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Eileen McClelland

Colin Powell Talks Leadership and Ring His Wife Has Worn For 54 Years



GEN. COLIN POWELL, former U.S. secretary of state, says the “super people” of America are the key to solving leadership issues the country faces now, and not some larger than life “superman” or “superwoman” future president.

Powell opened the American Gem Society Conclave in Washington, D.C. on Wednesday with a keynote address titled “Leadership: Taking Charge.” Powell served as national security adviser and chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff and is the author of the best-selling MY AMERICAN JOURNEY and IT WORKED FOR ME.
“It’s only the super people who will be able to fix some of the problems we have,” says Powell. “We have a Congress that is not functioning. Suppose our Founding Fathers acted like that. They didn’t. They made compromises on the most difficult decisions imaginable. Now we have 535 people who can’t agree on anything. And we the people have to fix it. Otherwise we are in deep trouble.”

Being on the speaker circuit allows him to take the temperature of the American people. Powell says he is well aware of troubling issues, including racial and political divisions, and an income and opportunity gap. Still, he says, Americans he meets are up to any challenge. “I see a people who are just as resilient, optimistic and confident,” he says.

On the global stage, Powell said that although the United States’ position has changed in recent years, people around the globe still “look to us as the moral arbiter of the world,” and a place that still inspires dreams.

Colin Powell on leadership

Powell’s success as a leader, he believes, was due not to the authority given to him but the influence he was able to generate with the people who worked for him.

He created successful teams by making the mission clear.


Powell learned about the importance of empowerment through his relationship with President Ronald Reagan, who once stared out the window of the Oval Office watching squirrels at a feeder — to make the point, Powell believes, that the problems Powell was telling him about that day were his to solve.

“Reagan knew he had to look beyond the crisis of the day. His job was to ask, where is America going, where are the risks, where are the opportunities?”

As a result of that realization, Powell vowed always to work directly with his line subordinates, without any buffer of assistants, and to make sure they were empowered.

“There’s nobody between me and my line,” he says. “Each person that I empowered had a different range, but they knew I trusted them to do these things and I stuck with them when they got in trouble. They trusted and respected me in turn.

“That causes an organization to be high performing.”

Empower your staff and meet their needs, too, Powell advises.


“Once you establish that kind of trust, they will do anything for you,” he says. “They will also tell you what you are doing wrong because they don’t want you to make a mistake.”

On education

Ten schools have been named for Powell, including the Colin Powell School for Civic and Global Leadership of his alma mater, the City College of New York in Harlem. Powell was born in Harlem of Jamaican immigrant parents and raised in the South Bronx. At CCNY he joined the Army ROTC program and discovered his true calling, which, he says, enabled him to boost his grade point average to a solid C.

“I went from kindergarten through college at the City College of New York, and got my geology degree all on the basis of it cost nothing. And I was a C student. I love to tell students that where you start in life is not where you end up in life. And in my public school education I learned more than I thought. Today the student body of the City College of New York is 90 percent minority and 80 percent immigrant. I love referring to them as my Ellis Island kids. That is the future of America. In 2043 our so-called minorities will be the majority of Americans. I want to keep this the school for the Ellis Island kids.”

On why he didn’t buy his wife, Alma, an engagement ring:

“My engagement went something like this. I was dating a nice young lady for eight months, and I got orders to go to Vietnam. I told her I would be leaving in a few months and I asked her to write me letters, because I would be gone for the better part of a year. She looked at me and said, `That’s all you want, to receive letters? You expect me to sit here for a year and wait, while you are going to be in Vietnam, and do nothing but write letters?’ She said, `I don’t think so.’

“So I went home and thought about it and the next day I said, `Will you marry me?’ She said “yes” and I said “fine,” but we had to do this very quickly. We planned it 13 days ahead. Then we had to talk about rings. I was a first lieutenant in the U.S. Army infantry making $290 a month. And we didn’t have much time to shop. We bought two gold bands, and that was it. We were married in Birmingham, I went off to Vietnam”

When he came back, Alma had given birth to their first child, Michael, was 9 months old by the time he met him.


“But I want you to know that I tried to make up for it over the years,” he says. “I have bought her things that you would consider gems, including a nice gold ring with diamonds all the way around, but when she wears it it’s worn on top of that gold band that she has worn for 54 years.”

On retirement

One day Powell was being chauffeured home in a limo when he got a phone call informing him that his responsibilities as secretary of state had come to an end and that Condoleeza Rice would take over his position.

His entourage and Secret Service detail vanished immediately.

“One day you are sitting there and you are the top diplomat of the free world,” Powell says. “And the next day you aren’t. Suddenly you are alone and you’ve got to start a new life. An emptiness comes upon you. But I knew I had to get through this. The morning after, sitting at the kitchen table, drinking a leisurely cup of coffee with my wife, I said, `Darling, this is the first day of the rest of our lives. I don’t have to leave at 6:30 a.m. any more,’ and she mumbled under her breath, `Oh, my God. Doesn’t the idiot know how this marriage has survived this long?’

“I knew this wasn’t going to be a sustainable situation. So I fixed it immediately. I bought a Corvette. The only trouble is every cop in Northern Virginia knows me and knows the car. And whenever they see me doing the slightest thing wrong they chase me down and pull me over. The only problem is they are all ex-GIs and they come over to my window and they salute. And then they write me a ticket.”

Eileen McClelland is the Managing Editor of INSTORE. She believes that every jewelry store has the power of cool within them.



Wilkerson Testimonials

He Thought It Was a Great Time to Retire — So He Called Wilkerson!

As David Kiselstein, owner of J. Albert Johnson Jewelers in Fairfield, CT says, it was a perfect time to close the store he’d owned for 45 years. “I’m 72-years old, the lease came due and I thought it would be a great time to retire.” A savvy businessman and one of the founders of the Continental Buying Group, Kiselstein urges others who want to conduct a retirement sale to pick up the phone and call Rick Hayes at Wilkerson. “He’ll talk you through it. He’ll help you understand it. He’ll give you the confidence you need to go through such a big experience.”

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Eileen McClelland

GOB Sale Is This Jeweler’s First Discounting Event in 46 Years

At 74, Buddy Bear says it’s time to retire his long-running, one-man show.



Buddy Bear

THROUGHOUT 46 YEARS in business, Buddy Bear never had a sale. He just didn’t like the idea of discounting.

But he knew when he decided to retire this year, he’d have to have his very first, a retirement sale that wrapped up June 29 in his Merion, PA, store, Buddy Bear Jewelers.

One practical reason he’s calling it quits now, at age 74, is because the building was being sold and he didn’t want to commit to a long-term lease.

Another reason is that tastes have changed, and he has had a tough time selling his statement designer pieces to millennials.

“Millennials who do come in are not customers who understand me,” he says. “I’m a dinosaur. They don’t want my one of a kind, large pieces.”

Bear’s given name was Harry Bear, which hadn’t gone over well in elementary school. Instead, he began using his nickname, Buddy. He had initially planned to name his store, Harry Alan Jewelers, a combination of his first and middle name because he thought it sounded more sophisticated for a jewelry store. But after his family and friends protested that idea, he relented and stuck with Buddy Bear Jewelers.

Bear, a longtime member of INSTORE’s Brain Squad, specialized in designing what he calls “transformers,” jewelry that can be taken apart and combined with other pieces to create an entirely different piece. Bar pins can come apart to become earrings, jackets, or pendants for pearl necklaces. Bracelets can become rings. He also spent years engineering and perfecting hinges that allowed pendants to lie beautifully on the neck.

“Up until three years ago I did my own manufacturing,” he says. “I cut my teeth on making one-of-a-kind pieces. You have to be creative. I didn’t copy stuff. I made my own models. I didn’t want to be influenced.”

Now millennials tell him they want to design their engagement rings themselves, but what that means, Bear says, is simply a CAD/CAM project. “I didn’t want to have to reinvest and learn that. And the mark-up in diamonds is so darn little now that you make your money on the mounting. All I can do is show them 35 styles of halos from a catalog. But it becomes too much work for so very little money.”

Being a one-man show got old, too, and he had fought some health issues in recent years.

“Had they not sold the building, I was struggling any way and I was killing myself,” he says.

“It used to take me two and a half hours to set up and one and an hour and a half to break down every day. I’d get here at 6:30 or 7 in the morning just to get ready to open at 10. In the last three or four years, I could sit here for a week and only see the mailman.”

Before decided to retire, he had cut back his work days to four.

A low point in his career was the 1999 robbery that wiped out half a million dollars in inventory, including customer repairs. “They caught the guys and I went through the trial he says.

Still, he says, despite the challenges and tribulations, he has loved his long tenure in the business, which he first learned from his father-in-law in Miami. He’s particularly proud of the jewelry industry design awards he piled up throughout the 1990s, including honors from the AGTA’s Spectrum Awards, the American Pearl Design Competition and the Pennsylvania Jewelers Association.

“I got a great deal of satisfaction out of winning awards within the industry,” he says. “It meant that fellow jewelers have respect for me. I’ve made a lot of good friends.” He’d also been a member of the American Gem Society for 22 years and is an alumni of the GIA.

Another highlight was working with customers to design special pieces he knew they would cherish as heirlooms.

“I’ve had people get engaged in the store. I’ve had couples break up in the store. If you’re in the business long enough, you have that happen.”

When it came to the retirement sale, he knew he couldn’t go it alone. He was referred to sale-event expert Chuck Frey of Charles Frey & Company, who came to the store to meet Bear and prepare for the sale. It turned out to be the perfect fit for Bear. “We had a connection from the beginning and it’s the best thing I ever did,” he says. “The supervisor they sent me was like sending me a brother. Joseph White has been in the industry for decades. So charming. So many sales he made I never could have.”

Bear’s best advice for fellow jewelers?

“It doesn’t matter what decision you make,” he says. “The most important thing is to make a decision. Then put all of your energy behind it. Too many people make a decision and then are unable to put the work behind it to make that succeed.”

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Eileen McClelland

First JA Convention Tackles Weighty Issues

Focus of July event is on education and technology.



JEWELRY RETAILERS, DESIGNERS and manufacturers looking for answers to burning questions about the state of the industry might do well to attend Jewelers of America’s first national convention, July 28-29 at the InterContinental New York Barclay in New York City.

Organizers have created an educational lineup with unique content as well as hands-on technological help. The event is also timed to coincide with Women’s Jewelry Association Awards for Excellence, July 29, and American Gem Society Circle of Distinction dinner, July 30.

“It’s designed to be a really focused, two-day, high-level educational forum for our members and potential members,” says David Bonaparte, president and CEO of Jewelers of America.

So if, for example, you’ve been lying awake at night, staring at the ceiling and wondering what to do about lab-grown diamonds that may infiltrate your inventory, visiting the Diamond Detection Lab during the Jewelers of America National Convention may ease your insomnia by demonstrating a variety of state-of-the-art solutions.

“With so much news and focus on lab-grown diamonds, with new technologies overseas and the ability for manufacturers to produce everything from man-made melee up to a carat and over, we’re seeing that there are issues of detection that present a real need in the industry,” says David Bonaparte.

“The worry is that some goods would pass through labs and go undetected.”

Over the years, however GIA, DeBeers and others have begun to produce ever more sophisticated desktop equipment that makes sending every diamond or potential diamond to an external lab unnecessary.

“There are now devices you can acquire and use to make sure that what you are buying is what the seller says it is,” Bonaparte says. “It’s a great way to see what’s the latest and greatest out there.” The goal of the Diamond Detection Lab is to introduce retailers and diamond dealers to the equipment that is available to them in a simple, user-friendly way.

JA has also curated a group of technology providers in a casual, interactive environment for a Retail Innovation Lab that includes a wide variety of tech options. “I think the most important issues are inventory management and omni-channel selling, so you don’t have your capital just sitting in a case,” Bonaparte says. “Inventory management is always a huge challenge for retailers, especially for the mom and pop retailer; and our demographic is 92 percent single store mom and pop retailers.”

Beyond technology, high-level discussions are planned on geopolitical finance, macroeconomics and legislative action.

“We have Charlie Cook of the Cook Political Report who is a one of the leading pollsters in the country who will talk about politics and what the election will mean to businesses,” Bonaparte says. “We also have the U.S. State Department coming to talk about the Kimberley process and responsible sourcing. It’s really unique content that we’re hoping is appealing not only to retailers but to manufacturers as well.”

Another unique aspect of the convention is that attendees won’t be distracted by making appointments with vendors between seminars. “There are great events out there, and they deliver a lot of content and value, but there are really not that many that don’t have a show attached to them,” Bonaparte says.

Retail Innovation Lab exhibitors include:

  • Abbott Jewelry Systems produces a comprehensive software solution to manage retail jewelry stores called the Edge.
  • Buyers Intelligence Group™ designs solutions for merchandising challenges facing retail jewelers and manufacturers. BIG’s online platform provides data analysis tools to help clients understand their business and strategically plan their profitability.
  • Fire Polish Diamonds has developed The Fire Polish cutting technique, which is protected by five U.S. and international patents. By cutting Nano Prisms™ (diffraction gratings) on the pavilion of a diamond, Fire Polish is able to increase the dispersion and scintillation of any diamond without affecting the diamond’s cut or brilliance.
  • GPShopper is a mobile app developer for retailers, empowering brands to improve the customer shopping experience through multiple touch points. Synchrony acquired GPShopper in 2017 to create new mobile solutions for its retail partners.
  • JewelTrace by Spacecode is an RFID-powered data analytics and inventory management solution for jewelers.
  • Podium is a rich communication platform for local businesses. It’s the simplest way to collect reviews, get found online, and talk to customers in real-time through text.
  • Outernets converts static walls, glass and displays into interactive, customizable digital experiences.
  • Smart Age Solutions is a digital marketing agency specializing in the fine jewelry industry partnered with Review Alert. Smart Age Solutions also advises, conducts webinars, and provides unpublished data from Google for its clients.
  • Virtual Diamond Boutique is an interactive app platform to source a diverse global inventory of diamonds, colored gemstones, jewelry and lab-grown diamonds. It’s designed to be easy to use on a desktop or on any mobile device.

For more information, visit here.

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Eileen McClelland

AGS Conclave Education Shines Light on “Female Self-Purchasers”



Jewelers of America is working with the jewelry industry as a whole to grab the interest of affluent young women, and focus it on fashionable, fine jewelry.

The goal is to launch a generic advertising campaign to generate awareness and affinity for consumer jewelry purchases that would be on the level of the “Got Milk” ad campaign.

Dave Bonaparte, Amanda Gizzi and Molly Fallon of the Jewelers of America, along with industry consultant Mark Smelzer, have been working over the past two years to bring such a campaign to life. They outlined their progress during a session called “Update on the Jewelers of America Consumer Marketing Initiative” during the American Gem Society Conclave last week in Seattle.

“Let’s come together as an industry to tell the same story,” Fallon said. “By promoting this, everyone should benefit.”

The tagline they’ve begun to test is called “Another Piece of Your Story,” developed by the advertising firm Cramer-Krasselt, and based on the idea that there’s an emotional connection with jewelry that’s far different from how consumers relate to any other luxury product. Each piece of jewelry a woman chooses to wear becomes another piece of her identity.

And of course, affluent, self-purchasing women are recognized as having largely untapped potential in the jewelry industry.

Working with a market-research firm, they identified one target audience of 30-something, jewelry enthusiasts, married with children, living in a city or suburb, with a higher household income. They represent 8 percent of the population.

The other target is 20-something women, who are single, with a higher household income who have been largely indifferent to jewelry. They represent 11 percent of the population.

Also integral to the campaign are the following research points:

Authenticity is a top-ranked value among women.

Wearability is important as the culture becomes more casual: 40 percent of women 18 to 34 like to mix and match expensive pieces with inexpensive pieces.

Sixty-eight percent of women 18 to 34 buy fine jewelry to treat themselves, an activity they see as empowering, personal and also view as an investment strategy.

For example, women who buy diamonds for themselves today represent one-third of all diamond jewelry sales in the U.S., a $43 billion diamond market that grew 4 percent in 2017, according to De Beers Group data.

Harold Dupuy of Stuller, who spoke in a separate Conclave session about “Jewelry Industry Insights,” said that the average sales ticket in that category is $1,300. Generally, women are buying on impulse or for a personal milestone. Nearly half are buying fine diamond jewelry with no specific occasion in mind.

The Diamond Producers Association is also focused intently this year on female self-purchasers with “For Me, From Me,” its third wave of the Real is Rare, Real is a Diamond marketing campaign.

Conclave featured speaker Kelly McDonald said that women who like what they buy – no matter what it is — also have a multiplier effect. “Women are exceedingly enthusiastic about sharing whatever they like or don’t like. They’ll tell a million people either way. Women trust other women, even women they don’t know.”

Appropriately, the JA ad campaign will reflect that research by including a focus on influencers as well as more traditional forms of marketing.

JA is currently seeking funding from within the jewelry industry to test this ad concept over the summer in a single market in Los Angeles, representing five zip codes with a high percent of JA jewelry store members, a high household income, a high percentage of millennials and a high amount of social conversation that focuses on jewelry.

Matthew Tratner, GIA’s global director of business development, says a successful generic ad campaign can help the whole jewelry industry. “If more jewelry gets sold, it helps everyone in the room.”

For more information, contact Amanda Gizzi, director of PR & Events for Jewelers of America, To become a sponsor, contact Mark Smelzer,

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