However, if the flaw is not pointed out prior to acceptance and is noted by the customer after the ring is returned, there is immediate suspicion that the jeweler either caused the damage or substituted the stone.

The usual tendency for a merchant handling gemstones is to pay little attention to merchandise he knows to have a fairly low value. Often, however, customers have inflated ideas of the value of their heirlooms, and as unhappy a situation can develop over an article the jeweler knows to be worth $40 or less as with one that is worth $800. Thus it behooves the jeweler to be careful and to make absolutely certain that precautions are observed by all his staff members in accepting stone-set jewelry items of any kind.

For use in gem identification, handling repair work, and for several other reasons, it is important that a student understand thoroughly the physical and optical properties that will be covered in following assignments. Obviously, one who wishes to appraise gemstones must be able to identify them as a first step in that endeavor.

The procedure followed by a truly qualified appraiser in evaluating a gemstone is first to examine the stone carefully and ascertain its identity by means of positive optical and physical tests. Secondly, he must consider all inclusions and imperfections and their effects on both the beauty and durability of the stone. This, of course, is much more important with diamonds than with most colored stones. This can be done only by one who is familiar with the desirable as well as the undesirable characteristics of all species. For instance, a fracture in an aquamarine would have a much greater percentage effect on its value, comparatively, than a similar fracture in a star sapphire. The reason for this is that even fine quality star sapphires are never flawless and are rarely without some fractures, whereas to be classed as fine quality aquamarine must be flawless, or nearly so.

The third step in appraising the stone is to determine its size, its style and quality of cutting and its orientation in relation to the finest potential color. It is unfortunate that the majority of colored stones on the market today fail to show fully their inherent beauty. Unless a person is completely familiar with the special properties possessed by the various species, he will be unable to determine the extent to which the inherent beauty of the stone has been utilized. Two rubies, cut from the same piece of rough and identical in every respect except for their orientation in relation to the original crystal, will show such a distinct difference in color that one will be considerably less valuable than the other. Even though a ruby is properly oriented, unless it is correctly proportioned, it will not show the most attractive color. This, too, reduces its value considerably. In addition, many stones are cut in a manner that retains a great deal of excess weight that should have been removed to yield maximum beauty. This means that the value per carat should not be based on the present weight of the stone but on the weight that would have been obtained with correct cutting. When a stone is held over a printed page with the table parallel to the page and observed directly from above, printing can often be seen through the stone. This is proof that the proportions are other than ideal for that gemstone. The easier it is to "read through a stone" the poorer are the proportions. Although this may not keep a stone from being attractive, it must be remembered that the based price used by an appraiser for a perfection quality involves a maximum display of all inherent optical properties. The extent to which such properties are displayed by a stone can only be determined when one is familiar with the inherent possibilities of the various species.

When studying the proportions or characteristics of gemstones during the first few lessons, keep in mind that they are characteristics that you must understand, just as you learned early in life to understand the characteristics of people, you found that some were honest and others not, that some were strong and others weak, and that those whom you thought beautiful had certain characteristics that made them so. You learned to appreciate your friends because of certain of these qualities that you admired. Gemstones have similar characteristics that are admirable or otherwise. Your first job is to learn the admirable qualities of each stone and then instill a desire in your acquaintances and customers to possess them.