From QVC to Couture: How We Helped a Client Craft a One-of-A-Kind Set of Jewelry Using Loose Stones Purchased from Home Shopping Networks
My name is Dan Moran and I’m a third generation diamond dealer and expert based in Los Angeles. I design custom jewelry and it’s very rare that I’m surprised by requests from my clients. But this particular piece of jewelry has one of the most interesting origin stories I’ve ever heard.
This client contacted me after finding me on Reddit (I’m /u/diamonddealer) and reading some of my posts about jewelry and diamonds. She said her mother had a collection of gems that she wanted to make into a set. It sounded like a cool project so I agreed to meet her in New York while there on business for another client.
When she presented me the “collection” of gems, my jaw dropped. I was expecting 50, 60 stones maybe, but she started pulling out shoe boxes containing literally thousands of stones.
I’d never seen a private collection this size before and asked where all of the stones had come from. To my amazement, she said her mother had purchased the majority of them from home shopping networks like QVC and HSN.
My client told me she had an idea of what she wanted to do with the pieces and again to my amazement, shipped them to me on the spot. One of my main concerns what how much she had valued the stones. It was impossible to tell exactly what the correct value of this veritable cache of gems was, but I suspected that the client highly undervalued her gems. Turns out I was right — and I was stunned by how much she had undervalued her pieces.
PUTTING THE DESIGN INTO ACTION
Now that we had the stones back in our Los Angeles office, it was time to come up with a design. The client had seen the Swan Lake collection from DeBeers and wanted to know if we could work her stones into a similar design. This design appealed to her because it made use of the various shapes, sizes and colors of all the stones, so I used it as inspiration for a new design of my own.
It took us hours to comb through all of the stones and find a selection of them that worked with the design the client wanted. Since all of them were of varying shades, cuts, sizes and shapes, we had to first lay out the stones in order on paper to find a look balance. We taped them down to make sure they didn’t move and then recorded all of the weights and measurements, which in itself was a monumental task.
It took months to lay out the design and we worked on an almost daily basis with the client, exchanging numerous emails and photos and talking with her on the phone.
People forget that there’s another element to making jewelry: it’s not just about designing the piece, there’s an engineering element to it as well.
We had to make sure that the shapes in the arrangement made sense, the colors looked good together, that the stones hung correctly so one size wasn’t larger, longer, or heavier than the other. We had to make sure the settings were the correct curvature so it didn’t roll over on the neck and that it sat comfortably when the client wore it.
We also computer designed and cast over 60 custom settings for each stone in six different colors of gold. We wanted each stone to match the color of gold we set it in and then attached all of the stones. In all we spent thousands and thousands just in gold.
We were working with a lot of factors against us — for instance, a lot of the stones were very soft, including apatite, a stone so soft you could scratch it with your fingernails. There was also a budget we had to work within, and one other pressing factor we had to deal with: a deadline. The client had an event she wanted to wear the set to in a few months time.
It was important that we get the first piece done correctly, as it would establish the tone of the rest of the pieces. We decided to start with the earrings, as they were the easiest to complete. And by easy I don’t mean that we snapped our fingers and the design came into being, it was just that this piece in the set required the least amount of stones and was the smallest to assemble. Once we had the design approved by the client, we then worked on the accompanying bracelet and the necklace.
Finally, after countless hours of labor we had a completed set we were proud to show the client and completed just in time for her event.
But one thing remained for us to do: appraise the piece.
GETTING THE APPRAISAL
Now that we finally had the set completed and the client’s approval, it was time to get the piece appraised. As I’d said, I suspected that the client had seriously undervalued her stones and it was important that she knew what she had.
I wanted to see the real value of the stones and while I can appraise a diamond, I am not a colored stone expert and therefore wasn’t qualified to appraise her set.
For this job, I decided to bring in my secret weapon: Alison LaBaron, master gemologist and jewelry appraiser. The only problem was that Alison was 400 miles north of me in Sacramento.
I didn’t want to ship the stones to Alison because we had less than 36 hrs before the client’s big event. Not only did I not want to chance them potentially being lost in transit, I didn’t feel some of the stones would hold up well in transport and I didn’t know what the true value of the set was yet. For that reason alone I was uneasy about shipping them because I didn’t know how much to insure them for.
This is when I decided to pull out my other secret weapon: I would fly the set to Sacramento myself to get them appraised.
There’s a reason I called my business Concierge Diamonds — I will go above and beyond the call of duty for my clients. I am a private pilot and will often fly out to my clients to either hand deliver their jewelry or in this case, meet with an appraiser.
We flew up from Los Angeles to Sacramento in a 4-seat Cessna. The flight took more than 4 hours getting there and we were slowed by a headwind that dragged us down to about 90 mph on ground speed. That’s incredibly slow (for an airplane!) and seeing as we were flying over California’s Central Valley, it was incredibly hot as well, and this plane didn’t have air conditioning!
When we finally made it to Sacramento, Alison and her husband picked us up from the airport and took us back to their home. Alison was the consummate host and was a delight to be around.
She got started on appraising the stones first thing in the morning. This is one of the major advantages of working with someone like me: I can get you access to people like Alison, people you wouldn’t normally be able to meet with.
We shot a short interview with her:
In all, Alison’s report ended up being over 24 pages long and the final value of the set came back at a staggering $171,500…and this piece only used 20% of the stones that the client sent. It was incredible to look back and think she sent the entire collection to us and only insured it for a fraction of its real value.
Not only was the client amazed at how much her pieces were actually worth, we managed to get the completed set to the client before her big event. Needless to say the pieces were a hit and everyone loved the final pieces.
We are now in the process of working with the client to design the next set of jewelry out of her remaining stones and are excited to see what she comes up with!