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Real Deal

Real Deal: The Case of the Abuse Ruse




A vendor blames abuse by the wearer, but the jeweler believes the problem lies with the setting. What can he do to save his reputation with an important client?

This article originally appeared in the March 2016 edition of INSTORE.

Clifford’s began as a small salon-style store in a college town that is home to a prominent medical center. Cliff George quickly became recognized as the go-to person for the finest engagement rings and fashion gifts.


Back in mid-November, Jesse Cheltham, a young surgeon, came to see Cliff for an engagement ring he needed in time for a Christmas proposal. While the selection of the center diamond (a 1.70-carat cushion cut) was fairly quick, the mounting decision took a bit of time as Dr. Cheltham was looking for something unique.

Cliff had recently joined a prominent buying group, and he was confident that his new vendor access would be a major help. He referred Dr. Cheltham to the website of a vendor that was known for vintage styling — exactly what the doctor was looking for.

Dr. Cheltham found the ring on the site he believed would be perfect for his fiancée. When Cliff called the vendor, they offered to overnight the stock ring as a sample for the client to examine.

Upon seeing the sample, Dr. Cheltham was impressed and ordered the mounting and a matching wedding ring.

When the ring arrived, Cliff noticed that the cast head was for a round diamond instead of a cushion as he had specified.

Cliff called the vendor and explained the situation — including the delivery deadline. The customer service representative insisted that the ring was made to the exact center specifications Cliff had detailed and told him to send the diamond and the ring to them. They would set it and would guarantee their work.



Real Deal scenarios are inspired by true stories, but are changed to sharpen the dilemmas involved. The names of the characters and stores have been changed and should not be confused with real people or places.

When the completed ring arrived, Cliff saw that the setting job was not up to his usual standard, and he knew that the diamond would not stay secure for long. He called the vendor, where a representative repeated their guarantee, which Cliff repeated to Dr. Cheltham when he came in to pick up the ring.

Three months later, Dr. Cheltham’s fiancée came in with the ring, the diamond loose in the mounting. Cliff returned it to the vendor, where they reset the diamond free of charge. But two months later, Dr. Cheltham returned with the diamond loose again. Cliff called the vendor and was told they had never had such a problem before and the customer must be abusing the ring.


Cliff called Dr. Cheltham and asked him to bring in the matching wedding band so he could compare wear and tear. He saw very little, but he did notice that the mid-pavilion of the center diamond was resting on the mounting on all four sides. He sent the ring back to the vendor and requested they honor their guarantee.

This time, the owner of the manufacturing company examined the ring himself and reported to Cliff (via a spokesperson), that he too felt the ring had been abused.

He agreed to tighten the diamond at no charge as a courtesy, but said that he expected to be reimbursed for the shipping and that he felt, given what he saw as the abuse by the wearer, that his company had no further obligation to the ring.

Cliff feels stuck. He believes he needs to stand behind the guarantee he gave his client based on what the vendor promised him.

More to the point, he feels strongly that the consumer has the right to have a product that can be worn without constant repair, especially when the manufacturer represents himself to a prominent buying group, to retail dealers and directly to the customer as a high-quality, service-oriented provider.


How should Cliff proceed?

Who should be responsible for the cost if the ring needs to be remade?

Should Cliff notify the management and membership of his new buying group?


Sonya Jelladian-Gage

Gianni Fine Jewelers, Fresno, CA

Of course, no further business with this vendor! There are many who are happy to do a good job the first time!

John Wascoe

Christian Jewelers, Jersey City, NJ

Cliff should contact the buying group he belongs to and ask them to arbitrate this problem.

Melinda Nolan

Roemer Originals, Saint Charles, MO

What the vendors don’t understand, or don’t care about, is that even when we eat a remake to try to take care of the customer, that person is usually so disappointed and upset with the store at that point that we’ve already lost our customer, and more than likely, gotten bad word of mouth and lost our profit. It really hurts us exponentially when our vendors and shops don’t do exceptional work.

Peter Lees

Peter Lees Jewelry, Ithaca, NY

Today’s photographic capabilities are so much improved, and are extremely helpful in determining fault. I would recommend Cliff take detailed pictures of the poorly set diamond. Then I would send the vendor and the management and the membership the pics of the faulty set job. I would badmouth the vendor any chance I would get within the industry. Post complaints on their website or negative feedback in any online industry forum. I would use the pictures on my website in a tutorial on “good vs. bad” settings.

Mark Silverman

Matthews Jewelers, Plantation, FL

If Cliff thought that the ring was not made to fit the stone, then he should never have accepted it. It is up to Cliff to uphold the standards of the store, not the manufacturer. It appears that Cliff got by without this manufacturer before, and it appears he should look to replace that manufacturer with a new one.

Bill Becker

Beckers Jewelers, Burlington, IA

Cliff should stop worrying about how the fire got started, and concentrate on putting it out. Either pay the company to do a complete remanufacture of the ring, and never do business with them again, or find someone he trusts and have them remake the ring. Either way, he needs to “hug” his customer and get his confidence back.

Mark Clodius

Clodius & Co. Jewelers, Rockford, IL

We have had a similar enough problem ourselves. Our position is that “customer first” is the only winning strategy. First, talk with the customer to explain that you are unhappy with the situation and you think that the ring needs to be replaced/rebuilt to be right for them. Explain that the manufacturer is not being cooperative but that you are going to fix the situation — whatever it takes. If the customer understands what you did for them to make it right, the cost to you is likely to come back many times over from the retelling of the story — of the jeweler who did the right thing.

Kate Peterson is president and CEO of Performance Concepts, a management consultancy for jewelers. Email her at [email protected].

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