When I was 10 learning jewelry repair in my father’s shop, Willard, the shop foreman, told me there were two skills to master to be a good jeweler: setting stones and using a torch. Today, CAD/CAM allows us to bypass some problems in stone setting, and the laser welder allows a 10-year-old to master repairing jewelry near emeralds and opals.
A laser welder does cost $25,000-plus. This price scares many jewelers away, but it shouldn’t. Paying about $300 a month is just like having a very part-time jeweler working for you who can do soldering you’ve never been able to do!
So how to charge for this new skill and expense?
First, using a laser welder will make most repair jobs go 50 percent faster. No more adding protective coatings or refinishing massive areas “burnt” by a torch. Have 20 charms to put on a bracelet? While the jeweler with the torch is on number 8, the jeweler with a laser is steaming and bagging the bracelet for delivery.
If the job goes faster, don’t charge any extra (nor give a discount). Just get the extra profit from the speed. When do we charge more? When it takes longer to do the same job, or when it benefits the customer by preventing problems while you repair their jewelry.
Sizing some rings with a laser welder can take longer, but it’s safer for the client’s jewelry. Take an emerald channel-set eternity band, for example. To size the ring with a torch, it’s a quick repair, but the heat could easily travel up to the bezel-set emeralds and ruin them. On the other hand, to do it with a laser, we would cut out a “V” shape, and using gold wire, we would slowly melt the wire and fill in the “V” cut to form the bond. This could take 50 percent longer, but we’d reduce the chances of harming the emeralds to almost nothing.
"A laser welder does cost $25,000-plus. This price scares many jewelers away, but it shouldn’t.”
What if, instead, the ring had cracked between two emeralds? Using a torch, all emeralds would have to be removed, the ring welded and the emeralds reset. You could chip or break the emeralds, so you might charge $50 to $100 per stone to remove and reset the stones. This is over $500 to fix a crack.
But using a laser, this job would be almost as easy as sizing a ring because the stones don’t have to be removed. But we don’t charge less; after all, we have invested in a $25,000 machine to ensure that the client’s ring is not harmed.
So here’s the laser pricing plan:
1. If it goes faster just because you’re using a laser (like soldering chains, tipping on diamonds, soldering jump rings, etc.), don’t charge more, just earn extra profits because of the speed.
2. If using a laser to do an excellent job will take more time (like the emerald ring example) or is a benefit to the customer, then charge at least 50 percent more than normal repair prices.
In our repair book, we recommend charging 50 percent more with a laser to do sizing, tipping and soldering jobs. You should, too. Willard would be so proud.
This article originally appeared in the December 2017 edition of INSTORE.
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