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Best of The Best

Best of the Best: Branding Your Own Diamonds

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Stores doing things right.

[h3]Foland’s Jewelry; Royal Oak, MI[/h3]

Best of the Best Logo[dropcap cap=W]hen Heather Kroot went to the Vegas shows last June, she was in the mood to gamble. Not at one of the dozens of casinos on the Vegas strip, but in the exhibition halls of the show itself, where Kroot began exploring the idea of creating her store’s own line of branded diamonds.

Kroot’s store, Foland’s Jewelry, opened only last November in the trendy Royal Oaks area. Her family has more than 80 years in the jewelry business, and formerly operated a chain of jewelry stores called Foland’s and Company with branches in Michigan, Ohio, and Illinois. The last of those stores closed in 1992. Since then, the company has been vendors in a chain of eight Michigan catalog showrooms. But when the agreement with those showrooms expired last June, the family decided it was time to go back to the past and re-establish their own independent jewelry store.[/dropcap]

[componentheading]THE IDEA[/componentheading]

With such a long history, the Foland name still has clout in the Michigan area and Kroot wanted to take advantage of that name recognition. So, when considering what to call the new branded diamond, it seemed imperative to use the Foland name. “Foland’s Fire” fit the bill perfectly. To add additional punch to her store’s November grand opening, Kroot coupled the event with the launch of the Foland’s Fire branded diamond.  

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Foland’s Fire diamonds are supplied to the store by Overseas Diamonds, a Diamond Trading Company (DTC) sightholder with manufacturing operations in Antwerp. Overseas Diamonds is also the creators of Isee2 — a diamond grading system backed with a computer software and hardware that clearly lets customers see the difference in diamonds marked with the Isee2 quality label.  

Using Isee2 allowed Kroot to offer her customers a number of perks such as performance-based cut grading, ionized quality-labeling, unique ID number identification and completely transparent provenance.

[componentheading]THE EXECUTION[/componentheading]

Best of the Best: Branding Your Own Diamonds

Once Kroot had the diamonds in her hands, she had to figure out the best way to get her new brand onto the fingers of her customers. With a budget of $100,000, her first step was to redesign her new store with the Foland’s Fire diamond sales in mind. This meant providing such basics as tailored lighting, as well as a presentation area capable of accommodating computers, Internet connections and high-tech selling aids including Isee2’s diamond beauty and performance analyzing machines. Materials were also redesigned to give more prominence to the store’s new logo — a flaming diamond. These can now be found on in-store signage, business cards, letterhead, promotional materials and advertisements. “We even have a Foland’s Fire logo LED sign on the side of our building,” Kroot says.  

While many of Foland’s diamonds are graded by the GIA and AGS, Kroot says that Isee2’s diamond evaluation and comparison technology “further defines the specifications of a diamond’s cut that goes beyond these grading reports”. The average presentation consists of evaluating a Foland’s Fire ideal cut diamond next to a regular diamond. Kroot says that after the comparison is made, about 80% of customers select the Foland’s Fire diamond. Right now, the company is primarily promoting the brand for round brilliant diamonds used in bridal jewelry — but Kroot hopes there will be a trickle-down effect and that they can launch sales of the diamonds in other categories soon. “We’re finding that once people become familiar with the brand they want all the diamonds in their finished jewelry to be Foland’s Fire diamonds, as evidenced by some of the custom pieces we’ve done to date,” Kroot says. “Of course a natural extension of this is creating our own line of Foland’s Fire jewelry, which will come later.”  

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Foland’s Fire finished diamond jewelry has its own custom wood box and a special binder containing each diamond’s provenance report. The detailed birth certificate of a diamond not only adds credibility to the product, it also defuses the emotionally-charged issue of conflict diamonds. All rough is sourced from certified conflict-free areas including Canada, Russia, Australia and by documented DTC sources, and each diamond’s history — from mine to showcase — is thoroughly documented. Says Kroot, “In that way, we can give our customers the assurance that the Foland’s Fire diamond is ‘conflict-free’.”

[componentheading]THE REWARDS[/componentheading]

Kroot says that she’s seeing a lot more diamond sales in the $10,000 to $15,000 range now — but with the new store and new location, Kroot says that it’s still difficult to determine exactly how much the addition of a self-branded diamond has contributed to those sales numbers.  

Still, an encouraging sign came recently in the form of a customer who came in and said she saw a friend’s ring and asked for a Foland’s Fire diamond by name. More will surely come.

[span class=note]This story is from the April 2005 edition of INSTORE[/span]

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Best of The Best

Washington D.C. Jeweler Honors 50-Year-Old Gift Certificate

Gesture generates goodwill.

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WHEN KEN STEIN, owner of Bensons Jewelers in Washington, DC, got a call in November from a customer asking if he carried silverware, of course he automatically said no, followed by, “Gosh! Who does anymore?”

But the caller, George Jones, said he hoped to redeem a 1969 gift certificate for three silver pieces that he and his wife, Cathy, had received for their wedding and lost track of. The Maryland couple, who were preparing to celebrate their 50th anniversary, found the certificate in a wedding album and decided to see if it might be possible to redeem it.

The certificate was for “one teaspoon, one place knife and one place fork in ‘Rose’ by Stieff.”

The couple discovered that the factory that made the flatware had closed in 2007, so they decided to check to see if the jewelry store was still there. When they found out it was, they were further intrigued, as was Stein.

“Well, my business brain ran with that,” says Stein, who promised “100 percnet” to honor it and found the three pieces online for $150.

He decided it was a story worth promoting and media attention quickly led to widespread accolades.

Two TV reporters and a reporter from the Washington Post visited his store to meet him and hear the story. From the Washington D.C. NBC affiliate, the story also aired in New York and Boston.

“It has been remarkable the amount of calls I have received,” Stein says. “They are so heartfelt and literally made me choke up at times. Calls from New York, California, Connecticut and elsewhere. I had a call from a little old lady in California who told me I restored her faith in humanity. She literally tugged at my heart a little bit.”

Stein says that while he knew it would make a great story, he also felt like it was the right thing to do. “One customer came in just to shake my hand,” he says.

One of the emails he received read, “I must commend your company for honoring a 50 year-old gift certificate. I’m sure the value of those three pieces of silver has increased over the last 50 years. That was very kind of you. If I need any jewelry, I will gladly drive the distance to shop at your store. God Bless You!”

One call, though, from someone else wanting to buy silver from him left him shaking his head. “I literally said, are you kidding?! Go buy it yourself!”

Stein’s father, Paul Stein, bought the business in the ‘50s and worked through the ‘90s. Ken Stein joined the business in 1979. “I’m trying to remember, did they have any silver left? I truly don’t remember that. I would imagine in the early ‘70s, it just faded out.”

The Joneses told the NBC affiliate in Washington that they plan to put the silver and the old gift certificate on display in their house, so they, too, can share the remarkable story.

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Best of The Best

This Jeweler Set Up Shop In Grand Central Station

Her travel-themed jewelry is a hit with tourists and locals alike.

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FAR-FLUNG ADVENTURES and an affinity for whimsy inspired Nicole Parker King’s creation of a line of jewelry with a travel theme.

She’s visited more than 50 countries, and like many a peripatetic traveler, is always searching for a treasure to remind her of a favorite destination.

“I was looking for something small, chic, collectible and wearable that would remind me of my most special memories on my travels,” she says. “You can sometimes find charms in different locations, but there was nothing that covered all of the places I’d been, so I had to create it.”

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She launched her wanderlust-inspired Jet Set Candy jewelry collection in 2014 featuring luggage-tag charms and charms depicting airplanes, mermaids, seashells, in silver, gold-plated and 14K gold. The jewelry was sold on her own website and in boutiques and gift shops across the U.S. The packaging is bright and plush. The whole collection is presented in a passport-style book with photos and pricing.

“We really did pretty awesomely from the get-go,” she says. But something was missing.

“I don’t think it’s possible to build a true brand just living online, digital only,” she says. “People need to experience the physicality of a space for a brand to exist and for people to care about it. We’ve done a lot of pop-ups in the past but hated the transient nature of only having the pop-ups.”

In July, she opened a 316-square-foot store in New York’s Grand Central Terminal, and for the first time was able to fine-tune visual merchandising to reflect the brand’s playfulness.

There’s a lot going on in the small space, including perfect Instagram opportunities: A 6-foot-tall hot pink Statue of Liberty, and a closet transformed into a travel shrine with a floor-to-ceiling, travel-inspired collage.

There’s a mint-green ceiling, travel quotes on the walls and a custom-designed backlit cash wrap highlighting a map of the world. The store also features an engraving machine on site for personalization. Consumers shop by continental regions, creating a unique flow to the experience. The overall theme of “The World” is juxtaposed with “New York City.”

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A central island is dedicated to all things New York as well as rings with travel-themed slogans and necklaces spelling out “wanderlust.”

“People have seemed delighted to stumble upon it, and long-time customers are excited we have a permanent home for the brand,” King says. “I think there is always going to be a place, especially for jewelry, to see the product up close and try it on. No place is better than Grand Central for our audience, which is a good mix of tourists and New Yorkers.”

Nicole Parker King

King, a graduate of the Rhode Island School of Design, studied graphic design and has career experience in branding. She lived with her husband, a diplomat, in India, where she learned about jewelry from artisans. Her jewelry designs are heavy with graphics and she does all the technical drawings.

Although Jet Set Candy is her first foray into jewelry, she’s loved it all of her life. “I had my own charm bracelet when I was a kid, a sterling bracelet from James Avery.

“My favorite type of jewelry is whimsical quirky pieces that tell stories and have the smile factor.”

The long-term plan is to open additional stores in airports. But short-term, she’d like to try pop-ups to test target destinations including Los Angeles, London and Las Vegas.

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Best of The Best

Tacos, Tequila and Tattoos: Gold Casters’ Contest Draws a Diverse Crowd in Bloomington, IN

Unusual event infuses King Baby jewelry line launch with excitement.

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Flyers combined with a radio and social-media marketing campaign created interest.

FINE JEWELRY STORES often face the challenge of balancing elegance with approachability. Tequila, tacos and tattoos go a long way toward melting the ice, discovered Brad Lawrence of Gold Casters Fine Jewelry in Bloomington, IN.

Lawrence, who specializes in bridal jewelry and high-end watches, found a fun way to break down those threshold barriers on a Saturday with, of all things, a social-media-friendly tattoo contest to introduce the jewelry line King Baby.

Lawrence considered it the perfect complement for King Baby, which he describes as having an edgy biker look. In addition, he surmised that people who like to adorn their body with works of art would also find a deep personal connection with jewelry.

“We are what would be called a guild jeweler, and we are always trying to look for ideas that are more on the casual side,” Lawrence says. “Most of our events in the past have been black-tie or at least more traditional.” Yet Bloomington, IN, is a college town where students make up a significant percentage of the 100,000 population.

He called the event Tacos, Tequila and Tattoos.

Once he had conceived the idea, Lawrence worked with his affiliated marketing experts on getting the word out. The store placed flyers with a Harley Davidson dealer and biker bars, along with a bevy of print and social media marketing created by Porte Marketing. The event was also promoted with a radio campaign orchestrated by Roy Williams.

On the day of the event, margarita-sipping shoppers lined up for the taco bar, purchased pieces from the jewelry collection and were invited to share the story of their tattoos with the store staff, who judged the contest. Each participant received a $25 gift certificate. The contest winner received a $250 gift certificate.

Those who shared their tattoo stories defied any stereotypical expectations. “It was a much more diverse crowd than I would have expected,” Lawrence says. “We had people in their 60s and 70s with tattoos. Some people had full sleeves.

Several people had investments of $10,000 or more in tattoos.

“The event was very inclusive of our community and yet brought in a different demographic for us. It was a way of gaining new customers and having people feel more comfortable. Without question, 90 percent of the people we saw that day were new faces.”

After the event, the marketing team invited others among the tattoo-clad Bloomington population to share photos and stories of their tattoos on Gold Casters’ social media, continuing to give participants $25 gift certificates and also selecting an online winner by Facebook vote, who was awarded another $250 gift certificate.

The stories behind the tattoos turned out to be fascinating, Lawrence says, and in all about 100 people shared their stories in store or online with photos or videos.

King Baby is known as a men’s line, primarily, which the store needs, but it also has the magical versatility of being unisex. “We turned our entire investment in the line,” he says. “We sold all of the highest-end pieces we had in stock.”

The event attracted media coverage on social channels, on the radio and in the newspaper. “It was very well received by the community. People are still talking about it today.”

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