It is inevitable, at some point your ring or jewelry will need service. You’ve heard the stories perpetuated by the media: stone switching, shoddy repairs, and outright loss when people leave their jewelry for repair. Like most things with the media, reports are exaggerated. BUT, there are a few things you can do to make sure you don’t get taken advantage of, and make sure you get your jewelry back in one piece.
Here’s what you should know:
- Choose a reputable jeweler for the repair. Ask around for a glowing recommendation from friends, family, and people you trust. If you really don’t know a local jeweler, check out the American Gem Society websitefor a referral. The AGS is a jewelry non-profit trade organization that was founded to promote high ethical standards among jewelers, and member jewelers have to subscribe to rigorous standards and be tested each year on their knowledge and service. There are AGS Certified Jewelers in most markets in the US.
- Insist that they use a Take-In Form, and get your own copy/receipt. The actual form will vary from jeweler to jeweler, but all should have the same basic information: your contact info; a description of the item; a precise description of the work to be done; an estimate for the cost of the repair; and A REPLACEMENT VALUE FOR THE JEWELRY ITEM that you both agree on. This information protects all parties.
- Get a good faith estimate on the repair work. Writing “Fix” on the repair envelope does not count as a good repair description. If your diamond fell out and you need your ring sized, then the description of the work should read something like “reset enclosed clear stone, re-tip 3 prongs, and size up to a size 6+”. You should get some sort of estimate, even if it’s a ballpark figure, in writing on your receipt. Or if it’s very elaborate, you can ask that they call you with an exact figure before they proceed with the work. Most jewelers will do a free estimate, so if you decide not to go ahead, there should be no charge to you (there are exceptions to that, especially if they have to ship it somewhere to get the estimate).
- Get a complete description of your jewelry on the Take-In Form. Don’t be offended if the jeweler uses terms like “1 green square cut center stone with 6 clear accent stones in yellow colored mounting stamped 18k”. You may know that this is your Aunt Harriet’s heirloom Colombian Emerald ring, but the jeweler doesn’t probably have the time or lab equipment necessary at take-in to determine the exact mineral content of the gems you are leaving. Experienced professional jewelers usually use general color terms to describe it (if they describe it as an Emerald, and it turns out to be glass, they don’t want to be liable for replacing the essentially worthless glass with a $10,000 emerald). But the color, size, shape and number of gems should be noted along with metal stamps, engravings, and any other distinguishing marks.
- Have the jeweler show you specific characteristics of your jewelry so that you can identify it when you get it back. The jeweler can map out your diamond’s inclusions (or lack of) so that you can both check them when you get it back. They can show you your sapphire next to one in their showcase to accurately describe the color. The point is for you to BOTH scrutinize your jewelry so that you know what to look for when you get it back.
- Agree on a replacement value. This is part of the take-in form and a good jeweler will want that filled in. It limits their liability, too, in case there would be a loss. Take in an appraisal if you have one, or a receipt. Even if the value is out of date, it’s a good starting point for the discussion. If you really have no idea, then they can show you items they have in stock most similar to your jewelry to figure out a value. Make sure you agree and sign off on it.
- Trust your gut. Make sure you feel confortable with the store and salesperson before you walk out of the store. If something doesn’t feel right, or the jeweler doesn’t follow the above points, take your jewelry and walk away.
I hope this information is useful and helps to put your mind at ease when you leave your precious jewelry for repair!
Comment if you have any other suggestions or horror stories–we can all learn from them!