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Big Survey

Jewelers Reveal Their Biggest, Most Secret Screw-Ups

Some near disasters will leave you gasping




JEWELRY RETAILERS, DESPITE their multi-tasking superpowers, are only human. So we asked those who responded to our annual Big Survey, “What was the biggest screw-up you ever made, but were able to fix before anyone found out?”

Some said the secret mistake would stay a secret, despite the survey’s cloak of anonymity, while others confessed to harrowing tales of diamonds tossed in the garbage, settings made in the wrong color gold, and even empty boxes gift wrapped and delivered. Such is the stuff from which jewelers’ nightmares are made!

Then there were the occasional confessions that seemed unrelated to work, but that needed to be aired: “I accidentally fired a handgun when I lived in an apartment. Fortunately, the bullet didn’t go far, and I was able to patch and paint the walls.” And there was this: “I broke my mother’s chandelier doing a cartwheel in the house. I was able to find a replacement globe before she knew about it.” And, finally, several like this one: “Fun question. Married the wrong woman. How’s that for an answer?”

Here is a representative, work-related sample:

  • I thought I had thrown away a finished ring mounting in tissue in the trash. Rushed out to the dumpster the next day only to find it had been emptied overnight. AGHHHHhhh. Re-created the whole piece in two days and delivered it on time. The catch was the original was made from her mom’s gold and diamonds. Literally five minutes after she picked it up, I found her original in another customer’s bag. Jeez! I called her and told her I forgot to take pictures for her appraisal. She brought the ring back in and I swapped it for the original, printed out the “appraisal” and had a serious cocktail. Sheesh!
  • I didn’t do it alone, but a part-time employee picked a Mikimoto clasp piece off my beading tray and tossed it in the trash. It was in a plastic baggie and she picked up some threads and other baggies and tossed it. The next day I sat down to finish stringing the beads and couldn’t find the tongue of the clasp. I searched everywhere and then I decided I better check the trash that had been taken out the day before. I had to dumpster dive to get it back. Luckily the dumpster wasn’t full because it had been dumped before our two bags had been thrown in, but a neighboring store had dropped a box of books in and it landed on one of the bags. I had to climb in to get the bag, I am just under 5 feet tall and wondered if I would be able to get out. I took the two bags back to the store and we picked through the trash. The piece was in the bottom of the second bag with chicken bones from our lunch the day before. I was not happy, and she no longer works here for other reasons
  • Sold same diamond twice.
  • Switched bags with gifts for two customers. I had to follow them into another store and switch them without being seen.
  • I had a ring flip out of my hands while polishing it on the polishing wheel. We looked all over for the ring in the room where the polisher is located. After several days we finally found it. It had landed between two shelves beside where the watchmaker sat; the shelves were only about an inch apart at the corner where the ring landed. The customer never found out about the ring disappearing.
  • Lost a 2-carat diamond down a hole in the shop floor and searched the grungy basement and found it!
  • Couldn’t find a customer’s diamond for hours and found it stuck to my arm as the customer walked in the door.
  • Called the new girlfriend/wife the old girlfriend/wife’s name.
  • The ones I remember are the screwups that I didn’t get away with. Other than that, I occasionally forget to lock the front door.
  • Took home five diamonds in my shirt pocket and washed them. Thank God they stayed in the diamond papers.
  • Sold a client a diamond and gave them the right description and price but somehow managed to give the diamond setter a diamond that was $13,000 more to set in the ring! Luckily as I was checking the diamonds later that evening and putting them in their proper parcel, I realized my mistake and was able to correct the issue before the wrong diamond was set.
  • Forgot to deliver a $40,000 gift on Christmas Eve. Can’t ever keep my major screw-ups a secret because they always affect someone. Ripple effect!
  • Boxed and wrapped some fresh mountain air and let my customer walk off without the ring in the box! It took me 30 seconds to realize what I had done! I launched myself into the crowd and chased him down!
  • Stepping on and crushing a diamond bracelet.
  • We had heat/air vents on our floor and we dropped a client’s ring that aggressively rolled to that vent and dropped down it. It was 6 p.m. of course and we had to pay an after hours HVAC guy to come out and go down to the basement, cut up the venting and retrieve the ring. Whew!
  • Got a customer’s ruby earrings stuck on the bottom of my shoe. Fixed post and setting and returned to customer like nothing ever happened.
  • Melting a custom designed 18K yellow gold heirloom chain bracelet.
  • Leaving the safe door wide open overnight in the mall with plenty of light to see in.
  • One of my staff threw out a nun’s inherited diamond, which I replaced, but ended up confessing to her.
  • Superglue is my BFF. Nuff said.
  • I used to have really long hair. I knew it had to be kept back because of all the tools used. One day, as I was using a wire wheel on my Foredom (flexible shaft machine), I wasn’t thinking and whipped my hair forward right into the spinning wire wheel. Didn’t take long to get my foot off the pedal, needless to say! However, at this point I now had my Foredom complete with wire wheel wrapped firmly on top of my head. This was 46 years ago, so there was no quick release tool back then. I got the Foredom free from my head and ran to the locked bathroom with a pair of shears to retrieve the wheel before any of the staff saw it. Learned many lessons that day including humility.
  • Didn’t lock the front door of the store when leaving for the night.
  • Made a baguette ring and set diamonds horizontally instead of vertically.
  • A jeweler of ours accidentally switched diamonds going into two different engagement rings. One was already picked up when we realized what had happened. Fortunately, it had the smaller of the two stones in it and we were able to get them the bigger diamond, so they were happy. We put the smaller one into the correct mounting before its rightful owner picked it up. They never knew somebody else had been wearing their diamond in another ring!
  • I opened a jewelry store.



She Wanted to Spend More Time with Her Kids. She Called Wilkerson.

Your children are precious. More precious than gold? Absolutely! Just ask Lesley Ann Davis, owner of Lesley Ann Jewels, an independent jewelry store that — until the end of 2023 — had quite a following in Houston, Texas. To spend more time with her four sons, all in high school, she decided to close her store. Luckily, she was familiar with Wilkerson and called them as soon as she knew she wanted to move on to bigger, better and more family-focused things. Was she happy with her decision? Yes, she was. Says Davis, “Any owner looking to make that life change, looking to retire, looking to close, looking for a pause in their career, I would recommend Wilkerson. Hands down!”

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