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
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.
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
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
Copyright © 1999 by Bond Communications.