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David Geller

The 5 Types Of Bench Jewelers, According to David Geller

Which type of bench jeweler are you? And which do you want to be?

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OVER THE PAST 40 years, I’ve worked with many bench jewelers, as both a store owner and consultant. Everybody says his store is different. But nearly all jewelers can be grouped according to five types. Which are you?

1. “I just love working at the bench. My motto is ‘The only thing I can’t fix is the crack of dawn and a broken heart.’ … I hope enough people come in today, and I can meet my expenses.”

This was me in the beginning at age 24. We started as a trade shop and were soon offering full retail repair and design services. Sporadic advertising, sparse store. Pricing? We copied everyone else’s and that was a problem for the next 13 years. Many a jeweler prides himself on being good at his craft but it’s sad when the working spouse makes a better living than you do despite all you’ve learned. It is possible to make a good living as such a pure jeweler, but you need to do two things well:

  • a) Price your work correctly.
  • b) Advertise and market so your inbox is never near empty.

2. “I love everything about this career, especially the tools and technology. I’m not afraid to learn and try new things. Because I know what it costs to do a job, someone’s going to pay me for it!”

These stores typically have a clean, organized shop and polishing area and all the tools: a laser, bench magnifier, CAD/CAM, wax printer and so on. Often, they are good at advertising, although they sometimes have to be reminded that a woman wants to know what you can do for her in terms of jewelry; she won’t be excited by a photo of a $30,000 laser machine in your advertising.

3. “You know, I think I’ll buy some inventory and maybe I’ll finally make some money selling stuff while I’m fixing stuff.”

I see this a lot. I did it — and learned from it. Success to such stores is selling one item a day. The problems are extensive:

  • a) They don’t have a deep enough selection to excite customers. Closing ratios are thus low and replenishment is sporadic.
  • b) The store owner buys what he likes and on many occasions buys too much higher-end stuff, because these goods sure are prettier than lowerpriced items, and the vendors give terms. The items rarely sell and overall turn is poor.
  • c) Whereas word of mouth can easily bring in repair and custom customers, showcase sales require a multitude of advertising, marketing and sales training techniques. And most bench jewelers just wait for the sales to come in.
  • d) How does a bench jeweler pay for all of this merchandise given it doesn’t sell enough to pay its own way? Simple: Shop profits. Buying and selling scrap gold a few years ago paid for a multitude of previous buying sins.

4. “I’m the guy at the top of the mountain. I do what others don’t and do it in a big way. The shop makes a lot of money, customers and employees are happy and while other stores are knocking themselves out competing for that same old engagement ring we are creating styles, money, customers and happy employees.”

Now we’re having fun. Millennials gravitate to these stores because they can get what they want. And people will pay for what they want. The store is decorated differently, with monitors showing designing and manufacturing being done. (To get an idea of how great this approach can be, go to greenlakejewelry.com and see what Jim Tuttle has done with his store and website.)

5. “Finally, there is the full-service store that has done well selling goods on top of its bench.”

This takes a different mindset. After years of “making a living” these jewelers are into making money. Their shop does well but unlike many of their peers, these store owners know about turn, correct inventory levels, vendor exchange programs, social media, advertising, visual merchandising, and may even be part of a buying group or a mentor program like the Edge Retail Academy. Most important, they love to learn.

How about you? What kind of jeweler do you want to be?

David Geller is a 14th-generation bench jeweler who produces The Geller Blue Book To Jewelry Repair Pricing. David is the “go-to guy” for setting up QuickBooks for a jewelry store. Reach him at [email protected].

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