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City Pelted with $368M in Diamonds, Precious Metals As Plane Spills Cargo

Gold, platinum and diamonds rained from the sky.

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The city of Yakutsk was pelted with diamonds and precious metals. Credit: Screen captures via YouTube.com/The Siberian Times.

GOLD, PLATINUM AND DIAMONDS literally rained from the sky over the frigid city of Yakutsk in eastern Siberia last Thursday.

The wild display of flying treasure — worth 21 billion rubles or $368 million — was attributed to the failed cargo hatch of a Cold War-era transport plane called the Antonov An-12. The aircraft was carrying gold bars, platinum bars and loose diamonds on behalf of Chukota Mining and Geological Co. About 99 percent of all Russian diamonds are mined in Yakutia, where winter temperatures routinely hit -35C (-31F).

According to The Siberian Times, the plane had been loaded with 10 tons of precious metals and gemstones when it lifted from Yakutsk airport.

Shortly after takeoff, the heavy cargo shifted, ripping through the cargo door and damaging a portion of the fuselage.

Nearly 200 gold bars fell from the plane, littering the runway with gold and platinum bars. The damaged plane continued to fly for 16 kilometers (10 miles) — dropping more treasure along with way — before landing at the nearby Magan airport.

Russia’s state-run TASS news agency reported that technicians who had prepared the plane for takeoff may have failed to properly secure the cargo.

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Police immediately sealed off the runway and began the task of retrieving about 3.4 tons of precious metal ingots. A typical gold bar weighs 12.4 kilograms or 27.3 pounds, so it is fortunate that nobody was hurt by the plummeting precious metal.

Yakutsk, which is the capital of Yakutia or the Sasha Republic, is frequently cited as the coldest major city in the world.

The Siberian Times had a little fun with that fact, tweeting, “It’s -21C in Yakutia, sunny, we expect showers of diamond, platinum and gold… Plane loses its $368 million cargo; gems and precious metals rain over Russia’s coldest region as police and secret services stage emergency search.”

This story is an INSTORE Online extra.

Howard Cohen is the Shoreham, NY-based editor of The Jeweler Blog, a daily blog ghost-written for retail jewelers. Cohen, a long-time industry veteran, is dedicated to making social media tasks simple and affordable for every jeweler. For more information, visit thejewelerblog.com or contact Cohen at 631-821- 8867, hscohen60@gmail.com. Websites: thejewelerblog.com, thejewelerblog.wordpress.com.

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Editor's Note

Why The Big Survey Should Be Invaluable to Business Planning

When 800 store owners talk, you should listen.

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WE CALL OUR ANNUAL survey “The Big Survey” because we ask so many questions of respondents, but it’s also big because so many of you participate — more than 800 of you, in fact. And that makes the results incredibly valuable.
They’re so valuable that when I’m asked to speak to industry organizations, I often use the results to illustrate any number of points. For instance, I recently spoke to a group about how millennials are disrupting jewelry retail. I went back to last year’s Big Survey to reference this fascinating result: 51 percent of stores who were thriving said that the rise of millennials has been good for business, while only 18 percent of stores who were struggling said the same.
It’s questions (and results) like these that make The Big Survey so indispensable when charting the future of your business. In this case, it’s clear that if your store doesn’t cater to the needs of millennials, you’re more likely to struggle.

This year’s survey includes results like:

  • the best-performing jewelry and watch brands
  • salary comparisons for owners and staff
  • the “dark arts” of streetwise jewelers
  • the most impactful tech for jewelry store owners

And much, much more! I hope you’ll read this year’s survey not only for the fun bits and responses that make you go “huh,” but also for the takeaways that could set you up for future success.

Trace Shelton

Editor-in-Chief, INSTORE
trace@smartworkmedia.com

Five Smart Tips You’ll Find in This Issue

1. Remove store fixtures that are too tall to allow shoppers to look across and take in your store. (Manager’s To-Do, p. 26)
2. Make sure your staff is fully aware of what holiday promotions will run when. (Manager’s To-Do, p. 26)
3. Always ask prospective employees, “What was the best day at work you’ve had in the past three months?” (Ask INSTORE, p. 70)
4. After any holiday sale, ask the client, “How many others are on your list?” (Shane Decker, p. 70)
5. Attend local small-business meetings to search out possible cross-marketing opportunities. (Cool Stores, p. 76)

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Dave Richardson

Here’s Why Having a Mirror on Your Counter Is So Critical

It’s not just vanity.

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WHY IT IS TRUE: This gives her an opportunity to immediately see how the beautiful piece of jewelry looks on her.

PLAN OF ACTION: Take this opportunity to observe her reaction, ask open-ended questions to reveal her feelings, and move for the close accordingly.

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Eileen McClelland

Longtime Jeweler Eases Into Retirement but Still Loves ‘Placing Beautiful Things With the Right People’

Jo Rosenblum King prepares to auction a treasured collection.

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Jo’s parents, Earle and Isobel and Jo Rosenblum King

JO ROSENBLUM KING is one of the first jewelers I got to know after I joined INSTORE in 2007. I met her at the Houston Jewelers Breakfast, a group that generously took me under their wing, and she helped me embark on assembling a fine jewelry wardrobe by selling me my first strand of pearls, which, true to her clienteling super powers, she remembers 12 years later.

Jo and her local “competitors” taught me that jewelers who cooperate can learn a great deal from each other. It was inspiring to see that collaboration in action as they traded advice, jokes and gems over waffles or scrambled eggs at the crack of dawn. It helped me understand, too, how INSTORE was a type of jewelers’ breakfast for retailers who might otherwise feel isolated.

Jo told me this week that although she did more or less retire a few years ago, she still has jewelry in her vault that she plans to auction. She wants to get the word out about that, because she wants each cherished piece to find the right home.

Since she joined her family’s business as an adult, her favorite part of selling jewelry was placing her favorite pieces in nice homes. “I began to feel like an adoption agency,” she says. She made sure they were presented in the best light possible, too, once packaging a charm bracelet of baby shoes (one for each of seven children) in a doll house. “Sometimes you had to go all out with certain customers and buy things to create a magnificent giftwrap,” she says.

Jo grew up knowing the value of personalized customer service.

Her parents, Earle E. and Isobel (Billie) Rosenblum opened a mom and pop store in a downtown Houston office building in 1955 when downtown was still the center of the city’s commerce and populated with well-heeled oil-industry types. One of those Houston clients, a rancher, had bought a new Cadillac and wanted CZs set in the fins. They took on the job, but had to make frequent repairs because every time they visited the gas station, some CZs would wind up missing.

Earle and Isobel expected all of their children to work in the family business when they were growing up.

“We wrapped gifts to earn money,” she says. “We all spent summers and Christmas working in the store. My brother, my sisters, we all had to wait on customers. But as an adult I never had anything to do with it until they asked me to come help with the jewelry store when someone was on vacation.”

Suddenly, retail jewelry became a calling and not a chore.

“How bad can it be when you’re surrounded by beautiful things?” Jo says.

Earle died in 1996 and Jo bought Isobel’s share of the business in 1999 and moved into a retail space at the Hilton Houston Post Oak in Houston’s Uptown neighborhood.

The space was tiny and narrow but Jo loved to fill it with hand-picked treasures and enjoyed meeting hotel guests from all over the world while continuing to nurture local relationships.

Her customers always appreciated her honesty about what looked good on them, or not so good.

And she enjoyed expanding their horizons and their appreciation of fine jewelry.

“Expanding their expectations was my favorite thing,” she says. “They’d come in with a little bitty earring and I’d bump them up and up to larger sizes. I liked finding things that looked good on them. I do have a good eye for that. I miss going to shows and picking out things that my customers would like.”

Jo doesn’t recommend retiring “cold turkey” and so she has continued to meet with long-term clients as a jewelry consultant since she closed her retail doors four years ago, while appreciating being able to sleep later.

Things had changed in the jewelry business at that point and competition had become incredible. “Everyone who ever managed a jewelry store would go out and open their own. There were so many jewelry stores,” she says. “When my dad first started there were a handful and Houston wasn’t half as large. But customers would trust you, they would assume you gave them a good price because you had been their jeweler forever. Now they want to buy it online and then see what you think of it, because they trust you.”

“It was a nice career and a lovely business, placing beautiful things with the right people.”

Now she’s decided it’s time to sell the remaining jewelry from her collection, those special pieces still looking for just the right home.

For more information about Jo’s Fine, Fabulous and Funky Jewelry & Gift Sale, which goes live on Nov. 1, visit liveauctioneers.com.

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