Latest News Letters To Chuck

Letters To Chuck

Letters To Chuck

Letters To Chuck

Stone setting liability

Hello Chuck-

I’ve worked as a trade goldsmith since 1971, and owned my own shop since 1977. We have ALWAYS accepted responsibility for our own stone breakage, with the following caveats:

A retail jeweler can assume that we will set his/her customer’s stone without breaking it.

If a stone has extraordinary risk because of brittleness (emerald), internal flaws (I-3 diamond), setting difficulty, or maybe it’s a stone that I just don’t think that I can set or one that I can’t afford to buy, I will call the retailer BEFORE work begins. I explain the risk in detail, and tell the retailer that on THIS stone I can’t be responsible for breakage. If this is unacceptable, the stone is returned to the store intact, unset.

We use the same procedure for retail (walk-in) customers.

For the most part, this policy has worked well. It is unfair to ask a customer to replace a stone because of our incompetence or carelessness. It is also unfair for a goldsmith to be responsible for an exceptionally flawed or fragile gemstone, or a situation that is beyond his skill level, IF he notifies his customer BEFORE he attempts to set it.

Our policy is simply right and fair. It encourages us to be careful with other people’s property, and protects the jeweler from harm if implemented properly.

The courts would agree.


Eric D’Aigle
Jewelcraft Corporation

Hi Chuck,

I love to read your column. You are a very resourceful person.

I would like to comment on the broken gemstone responsibility.

As a manufacturer, I usually ask customers to let us do the sizing on difficult settings. Customers that bought volume and pay promptly, I have waived the cost many times.

However, such stones as Tanzanite, Aquamarine, Peridot, Pink Tourmaline and Rhodolite just the stone itself is costly.

Someone has to pay for it. Thus, we did charge the stone and many times split the cost with retailers to please the client.


Selena Loke Soo
Livingstone Jewelry Co.

Los Angeles
, CA

Hey Chuck,

Loved your column on crazy customers.

How about a little twist - a crazy vendor. I have been trying to convince Company X to make their tension set rings available to me in base metals. My logic was that as a small mom and pop I know I could sell more of their rings if I had more to show, but I cannot justify spending $700 - $1,100 plus for each mounting - especially since they are something I can never sell because each ring is custom made for the stone it will hold and the finger size.

They answered my e-mail with a phone call explaining that base metal models samples are not something they will ever make available to me. He asked, "Does Rolex offer fake gold models?" (Silly example since Rolex is a much more exclusive line AND the fact that the customer can buy the watch off the shelf, strap it on his/her wrist and take it home.)

Anyway, fast forward a few weeks and my sales rep for said company is in my store. We timed his visit for him to meet with a customer of mine who wanted to see the as many models as possible in the line. Imagine my surprise when he told her that all the rings she was looking at were made of base metal and CZs. Seems Company X recognizes the wisdom of NOT investing oodles of money in show pieces for their own salespeople, but they will not afford me the same privilege. Crazy daddio, just crazy.

Chuck - if you keep writing them, I will keep reading them.

Cliff Yankovich
Chimera Design
Lowell, Michigan

Dear Chuck,

I am a fan of your column and love your conventional wisdom. But I can't buy into the Buy American movement.
Milwaukee was a factory town during most of the 20th century. Generations of whole families worked their entire life and collected pensions from the same factory.

Today most of those plants, like Allis Chalmers, Harnischfeger, A.O. Smith, AMC Auto, among others are gone. Times change. The factories have moved overseas. Milwaukee has evolved into an insurance services and print industry center. "Buy American" would NOT change that.

The world has shrunk significantly since the time of my parents. Jobs are no longer permanent, neither are factories or technology. They change and move on.

A quarter century ago I bought my gemstones from a local American gems dealer. He and his family traveled the globe searching for stones, and constructed an impressive facility in which to conduct business in Milwaukee. He passed his high overhead on to me, which my customers paid for during the boom years. There was no Internet then. Then times changed.
Today I live in Florida and can place orders for gems around the globe at lower prices, better quality and receive the stones within ten days, or overnight if I want to pay express shipping. I do not visit a showroom, call or talk with anyone, just punch in the specs, include a photo of the color and cut stone I am looking for and e-mail the order. I work a lot with a local Indian owned family business who provide excellent service with quick turnaround. The old stone dealer in Milwaukee is out of business. That is the nature of competition.

I too encounter friends who insist on "Buy American", buy Ford. Yet many Ford autos are made in Mexico or overseas. Often "American made" cars are 80% manufactured abroad and then "assembled" here to qualify for the "Made in America" designation. Many foreign cars actually are made in America at Honda, Nissan, Toyota, and other foreign backed American plants employing 200,000 workers right here in our United States!

Our marketplace today is worldwide both in terms of sourcing raw materials, producing, and selling your finished product. I am an insignificant local independent jewelry manufacturer/retailer and yet I buy and sell all over the world daily. The world is our marketplace.

When my parents grew up in Milwaukee, you only conducted business within your own ethnic community. Milwaukee was divided up into Italian, Polish, German, Jewish, and Lebanese districts. Interracial dating was frowned upon. The other side of town was "foreign". You only did business in your own neighborhood. Yup, times change.

Good luck,

Carl Buehler
The Jewel Gallery
Plantation, Florida


Buying American


Congratulations on the "Buy American" movement. It has become like looking for a dropped stone. Every store I go into, I am looking at the labels and making sure the product has "Made in America" on it.

I am pushing everyone I know to do the same. I truly had no idea that Wal Mart was that big on American made products.
I just sent an e-mail to a friend with regard to how the media, with their negative slant, the only good news is bad news, lack of all ethics and integrity, is and has been partly responsible for our current economic condition.

No wonder newspapers are going out of business all over the country. You'd think they would smarten up. Most of us are getting much better at reading between the lines, whether on paper, or on a screen.

If we believe we are in a recession, (after reading it and hearing it for a year) then we will slowly shift our habits and begin to behave like, and finally be in a recession. People stop spending and borrowing, out of fear, real fear or media driven fear, perception of fear is all it takes.

We are fortunate here in North Texas to have fairly decent economic conditions. Slow and cautious jewelry buyers, repairs and custom jewelry sales. They are still there, just not as bold as before. We are, never the less, buckling down for a slower than normal summer, hoping sales stay up. The trick here, no trick, just flat out top notch customer service.
To quote, Hope for the best, plan for the worst.

Keep them coming,

Bill Baker
Southlake Jewelers
Southlake Texas



As a reader of, and advertiser in, this publication I am going to have to exercise my right to say, ‘Chuck, stick with repairing jewelry, cooking ribs and telling anecdotes about the business.' If people were to actually do what you are suggesting, buy only American made products, companies would lose huge amounts of money in already purchased, on the shelf stock as well as orders committed for and in process.

This might inflict more job loss and prices would skyrocket on the items left on the shelves, people would have less opportunity to purchase the things they need, at a price they can afford on their already seriously cut budget, as well as wasting valuable free time not spent at the job, the business, school, playing with the kids etc.

Who has the time to do what you suggest? You might, but as busy as you say you are running your business, where do you find the time to waste to do all that checking? Time is the one thing we will all never retrieve!

We would all do better to just listen to the reason in the things that our elders used to say to us and pass those on to other people in search of an answer. Live within your means, save whenever you can, always pay your bills and manage your credit responsibly. In business, buy responsibly and make a reasonable profit when selling, cultivate your clientele as if they were what your success depends on, because they are. These are the nuggets you should be reminding your readers of, not suggesting the impossible, and forgetting about the fact that the jewelry business pretty much relies mostly on products that are mined or found outside of the states.

Free market capitalism has advantages as well as disadvantages, Chuck, and maybe some tariff increases on foreign goods or some other solution could be found... I am not an economist. But shutting down trade with foreign countries is a way to make enemies abroad as well as limit our access to goods that can be a bit more in reach for the majority of already financially stunned people to afford. It's an open market - adapt or perish!

Furthermore, I would be willing to wager that most of the work you have coming through your door is on items that are not made in or mined from this country - and how about the tools you use - are they American made? Are you just going to "Buy American" when it is convenient or easy, because a lot of people already do that, including myself.

I want to see you find a replacement diamond from the US. Maybe you can buy all your sapphire melee from Montana! How about a spring ring or jump ring manufactured here, or some sizing stock made from mined southwestern US gold, or alloy for casting from a US source. Go ahead, find it. Will you still actually have time to do the repair in the allotted time? I hope you can keep all your customers when you tell them it is going to take an extra week for the repair and that it will cost more to do it.

I suggest you stop pontificating about buying American unless you intend to start doing it at your business. Not just at Wal-Mart and Target, but try it at your jewelry suppliers' businesses. Because you are mostly a repair business, if your suggestion would make it to the ears of the jewelry buying public, it would not affect you as much as most of the rest of us who have chosen to make or sell jewelry. But I guess it is okay for you, and the rest of us can just try to weather a storm of people not buying jewelry that is not made in the USA. I hope I can get some financial aid to send my kids to college if that happens, and by the way, your taxes are gonna' go up to help pay for my newly found need to get government aid! A slippery slope indeed!

Mitchell Ousley
Montesino International
Ft. Lauderdale, FL



As the director of the nation's largest tradeshow for products handcrafted in the U.S. and Canada, I'm just about bursting with excitement at your efforts to buy products made in America.

The nation's foremost craftsman of artist paint brushes, Keith Lebenzon, passed away in September. You can still view his work at his website, There are other artist brushes made in the U.S. - Trekell & Company in California makes theirs by hand as well.

As for those t-shirts, polo shirts and jeans... head to your nearest American Apparel store or their website. They manufacture all of their clothing in Los Angeles.

And when you - and the thousands of other jewelry and gift retailers across the country - are ready to devote your store inventory to products made in America, I hope you'll visit the Buyers Market, where you'll find more than 400 jewelry designers from the U.S. and Canada, alongside hundreds of other artists creating gifts and home accessories.


Christine Kloostra
Show Director
Buyers Market of American Craft


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