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Cooperation Among Competitors

Richmond, VA, jewelers band together to help the community.



Cheryl Fornash and Ronnie Adolf

IN NOVEMBER 2014, 10 community-minded jewelers from Richmond, VA, gathered at the 51st Children’s Hospital Foundation Ball to raise more than $9,000 for the Children’s Hospital at Virginia Commonwealth University. Raising money as a group for a chosen charity has become a tradition for Richmond’s jewelers. In five years the group has raised a total of $70,000 for two causes.

the IDEA

Working with Other Jewelers

Cheryl Fornash of Cheryl Fornash Jewelers in Richmond, VA, began the “Jewels” raffle in 2009, when she was volunteering on a committee for the Women in Wellness events in support of cancer research at Massey Cancer Center. It quickly becam oe of the most popular features at the event.

“I thought if we could expand it to include pieces from other jewelers, it would make a bigger impact and raise more for Massey,” says Fornash.


A Little Arm-Twisting

So, in 2009, with a little arm-twisting from Fornash, 11 other jewelers joined up, each donating a piece of jewelry with a retail value of $1,500 to the raffle that became known as “Jewels for a Cure.”


In 2012, prompted by a change in fundraising strategies at the cancer center, Fornash proposed the “Jewels” raffle concept to the children’s hospital.

“After five years,” Fornash says, “I’m thrilled to be able to say that the ‘Jewels’ raffles have become a tradition among Richmond’s most respected jewelers.”

Although all of them support other charities on an individual basis, once a year they put aside their roles as competitors and come together to socialize and raise funds to help provide medical care for area children.

“Richmond is kind of unique,” Fornash says. “It’s not a huge city, we all know each other and everybody seems to get along well. A lot of us specialize in different areas and have our own expertise. I never feel like I’m directly competing against them.”

“I’m amazed at how wonderful the jewelers have been,” she says. “I wouldn’t be able to continue to do it if everybody wasn’t really on board.”

The 2014 Jewels for Children retail jewelers included Adolf Jewelers, Carreras Jewelers, Charles Schwarzschild Jewelers, Cheryl Fornash Jewelers, Cowardin Jewelers, Dransfield Jewelers, Fink’s Jewelers, Schwarzschild Jewelers, Saks Fifth Avenue and Victoria Charles Jewellery. Other jewelers involved in past years are the Davis Collection, Vera’s Fine Jewelers, Jack Kreuter Jewelers, Peter Alexander Jewelers, MacLaren Jewelers and Capri Jewelers.



More Cooperation

Aside from the benefits to the chosen charities, Fornash has found the collaboration to be a good chance to get to know her peers better. Working together also makes it more natural to send referrals to competitors if a customer needs something she doesn’t offer. And of course, the publicity hasn’t hurt. “I think it’s been great for the image of the fine jewelers in Richmond,” Fornash says.

Do It Yourself: Good Deeds by All

  • Find a charity that everybody would like to support, like a children’s hospital.
  • You need to have someone involved who deeply cares for the charity, because someone needs to head it up, work with the charity and put it all together. After the first year, you see what the snags are and get it down to a science.
  • Hire a professional photographer to take a group shot to help with publicizing the effort.



When the Kids Have Their Own Careers, Wilkerson Can Help You to Retire

Alex and Gladys Rysman are the third generation to run Romm Jewelers in Brockton, Mass. And after many decades of service to the industry and their community, it was time to close the store and take advantage of some downtime. With three grown children who each had their own careers outside of the industry, they decided to call Wilkerson. Then, the Rysmans did what every jeweler should do: They called other retailers and asked about their own Wilkerson experience. “They all told us what a great experience it was and that’s what made us go with Wilkerson.” says Gladys Rysman. The results? Alex Rysman says he was impressed. “We exceeded whatever I expected to do by a large margin.”

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