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Eileen McClelland

7 Takeaways From the American Gem Trade Association’s “Elevated Seminar” Series in Tucson, Sponsored by the American Gem Society

Learn to think out of the box when it comes to colored gemstone jewelry sales.

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ASSUME YOUR CLIENTS WANT THE BEST. When jewelry designer Erica Courtney sells her colored gemstone jewelry at trunk shows, she never discusses the price with clients. Instead, she assumes they can afford it and instinctively chooses a piece she thinks the client will fall in love with. Once they try on a piece that she has specially selected for them, often they will buy it. “Picking the piece that you love you can sell so much easier than selling a piece you think everyone should have,” Courtney says. “I try to pick out something interesting so I can say, `Do you know where this gemstone came from?’ Sometimes talking about the origin will sell your piece. And just because you can’t afford a $40,000 piece of jewelry does not mean your customer cannot afford a $400,000 piece of jewelry. Once they pass one price point, they will never go back. They’re never going to buy that normal little citrine again; it’s going to have to be a Spessartite garnet.” (From a seminar titled, “Colored Exclusive Dazzling Dialogues: Colorful Tales and Trade Secrets from Gemstone Aficionados”).

CONVERT THEM TO COLLECTORS. Convince customers they are collectors, and they SHOULD have one of everything in every color and of the best possible quality. “There are so many opportunities to sell a whole new set of jewelry in a new color,” Courtney says. “You are their stylist.” She’s actually had success insulting what they currently own. It’s OK to say, `That’s not good!’ I have literally said, `You cannot wear those! You should get a better one.’”

THINK POSITIVELY. “If you think `I can’t sell that in my store,’ you are correct. If you say you can’t, you can’t,” Courtney says.

MAKE BIRTHSTONES FUN. Kimberly Collins, owner of Kimberly Collins Colored Gems, suggests that for store owners who aren’t heavily into gemstones (yet), birthstones can be a fun way to begin. They don’t have to be boring, matching sets. In January, for example, introduce and promote all of the colors of garnet. “The person who doesn’t like that deep dark red they thought was their birthstone, will find something; maybe a Tsavorite.” Other months now have a connection with multiple gemstones. For example, August’s birthstone is spinel as well as peridot. “As a store owner, I’d recommend educating your staff each month on the possibilities,” Collins says. Then, run contests: “Who can sell the most garnet? Who can sell the first Tsavorite. There are a lot of creative ways to sell birthstones. Make them fun again.”

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AVOID THE WHITE NOISE. Brecken Branstrator, editor-in-chief of the Gem Guide, predicts the color green will be important in 2024. Along with emerald, more affordable alternatives will be available, including mint garnet, Tsavorites and Demantoids.

“The best indicator of what will sell in your store is the spending habits of your customer base,” says Stuart Robinson, president of Gemworld International. While the Pantone colors are relevant to the fashion industry (the current Pantone color is Peach Fuzz), their announcement is “almost white noise” in the jewelry world. Instead, discover what your customers really want.

“This market is starting to embrace interesting but lesser known stones. The consumer has a taste for unusual material now. it is a time to be adventurous about what gets put forward in front of the consumer.”

(From a seminar titled “Current Trends and the Near-Term Outlook for the Gemstone Market)

ASK WHERE IT COMES FROM. Ask new suppliers for detailed information about their sources and practices, Robinson says, because there is increasing interest among customers in this kind of information. Traceability, sustainability and supply-chain transparency are the keys to the future of the industry. Better yet, visit the mine yourself if possible, Branstrator says. “To get accurate market information it’s important to visit source regions and gem market hubs. It gives you firsthand experience to contextualize market trends and issues.”

BE PREPARED TO FIGHT MISINFORMATION. Robinson says influencers, some with zero industry knowledge, have been speaking about all sorts of gemstones in a negative context in consumer publications. “If people listen to this and stop buying natural stones that will be problematic for us as an industry and will wipe out the only livelihood that large parts of the world know,” Robinson warns. “It is not easy work. There are places where people mine gemstones because there is absolutely nothing else to do. We don’t want to eliminate the only access people have to making it to tomorrow. There are a lot of materials that are responsibly and ethically sourced in our industry that don’t cause any harm. You have to build up loyalty and comfort with your clients. Think before you click or like something because if it isn’t accurate it deserves a few seconds of a response to point that out.”

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Moving Up — Not Out — with Wilkerson

Trish Parks has always wanted to be in the jewelry business and that passion has fueled her success. The original Corinth Jewelers opened in the Mississippi town of the same name in 2007. This year, Parks moved her business from its original strip mall location to a 10,000-square foot standalone store. To make room for fresh, new merchandise, she asked Wilkerson to organize a moving sale. “What I remember most about the sale is the outpouring excitement and appreciation from our customers,” says Parks. Would she recommend Wilkerson to other jewelers? “I would recommend Wilkerson because they came in, did what they were supposed to and made us all comfortable. And we met our goals.”

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