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Do You Need to Tell Customers a Second-Hand Diamond’s Unhappy History … and More of Your Questions for September

Plus, the very best time to ask a bridal customer, “What’s your budget?”

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Do I have to disclose to a customer that a second-hand diamond came from a failed marriage or any other fact — a nasty accident or death — that may hurt its resale price?

From a legal standpoint, not at all, says Jo-Ann Sperano, a mediation specialist and para-legal at the Jewelers Vigilance Council. “When it comes to (legitimately acquired) diamonds, you are responsible for detailing the quality of the diamond not where or how you received it. If the diamond needs polishing, naturally you would make it look like new with no signs or wear. That’s about it,” she says. Philip Johnson, the CEO of haveyouseenthering.com, which deals in pre-owned rings, tells his customers to keep in mind that diamonds have long histories. “All diamonds are old, billions of years old to be exact, so purchasing a pre-owned diamond is one that is a billion and five years old,” he says, adding that it’s really up to the couple to infuse the stone with memories and karma from the life they build together. If you think a notorious stone really does have a bad back-story that will upset a customer, have it recut. No more ju-ju.

When is the best time to ask a bridal customer, “What’s your budget?”

Sales trainer David Richardson says the answer should be almost never. “Jewelry sales — especially purchases of engagement rings and anniversary gifts — are based on emotion. But once a budget has been declared you’ve pretty well limited yourself to showing goods within that amount. And since a budget is a budget, most salespeople become reluctant to suggest add-ons,” he says. Becka Johnson Kibby, training manager for the Edge Retail Academy, takes a different view, recommending that once you’ve established some rapport with a customer you should ask about the budget. “It gives you a starting point and you can always up-sell later or figure out financing options.” It’s worth keeping in mind the diamond market is a lot more transparent these days, and engagement rings are a category for which most people have budgets. At the same time, as Richardson notes, budgets are made to be broken. “In the end, the budget is really only relevant to the romance and value you build into the item,” he says.

How do you handle an engagement-ring customer who brings in his own diamond bought online? It happens more and more now.

Start by adjusting your attitude. A nice business opportunity just came walking in the door and you’re moaning about it. The engagement sale is no longer primarily a diamond transaction — the margins on the mountings are better (especially for those G-H color, VS clarity stones you can get anywhere), and you have the opportunity to make up any lost sales dollars in add-ons. (Bands aside, the average spent on bridesmaids’ jewelry gifts is now about $500 per wedding, while 40 percent of grooms are buying additional jewelry for the ceremony, spending an average of $443 on cufflinks, watches and tie clips, according to The Knot). Then there is the really big pay-off: the lifetime value of a satisfied customer (you know: anniversaries, birthdays, engagement ring upgrades … ). So, treat him well — put his diamond under a scope, offer to appraise the final product, show the same interest in his nuptials as you would any other customer, and he’ll likely tell all his friends about the great experience he got. Business evolves. That’s the fun thing about it.

Is it true that sunlight is the best light in which to view a diamond?

At noon on a clear summer day, the answer is yes, says Howard Gurock, whose firm, Econo-Lite Products, is close to the leading edge of man’s 400,000-year-old effort to mimic the sun’s illuminating qualities. The reason is that sunlight is the only energy source that provides the full color spectrum of light and at a Kelvin temperature of 6,000 — or close to daylight — it is a pure white light that will bring out “all the brilliance and scintillation and fire of a diamond,” says Gurock. When you try to use the same Kelvin temperature inside, however, the result is a light that makes hard surfaces like diamonds sparkle but gives softer materials, like human skin, a “cadaverous” blue tone. Gurock doubts man will ever create a lighting system that reflects the full color spectrum although he is getting close: Some commercial lighting systems are currently in the mid 90s on the Color Rendering Index (the sun is 100). In the meantime, he recommends aiming for a Kelvin temperature of around 5,000 to light your diamond area, which will put both the diamonds and the customer in a light that is close to their best. And it’s generally safer than stepping out into the street to gaze at a 4-carater.

Over the years, INSTORE has won 80 international journalism awards for its publication and website. Contact INSTORE's editors at [email protected].

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