Columnists Chuck Koehler The Retailer’s Perspective: An opinion or three...

The Retailer’s Perspective: An opinion or three...

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For some reason here lately, I feel like passing on some knowledge to my younger readers out there. I remember when I first got into this business in 1978, I couldn’t read enough trade articles trying to learn the “Dos & Don’ts” of this industry.  Most of those articles were written by people trying to sell me something, so it was geared towards convincing me that what they were selling was a great idea, even if it wasn’t. So this article is not going to try to sell you anything.  Instead, I’m going to state some facts and give you my opinion about them to try and keep you from making a mistake and learning the hard way.

Emeralds, Opals, and Pearls make terrible wedding rings.

Very true.  In my opinion, wedding jewelry is supposed to be built differently than all other jewelry out there.  Most jewelry that people buy is “fashion” related pieces.  They were purchased “just because.” 

It may be an anniversary gift, a birthday gift, a graduation gift, or just because you felt like it.  But, most of these gifts, over time, end up in the jewelry box where you look at them occasionally and think happy thoughts about them.  But in reality, you’re really not gonna wear the Texas nugget pendant you bought just because in 1982, with a diamond in your hometown, again because, well, that would just be wrong. 

Your wedding ring though, is a different story.  This is a piece you put on, and never take off “until death do you part.”  And, as a bench jeweler for 35+ years, I promise you, Opals, Emeralds, and Pearls cannot stand up to the rigorous, “beat-the-crap-out-of-me every day and every night” that wedding jewelry demands. 

Yes, I know she says she’ll take it off when she does the gardening… she won’t.  And yes, I know she promises she won’t wear them when she goes bowling… she’s lying.  And yes, I know she says she will take it off when she does the dishes, well, she won’t!  And, what happens to really soft stones when you beat the crap out of them 24/7?  Yep, they scratch, they break, and they fall out.  And guess who’s at fault for doing a bad setting job 3 years ago?  Yep, that would be you! 

However, there is one exception to this rule.  If you happen to be a jeweler in Beverly Hills catering to the Hollywood crowd, disregard all of the above.  Emeralds, Opals, and Pearls can withstand the punishment they receive during the average duration of a typical Hollywood marriage.

So, in a nutshell, here are your choices for wedding jewelry. 1. Diamonds.

You DON’T have to rhodium plate platinum

What? I know you’ve heard otherwise - probably from a rhodium salesman. Here’s the real scoop on rhodium plating. Rhodium is a member of the platinum family. There are six siblings in this family and all of them share one common trait; they are all pure white metals in nature. Gold on the other hand, is a naturally yellow metal. So white gold is actually genetically modified gold. 

When you wear platinum, it stays white. When you work on platinum, it stays white. When you rhodium plate platinum, it stays white. You’re not accomplishing anything by marrying one sibling of the platinum family to another sibling of the platinum family. If you do, there is probably banjo music is in your near future.

Why does yellow gold have to be rhodium plated?

Alright, get your math hat on here. Pure gold is 24K; which means its 24 parts pure gold, which is bright yellow.  If you take one part away and replace it with any other metal, you have 23K gold.  Replace 10 pure gold parts with 10 parts nickel, you’ve got 14K white gold. 

So, do the math - 14 parts pure bright yellow 24K gold mixed with 10 parts nickel (14Y+10W=24) and you’ve got 14KWG. So think about it, you’ve got 4 more yellow parts than you do white parts making 14KWG a very yellow metal. So, we rhodium plate 14KWG to turn it white because, well, that’s the only way it’s gonna look white.

Tall platinum prongs are a bad idea

Why? Because I said so! And, as I mentioned above, I’ve been doing the bench jeweler thing for a very long time.  But, here’s why I’m mostly against them. Platinum has only been the “it” metal for the last 20 years or so.  That may seem like a long time, but this business is the second oldest in recorded history. White gold and platinum are very different metals. Platinum heads need to be designed differently, but usually they are just white gold designs cast in platinum. 

Here’s the problem; gold has a memory. This means that when you set a diamond in a gold head, the prongs stay where you put them. If you slam your ring against something, the gold will flex, then go back to where you originally put it, and your diamond should still be tight (but have it checked… just in case). 

Platinum, on the other hand, has no memory.  If you slam your platinum ring, the metal will flex to a new position, then stay there, not where the jeweler put it in the first place.  Every time you bump a platinum prong, it will move a little into a new position.  Over time, it will have moved so far that the diamond will be in danger of falling out.  And it’s not an easy fix to correct the problem when a diamond in tall platinum prongs is constantly coming loose. I’m not saying don’t set diamonds in platinum.  I’m saying, don’t set diamonds in tall platinum settings that were originally designed as white gold settings. There is a difference.

Why is it so expensive to size a ring up?

Blame it on the gold speculators. To size a ring up, bench jewelers have to put a very expensive chunk of gold in the ring. Most of the time, the piece of gold we’re putting in the ring is worth more than the ring itself.  Until gold gets back to $400 an ounce, adjust your prices on this and don’t take a bath on these types of sizings because someone put on 100 lbs. and needs their ring sized up 3 sizes. A gym membership is cheaper, but we all know that’s not gonna happen.

Why you shouldn’t offer a “free” opinion about jewelry to customers you don’t know

Because it will get you in trouble, that’s why!  But, let me preface this by saying I’m only talking about people that come in your store that you do not know. 

If it’s a good customer, I’ll break this rule from time to time, but that almost never happens. It’s always some stranger that you’ve never seen before… until they need your expert opinion.  And, it’s the same expert opinion that they weren’t willing to pay for in the first place by shopping at your store.  Now they want your expert opinion after the sale! This is something that’s really gotten out of hand since the inception of the internet, and this is what you need to protect yourself from. 

Someone buys an expensive diamond engagement ring on the internet and low and behold - it comes with papers. Actually, it comes with so many papers that it costs extra to ship with all the added weight.  So, the buyer shows up on your doorstep with the ring in one hand, and the papers on a two wheel hand truck. You’re busy with actual paying customers, so you glance at it and say, “Yeah, it looks correct.”

Fast forward a few years and “till death do us part” turns into “get out of my life you rotten human being.”  The ring then becomes part of the divorce and it turns out that the “cert” papers were bogus, the diamond is clarity enhanced, it’s not a VVS1, its white gold, not platinum, and the baguettes are actually CZs. 

In a nutshell, the dude who bought it got scammed.  The website he bought it from has been shut down for years, and he wants to sue somebody and get his money back.  Who’s the only person still around he can sue?  Why, I think you already know the answer to that question, it’s YOU!  And guess what?  The courts have ruled against jewelry stores over and over and over again. The courts have ruled that “the buyer relied on your professional opinion” to keep the ring when he was still in his 30 day return period. Regardless of whether you charged him or not.  It doesn’t matter, you’re now on the hook for him being stupid.

So, to protect yourself, either don’t get involved (which I do a lot), or take it in and do a professional appraisal for which you charge him.  In a professional appraisal scenario, you’ll catch all of the above inconsistencies and the $150 you charged him will be money well spent.  He won’t get scammed and you’ll probably sell him a new ring.

I heard that being a jeweler is an easy job because you get to be creative all day

You know, I seem to remember someone lying to me about that a few decades ago too!


Chuck is the owner of Anthony Jewelers in Nashville, TN. Chuck also owns CMK Co., a wholesale trade shop that specializes in custom jewelry and repair services to the jewelry industry nationwide. If you would like to contact Chuck or need a speaker or instructor for your next conference/event he can be reached at 615-354-6361, www.CMKcompany.com or send e-mail to This e-mail address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it .

 
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