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August 1999

For Your Staff:At The Repair Counter

Take-In Tips, Part II: Identification

The ability to identify metals and gemstones is critical

by Arthur Skuratowicz G.G.
& Julie Nash G.G.

Jewelers have been taught for decades to avoid writing detailed descriptions when taking in a piece of jewelry for repair or other bench work. But proper identification can protect your customer and your store. If a question or legal action ever arises concerning what a stone or mounting really was at the time of take-in, an ambiguous description on the take-in form is virtually useless – even if the customer signed it.

Conversely, accurate identification of gems and metals on the take-in form protects the store from liability when the customer signs it.

Here's a step-by-step guide to protect you.

Identify the Gemstone
Use magnification, a refractometer, a diamond tester or other equipment to determine the stone's identity. Learn how to use this equipment well. Even a weak battery can cause a faulty reading with a diamond tester. Having gemologists on staff can help, but they may not always be available.

Keep abreast of new synthetics or simulants and share this knowledge with your coworkers. The identity of a stone will dictate the cost of the repair and the manner in which the repair is handled. For example, a diamond will withstand the heat of a torch used to repair a prong, while an amethyst probably should be removed from the setting before the torch is turned on.

Failing to identify fracture filling in a diamond and mishandling the repair can result in costly mistakes (figure 1). The cost of the repair may be more expensive for delicate or treated stones that require special handling. Customers need to know this before they leave your store.

Another benefit of identifying the stone at take-in is that a customer may believe it is something that it is not. Showing the stone is a sapphire and synthetic sapphire doublet and not a natural blue sapphire during take-in will avert any suspicion that would arise if you didn't check it first and had to telephone the customer with the news later (figure 2).

1. Fracture-filled laser drill hole

The fracture filling in this diamond was missed during take-in and the stone was then retipped in the mounting. The filling boiled to the surface through the laser drill hole and left a mound of frosty filling on the table of the stone. Because of the lax take-in procedures, the jeweler had to pay to refill the diamond and lost standing as a reputable and informed professional.

 2. Side view of an assembled stone.

The top is natural green sapphire (with natural inclusions) and the bottom is synthetic sapphire (with curved color zoning typical of flame-fusion synthetics). This type of assembled stone appears convincingly natural if viewed from the top. But if the identity is mistaken at take-in and the stone is heated, as a natural sapphire may be, the top portion will detach.

Identify the Metal
Use a metal tester or touch-stone test if necessary. Experience will dictate when the tools are needed. Familiarize yourself with the different types of metal alloys commonly used in jewelry. As with gemstones, customers occasionally are mistaken about the identity of the metal. Recognizing the metal as platinum rather than silver and explaining the repair will cost more will save you an awkward phone call later.

Can the Jewelry Be Repaired?
At first glance, you may think a ring brought in for prong work is 14k yellow gold and diamond. Careful identification shows the ring to be vermeil and cubic zirconia. Retipping would be out of the question with the CZ in place. Returning the ring to its original color by replating may not be possible or cost-effective. By identifying the ring correctly and informing the client of your limitations at take-in, you avert an embarrassing situation later.

Determine Age
The age of a piece of jewelry often dictates how to handle its repair. Destroying the patina on antique jewelry or adding modern findings can destroy its value. Simply reoxidizing an antique will not restore the value. You must inform clients of any possible change in the appearance or value of their jewelry so they can understand the consequences and make informed decisions about repairs.

Design or Brand
Jewelry from a certain designer or brand may be devalued if repaired by anyone other than the designer or an authorized agent. Recognizing such designers and brands is essential to avoiding a very unhappy customer at a later date.

There's also the possibility the designer used uniquely colored metal alloys. During take-in, you must explain the possibility of slight but noticeable color variations in the metal. Contact the designer or manufacturer for guidance in dealing with a modification. Not all designers disallow basic repairs such as sizing or retipping. Again, explain to the customer your ethical limitations and obligations.

Arthur Skuratowicz, G.G., and Julie Nash, G.G., operate Anton Nash LLC, an independent jewelry appraisal and consulting company in Colorado Springs, CO.

Copyright © 1999 by Bond Communications.


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