February 1998


You can create a profitable partnership with your bench jewelers by using Jewelers of America's new Quality Assurance Guide to explain to consumers the qualities of well-made jewelry when they bring in goods for repair

by Mark B. Mann Director of Professional Certification Jewelers of America

In its continuing quest to raise the standards of professionalism throughout the industry, Jewelers of America has developed the "JA Quality Assurance Guide." The Guide - a portion of which will appear in Professional Jeweler each month - will also be available as a manual and a series of counter cards. It is designed to help sales associates, bench jewelers and store managers to communicate clearly with customers and each other, identifying needed repairs, explaining the causes and consequences of problems and illustrating good workmanship.

Each month, we'll highlight some ways the "JA Quality Assurance Guide" can help you to set and maintain standards for quality performance in sales and repairs. By educating your personnel and your customers about aspects of quality, you will garner greater customer satisfaction and higher sales and profits.

Our monthly topics will be based on the most common areas of potential failure in an article of jewelry, whether resulting from extended normal wear or errors in workmanship, and show how the "JA Quality Assurance Guide" can help in the proper identification of the problem, careful in-spection and assessment of all facets of the situation and communication of the causes, problems and potential consequences of various actions.

Using the Guide for Repairs
The teamwork necessary to deliver excellent customer service - in sales and repairs - means all levels of store personnel must fully understand the components of quality in a piece of jewelry. The "JA Quality Assurance Guide" is a teaching tool useful for customer and in-house education; use them to explain two major issues to the customer:

  • The feasibility of the requested repair.
  • Areas of potential future failure.

It's important to cover these two points because if the piece fails because of any problem soon after the repair - even for an unrelated problem - the customer may perceive the repair caused the failure. As Bill and Craig Underwood of Underwood's Fine Jewelry, Fayetteville, AR, say, "Who gets blamed when a stone falls out a week after a ring is sized? You do." That's why it's important to be sure the piece is examined thoroughly and the customer is educated as to its condition and what that condition signifies.

We're grateful to Underwood's for sharing this original concept of using illustrations to show proper vs. problematic jewelry workmanship.

If the sales associate determines the ring, besides needing sizing, also has prongs that are worn to the danger point, for example, he or she can recommend prong repair. The sales associate can also use a prong setting counter card available from JA to illustrate clearly for the customer the difference between worn prongs and prongs in proper condition. This communication educates the customer and reduces the risk of later problems; it also gives the customer added confidence in the sales associate's level of knowledge and expertise.

You can see how the quest for quality service and the use of the "JA Quality Assurance Guide" in this instance leads to greater customer satisfaction and added revenue (the repronging repair) within a totally ethical setting. (On the other hand, a customer may ask for a repair that examination shows isn't necessary or beneficial. In this case, you may have lost a minor repair job, but you've gained major points for loyalty - and future sales!)

The Guide in a Sales Situation
You'll also find the "JA Quality Assurance Guide" valuable in maximizing sales opportunities. For example, a customer considering the purchase of a diamond ring should know the setting is as important as the stone. The sales associate can show the customer illustrations of a properly set diamond and then examine a mounted diamond using the Gem Scope or an imaging system. As a sales tool, you can use the drawings in the "JA Quality Assurance Guide" to demonstrate the quality of the store's merchandise.

Versatile Tool for Your Team
We hope you'll enjoy this month's guide feature, "Prong Setting." Here's a little test. The photo above shows a mounted center stone. Use it and the guide's standards shown on the following pages to determine whether the stone is set properly and, if not, what the problems and potential failures are.

Next month we'll discuss the standards for ring sizing - the variables, the average amount of shank thickness lost during the sizing process and the various features of sizing rings up and down. Keep these monthly features and share them with your colleagues - this is how professionals boost knowledge, skills and the ability to work as a coordinated team to do the best possible job for themselves, their coworkers, their industry and their customers.

Who will use it?
The "JA Quality Assurance Guide" can be used by:

  • Sales associates taking in a piece of jewelry. It helps them to explain the repair or reconstruction situation to the customer and then to the bench jeweler. It will ensure expectations were met when returning the finished piece to the customer. It also will help sales associates to explain a piece's high quality standards when selling.
  • Bench jewelers as a reference, so the quality of their workmanship meets commonly agreed upon standards.
  • Manufacturers' quality control personnel reviewing their products before delivery.
  • Retail quality control personnel inspecting jewelry before it's placed on display.
  • Appraisers inspecting and placing estimates of value on jewelry pieces.

Wait, there's more
You can supplement the information we provide in these articles with material from a number of other sources, including:

  • JA counter cards. Each one is designed to highlight a different feature that should be assessed while taking in and repairing jewelry. You can collect and compile these counter cards from monthly articles in Professional Jeweler or from JA in booklet form. (Available quarterly through 1998.)
  • References to the new book series, Professional Jewelry Repair by Alan Revere, head of the Revere Academy in San Francisco. This series covers the manufacturing steps of repair and reconstruction.
  • Manufacturing columns written by JA-certified bench jewelers and offering hands-on, step-by-step tips relating to the topic of the featured repair (look for these in upcoming issues of Professional Jeweler).

Mark B. Mann is director of professional certification for Jewelers of America, where he is implementing the new Bench Jeweler Certification program, developing and working with the Sales Associate and Store Manager Certification programs, and reviewing other certification program options. He began his career in his family's jewelry store, where his interests pointed him toward jewelry design and manufacturing. In the past 25 years, he has been a bench jeweler, educator and owner of a jewelry manufacturing company.


Prong setting

Proper Prong Setting

This drawing illustrates the important features apparent when a round brilliant stone is set properly into a die-struck head. The surface of each prong is smooth, rounded and polished. The height of the prong is between 70% and 80% of the height of the table (arrow 1).

Each prong is bent and securely formed over the stone's crown so the metal of the prong is flat and even against the crown (arrow 2).

Each prong has an angle cut into it to accommodate and conform to the stone's shape, providing a secure seat on which the stone can rest evenly (arrow 3).

The "heel" of each prong is no less than 50% of the prong's original thickness, providing structural strength for years of trouble-free wear (arrow 4).

Potential Prong Problems

Prong Thin at Heel

If the "heel" of a prong is thin (less than 50% of the prong's original thickness), it may catch, bend and break easily. A stone set with a thin prong will never stay tight. Thin prongs may result from normal wear or errors in workmanship.

Prong Thin at Top

If the top of a prong is this thin, it will catch, bend and eventually break off, resulting in loss of the stone. Prongs that are thin at the top are caused by extended normal wear or errors in workmanship.

Hooked Prongs

If the prong is shaped with a hook like this, the stone will seem tightly set at first but will loosen within a short time. This type of prong will break, resulting in a lost stone. Hooked prongs are caused by an error in workmanship.

Upright Prongs

Upright prongs cause uptight customers. If the top of the prong is shaped like this, it will catch on fibers and clothing (a common cause of ruined pantyhose) and eventually bend farther back until the stone loosens or falls out. Upright prongs are caused by an error in workmanship.

Prongs Lacking "Bearing"

"Bearing" refers to the angle cut into a prong to accommodate and conform to the stone's shape; the angle provides a secure resting place for the stone. A prong with no bearing gives little or no support for the stone, which will tip or become loose. Lack of bearing results from an error in workmanship.

Prongs Cut With A Saw

Cutting prongs with a saw is a fast way to set a stone and an even faster way to lose it. Cutting with a saw weakens prongs.

Incorrect Prong Angle

Prongs normally have an angle of 70 to 80. This prong is angled out too steeply; normal wear and tear may cause the prong to bend farther outward, resulting in a loosened or lost stone. Incorrect prong angle is the result of an error in workmanship.

Prongs Too Low

There should be between 33% and 50% contact between the surface of the top of the prong and the crown of the stone. This prong is too low, so there is insufficient contact with the stone. When the stone is bumped during normal wear, prongs that are too low will bend back and the stone will be lost. With more contact area, the stone may loosen but will not fall out. The combination of incorrect prong angle and low prongs will always result in a lost stone.

Copyright © 1998 by Bond Communications.


" Home " Ask the Expert " Brainstorm " Stats " Site of the Week " Consumer Press Scan
" Your Business On-Line " Calendar " Magazine & Site Archives " Staff " Site Map
" Professional Jeweler Events " Guide to Electronic Services
" Classified On-Line " JA Certification Study Session
Home Ask the Expert Brainstorm Stats Site of the Week Consumer Press Scan Your Business On-Line Calendar Staff Site Map