First, by working on someone else’s gemstone, you open yourself to some liability. Things might go wrong, or the customer just may not like what you’ve done. Even if you made it clear up front that there’s no way to predict what will happen when you put a stone on a cutting lap, even if you made it clear the risk is theirs, you can still get sued. Admittedly, this would be an extreme case, but it does happen.
For example, a gem cutter friend of mine was sued over an emerald repair. You’ll find many emeralds out there in need of repairs, since most are poor quality. (Shocking, I know). In this case, the gem had a major flaw, which he pointed out to the jeweler. He informed my friend his customers (the stone’s owners) knew the stone had flaws and to proceed with the cutting. So, he did. The gem owners later claimed that cutting the stone made the flaw worse. What it did was wash out all the oil originally in the gemstone. When the owners tried to re-oil the emerald after my friend “repaired the chip,” they said it didn’t look the same.
End result, he lost several thousand dollars on the deal.
A Low Return for Your Labor
Second, jewelers don’t seem to appreciate gemstone repair. Generally, those jewelers who just deal in commercial-cut gems buy them cheap. Usually, they’ll be better off buying a replacement, commercial-cut stone. However, this won’t work when the stone is very valuable, but they probably still won’t pay you well for your time.
If you insist on doing gemstone repair work for jewelers and run into this money argument, do the following. Find out what the jeweler charges for their shop time. Then, tell them it’s only fair for you to get the same amount per hour. After all, you’re a skilled worker with expensive equipment. Faceters don’t grow on trees. Most likely, a jeweler can’t just have a stone repaired “down the street.”
Build Your Business Relationships Carefully
Honestly, I used to do some repair work. It seemed like the more reasonably I behaved, the more people complained. When I started charging what I thought the gemstone repair was worth, most of the complaints stopped. Still, repair work remained a hassle. (I guarantee repairs will take at least twice as long as you think, and the stone will probably come off the dop, too).
Eventually, I decided just to tell people I would cut a new stone. Repairing old broken or chipped stones wasn’t really worth the effort.
Gemstone repair is a choice. As a new gem cutter, ask yourself: what do you hope to accomplish professionally? Sometimes, helping jewelers with repairs will benefit you in the long run. If they appreciate your work, this can help build a working relationship. (Just remember, this likely won’t happen with jewelers who buy commercial-cut stones).
If you have jewelers who buy your new cut gemstones, you should consider doing repairs for them. Most of the jewelers I deal with understand that I don’t do repair work. However, sometimes circumstances arise, so I help them out.
Remember, you could cut a good stone (and enjoy it) in the same amount of time it takes to repair one (especially if you count travel). Plus, you can probably sell the new stone for more than you’ll make on a repair job, without the additional liability and hassles.
If you choose to deal with people who want you to fix their mistakes but never buy anything from you, take this advice: make gemstone repair work really worth your time. Otherwise, just don’t bother.