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Multiple deadlines: A jeweller’s nightmare

Holiday plans

The design for the sapphire necklace.
The design for the sapphire necklace.

Like most bench jewellers, I am a fussy person who likes to have a plan for everything. The holidays are a bench jeweller’s busiest time of the year. In anticipation of the rush, I try to get myself even more organized.

Starting in October, I prioritize my work. Anything that can be put off until January goes on the back burner. Incoming jobs that only sell metal and labour, like repair work or remounting a customer’s older family stones, are divided into two categories: quick and easy or slow and laborious. The customers with the labour-intensive jobs are told in advance their items may not be completed before the holidays, while the quick and easy ones are pushed through. Finally, jobs that sell expensive gemstones are given the highest priority. It’s unfortunate, but this busy time is all about pleasing the most people and maximizing the store’s sales.

Needless to say, I was dumbfounded last November when my employer took in the most time-consuming job I’ve ever attempted and promised it would be done in time for the holidays. In his defence, he said I had 54 days to complete the job, so what’s the problem, he asked? The problem was this job would require more than 150 hours to complete, not to mention the fact we did not have the technology to make it happen, and three other time-consuming jobs were in the queue.

Let the nightmare begin

This necklace required 50 hours of design time.
This necklace required 50 hours of design time.

The massive project before me was an example of an emotional type of sale, where items are being passed down after a death in the family. The client’s father was a professor of geology. During his summers off, he liked to take his family on vacation to Montana to visit the Yogo sapphire mine. The whole family would enjoy a week digging for sapphires, and he would spend the winter months practicing gem faceting on their finds.

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The father passed away last summer and his daughter inherited a large handful of custom-cut and very unique sapphires. Her request was to create a special necklace using as many of the sapphires as possible. Over the next two weeks, the customer worked almost daily with our store’s designer to arrange the sapphires in just the right pattern. Over this same period, I was given the task of coming up with a plan for making the necklace.

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