Oh! It’s touchy subject? Thirty times a day or more, I either offer or I’m asked to clean customer’s rings. Suntan lotion, soap, and most basic food groups can get lodged behind diamonds and gemstones making them dull and listless. But after some light buffing, a little ultrasonic cleaning, and a couple of blasts of the steam cleaner, you have a happy shiny diamond or gemstone ring.
In most cases it’s a simple procedure except when prongs are worn or missing. If I’m not careful to thoroughly inspect what I or the sales help are cleaning, stones can be shaken out or worse, blown out by the blast of steam once the glop is removed that is actually holding in the gemstones by suction. Just great! A store full of people and I have to start searching for a small diamond the size of a flea’s kneecap that fell out of a worn out fifty-year-old wedding ring.
Maybe ten out of twenty cleanings I notice something is amiss. I am then forced to inform the customer that if I deep clean her ring and remove the Thanksgiving turkey stuffing from behind her diamonds (from what year?) several stones will surely fall out in my cleaner and work will be required to put them back in the ring.
The majority of folks are appreciative of my observations and ask me to please correct the problem, and thank me for saving them from losing gemstones from a cherished memento. Then we have the untrusting 10% who accuse me of trying to fleece them out of their hard-earned money, or are worried they won’t get back the same diamond, or worse get back a fake! Want to get the bum’s rush out of a jewelry store? Challenge the jeweler’s integrity in front of a store full of his customers.
On more than one occasion in my career I have found myself in a no-win situation. Years ago a new customer entered my shop asking if I would clean her ring for free. No problem, after inspecting the woman’s very large diamond ring, I noticed three prongs missing from it and politely explained my cleaning process would most likely dislodge the diamond from the setting, causing us to both be unhappy, and that the ring needed some attention or she could lose her diamond. I refused to clean it. She got very huffy with me, slipped the ring on her finger, and made a grand departure from the store.
It gets better: About a month later, I answered the phone to hear a womanranting and raving about losing her diamond from her setting (the same woman whose ring I refused to clean). She accused me of jinxing her ring that she had worn every single day for thirty years. I tried to explain that I had only informed her of missing prongs, and even showed her the problem under magnification, and advised her not to wear the ring until it was repaired. Her reply was, “I would never leave my ring with anybody! I informed her that now she wouldn’t have to. End of story right? …Wrong!
A few days later the prongless princess entered my shop, interrupted me while I was with a customer, and demanded my immediate attention. Fearing a commotion, I excused myself from a very sympathetic client, and asked just what her problem was? “I found my diamond when I searched the house and I want you to put it back in while I wait, and I’m going to sit next to you at your bench and watch every move you make while you work on it!”
Oh! Really! I replied, “Don’t worry, you won’t have to wait because I have no intention in repairing it for you, let alone have a nutcase like you behind my jewelry counter. My door to the outside world beckons you my dear!”
Then off she went out the door cursing me with her escort of flying monkeys. I returned to my previously interrupted and now appalled customer, and I apologized for the fiasco that just occurred before her. I explained that I had to put an end to this unnecessary drama and, contrary to popular belief, the customer isn’t always right. She laughed and said I should keep a bucket of water or some type of anti-witch potion handy.
Let’s face it ladies, if you wear your rings day after day for thirty years they are gonna need some attention. There is not a day that goes by in my busy shop where I don’t have at least ten prongs to either re-tip or totally replace. If you love your diamonds or precious gemstones, get them checked out at least twice a year or suffer the consequences. The moral of this true, yet fairy-tale-like story is, when a jeweler tells you your ring needs attention and you’re skeptical, ask another jeweler’s opinion and if it’s the same answer, get it repaired. And remember to be kind to your local goldsmith.
“Like liberty, gold never stays where it is undervalued.”
J.S Morrill (1810-1898)
Richard Alan is a master goldsmith/designer with over forty years experience at his craft and the owner of The Harbor Goldsmith I & II on Marco Island where he and his staff have been creating and repairing fine jewelry for over 15 years, he welcomes your questions about things that glitter. 239-394-9275.