Where should you go? Taking your family heirlooms and leaving them ANYWHERE can be stressful. Choosing the right place requires doing your homework. Look at reviews. I always trust everyday people's experiences over any advertising or sales ploy. I can not speak to every large corporate jewelry store, but this is how the one I worked for did business.
Large companies do a lot of business. To keep up with the demand, they must hire many jewelers to take care of these repairs. The idea is they have benches to fill and believe anyone can be trained. I have seen people with no bench experience start out as a polisher and move up to a shop manager or district manager. These promotions are not generally based on the quality of repair work, but on the sheer number of repairs completed in a given time-frame. Each jeweler had a formula that took in to account their wage and the number of hours they worked to equal the number of repairs to be completed each day. Time is of the essence in the corporate jewelry world. What does this mean to you?
This means that your jewelry is being run through an assembly line of sorts. It may end up in the hands of an experienced quality jeweler or it may end up with a novice who is still learning or may not have the same pride in their work as others do. A difficult labor intensive job would usually go to the most experienced jeweler, however ring sizings and re-tipping might go to anyone. Either way, no one could spend quality time with any one piece. Did you know that when they "bench test" a new hire they use actual customer's jewelry for the applicant to work on? This is the problem. Many customers want their repair done quickly, but you have to be careful what you wish for. In contrast, many small family businesses do take extra time and care with your piece. They have a smaller turnover rate and therefore you generally see the same sales people that know you and your jewelry. They are able to give you a personal experience. Unfortunately spending quality time with everyone and their specific jewelry needs can put your repair at these smaller venues out longer. Lets do a PROs and CONs list!
I think consumers need to know the whole truth- bigger is not always better. I personally suggest the smaller family owned businesses. Their employees are educated in their field and can make you feel like a person rather than a number. These employees are usually not on commission and can therefore be honest in what choices are best for you. You have to know your jeweler. Whether he or she works in a large or small business, you must get to know the body of their work. Talk to your friends, find out who they were happy with. When in a new store, look in their cases. Find out which pieces were made in-house and inspect them. Quality jewelers can be hard to find. I believe it takes a real skill and an attention to detail to be a great jeweler. Once you find someone with these qualities, follow them wherever they go.
A great business does not make a great jeweler, a great jeweler is what makes a great business.
These are a few local jewelry stores that have great jewelers!
Revolution Jewelry Works
Vogan Gold & Silver Works
Purple Mountain Jewelers