Sunday, 4 March 2012

The day of reckoning is near…

When I first started in the jewellery business in 1987, many of you will recall two very popular jewellery trends.  One was the infamous herringbone chain.  Because these flat shimmering beauties were so popular, manufacturers were competing to make them thinner and thinner, while making them more and more flexible.  The result?  Kinks, kinks and more kinks.  The more they were repaired, the worse they looked and the closer they got to the scrap-gold bin.

The second big-thing were cluster rings.  There were the little 7 stone mini-diamond rings, the 17 and 25-stone engagement rings, and the ever popular “total gem weight” scheme featuring really bad colored stones and a hand-full of microscopic diamonds adding up to quarter, half and one-carat total weights.  Claws, claws and more claws.  Outraged client: “You want $300 to repair the claws on a $199 ring???”

Are you starting to see the writing on the wall regarding micro-pave bridal designs?  I once tried to talk a young lady, and her soon-to-be fiancĂ© out of a fragile micro-pave ring with delicately-set marquise diamonds.  I was assured by both of them (and her friends) that this was a young lady who did NO manual labor, and had NO activities that would put this fragile ring in any jeopardy.  An engagement ring should be something that withstands daily-wear for many years to come. 

For most young ladies, I’m afraid that elaborate rings with a million miniscule claws or beads are going to lead to frightful service costs, and a frustrating jewellery experience.  Many rings promoted en mass to young brides are virtually impossible to size without affecting the security of the accent diamonds. 

I suggest you start planning with your goldsmith how you’ll handle service on such rings.  How do you explain that the security of accent diamonds cannot be guaranteed once the ring is sized-down?  How do you answer client complaints when the third, fifth or tenth small diamond falls out?  What do you say when that fragile setting is at the end of its’ useful life.  I’ve done hundreds of restyles: trust me, there are only so many ways of restyling something with 40 or 50 tiny diamonds and the price is quite high.

I’m not suggesting that we stop selling these popular styles.  I am suggesting that you ask a few “lifestyle” questions to your clients and advise them of the limitations of highly embellished designs on active hands.  I do recommend paying attention to what a goldsmith can and can’t do when it comes to repairing micro-pave.  If you plan on being in this business for another 5 or 10 years, you’re going to have to deal with these issues.

Work with suppliers to understand serviceability and warranties.  Show these designs to goldsmiths and learn what problems might develop, and if or how they can be remedied.  Honestly advise active young ladies about the future consequences or benefits of different designs.  Let them make their choice fully-informed.  It’s not a matter of covering your butt; it’s a matter of expertly advising people whose lifetime value is worth so much more than the current engagement ring purchase.

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