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Best of The Best

Best of the Best: Fox Fine Jewelry’s Community Bailout

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Fox Fine Jewelry takes on the recession with a Valentine’s Day giveaway

 

DEBBIE FOX, co-owner with her husband, George, of Fox Fine Jewelry in Ventura, CA, realized the extent of her customers’ financial suffering in the fall of 2008, when they started bringing in sentimental, heirloom pieces for her to sell — sometimes in tears. Despite the emotional toll it was taking, they wanted the jewelry sold quickly. It was obvious they needed money to pay their rent or mortgage. “This was not the kind of jewelry people just found at the bottom of their jewelry boxes. This kind of sentimental jewelry — their mother’s or grandmother’s rings — is the last thing that people will sell. It was very upsetting to see this happening.” By January, Fox realized that a lot of people in Ventura wouldn’t be able to buy Valentine’s Day gifts. Unemployment in California had reached 10 percent.

 

 

THE IDEA: “I came up with the idea that I would give away up to 100 sterling necklaces, boxed and gift-wrapped. I thought it might take till May to give them away — we are in a relatively small community of 100,000 — so I only bought 30 of them at first.” Fox contacted a reporter at the Ventura County Star, who published only a brief item. Still, word spread quickly during the week before Valentine’s Day. “By the time I got to work all of the networks had shown up,” she says. People lined up in front of her store for the necklaces; several drove three hours to get there. Beginning to see the popularity of the idea, Fox contacted IJO and asked fellow members to join in the effort.

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THE EXECUTION: Fox bought out a couple of styles from Classic Imports and Cherie Dori. Eventually she chose three different styles of heart necklaces and two other necklace styles. She gave away close to 200 before Valentine’s Day; in total, 46 IJO members committed to giving away at least 100 necklaces each valued at up to $99 and purchased from a variety of IJO vendors, including Quality Gold. Jewelers asked only that the recipients show them a notice of job termination or home foreclosure. “People came in and would tell us their stories. It changed us,” Fox says. “It affected all of our staff. So many people just burst out crying and so many of them were men.” Fox believes the fact that necklaces are not a necessity is what made the gesture stand out. “If I had been giving out loaves of bread, it wouldn’t have been news,” she says. “It became a symbol for many people about what each of us could do.”

 


THE REWARDS: “Jewelry sales is an area in which you really need to develop trust,” Fox says. “People have said anyone who is giving away something for nothing is someone I can trust. I think it’s going to be amazing for us in the long-term. We’ve had a number of e-mails from people saying, ‘You know, when I have a job I’m coming back here.” Many regular customers have told her, “I’m proud to be your customer.” Other first-time customers showed up just to buy something — anything — to support her business. Fox says the publicity was welcome, but the rewards went far beyond any potential business gain. “What happened was that we came to value and understand giving as its own reward,” she says. “Now I feel compelled to take this forward. It’s been a wonderful thing to give and to inspire others to give.”

 

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TRY IT YOURSELF: “At the beginning, I said I’m doing this because I can,” Fox says. “That’s really been the message: What can I do? What can we all do?”

 

 

SOME OF THE E-MAILS FOX HAS RECEIVED

 

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“I lost my job of 28 years — the only job I ever had. No one is hiring now and my house is next …. My sister was watching TV and called me and told me. I went to the list of jewelers you had posted and there was one right around the corner from me! I went there and yes they did give me a necklace. All I did was cry when I was sharing my story with them. I tried not to but until you are there in that situation you can’t understand the hurt and despair. The two ladies in there were so so wonderful, friendly and compassionate,
and that is why my heart let loose with tears.”

 

“Our family lived in a four-bedroom house. We sold our rental to keep the house, but lost it and moved to a condo. Now we are living in a one-bedroom apartment. Thank you from the bottom of my heart for the necklace for my wife.”


“I heard of the story on the news that Fox Jewelers was generously giving away a free necklace. I knew that I couldn’t afford anything for my wife of 28 years so I was relieved. A year ago I lost my job as an art director. In the ’90s I would spend thousands of dollars on jewelry for my wife; now I can barely afford a greeting card. Thank you for your kindness.”

 

“Thanks and God bless for the necklace; my wife now swears all our jewelry will come from you.”

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New York Jeweler Picks Wilkerson for Their GOB Sale

Jan Rose of Rose Jewelers, located in Long Island's famous Hamptons beach district, explains how she chose Wilkerson for her closing sale. Jan's suggestions: reach out to jewelers who have been in similar situations to find out what worked for them, and look for a company with experience in going-out-of-business sales. Once you've done that, the final step is to move ahead and trust the process.

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Best of The Best

Tiny Jewel Box and Harry Kotlar Celebrate Partnership with Film and Featured Jewelry Masterpieces

November trunk show highlighted Kotlar’s 70th anniversary.

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WHEN A RELATIONSHIP between a high-profile independent jewelry retailer and an esteemed brand blossoms, it’s only natural to throw a big party.

When Tiny Jewel Box of Washington D.C. and luxury jewelry brand Harry Kotlar first partnered about 10 years ago, they started with a small selection of merchandise. Last November, Tiny Jewel Box debuted the first Harry Kotlar in-store boutique on the East Coast, which includes a full collection of rings, earrings, bracelets and pendants, all handmade and hand-forged.

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The ensuing celebration also marked the 70th anniversary of Harry Kotlar. “The opening of the Harry Kotlar boutique inside Tiny Jewel Box represents a confluence of those two histories. It’s also tangible proof of our shared commitment to excellence and luxury,” says David Wiener, Harry Kotlar’s president and head designer.

Matthew Rosenheim, president of Tiny Jewel Box, says the event celebrated the union of the two family-run companies. The guest list included Kotlar collectors, jewelry enthusiasts, influencers and editors.

The focus was on the anniversary collection of seven curated jewelry masterpieces. Each piece references popular design hallmarks that are nonetheless timeless. “We picked out seven pieces — some vintage, some re-created, representing seven decades of our brand’s existence,” says Czarah Cabrera, Harry Kotlar’s marketing director.

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Each piece was featured within the pages of a coffee table book as well as in a short film, which also made their debut at the boutique opening. The book and two-minute film gave the audience a first-hand look into the evolution of Harry Kotlar’s design philosophy and dedication to the craft.

Cabrera says curating the seven pieces to be included was no easy feat. “As far as research goes, I was banging my head, looking at all of our mood boards and vision boards of every decade, including the mod ‘60s, psychedelic ‘70s and punk-style ‘80s, but we couldn’t be too literal because Harry Kotlar is more on the classic and sophisticated side.” She tied together the themes by using models wearing the little black dress, which changes in structure but is always classic and sophisticated. The staff wore little black dresses as well for the event, and influencers in jewelry, fashion and style in DC and New York were also invited to wear the LBD.

Each piece was displayed in a museum-like vignette with an audio guide. Eighteen of Harry Kotlar’s collections were also displayed in a museum-like environment. Guests had the opportunity, too, to sit down with a Harry Kotlar illustrator to create their own Harry

Kotlar pieces, making the event even more personal.

Rosenheim says great relationships between special brands and retail jewelers are built on clear communication, defining and aligning goals and expectations, collaborating on which merchandise will sell best in the specific market, and providing education and training on the brand and products so that the sales team can be passionate brand ambassadors and storytellers. Events support the sales team in their efforts to forge great personal relationships with their customers as well.

Cabrera says an event like this is all about experience and theatrics. And it does drive sales. Some guests bought pieces or put in special orders. “We also were able to prime our customers with gift ideas for the upcoming holidays,” Rosenheim says. “We had a great turnout of our top customers and media partners. The event had a positive and energetic vibe.”

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Tiny Jewel Box must walk a fine line between having too many and two few events as part of its marketing program, Rosenheim says. “In Washington DC, just like in other major metropolitan areas, people are time-deprived,” Rosenheim says. “Fortunately, our customers are loyal and they love coming to our events because they know it will be something special.”

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Retailers Team with Roger Dery to Help Educate East Africans

The program is called Gemstone Adventure Travel.

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SINCE 2010, GEM CUTTER Roger Dery has led jewelry retailers on dozens of trips to East Africa to visit mines, lapidary schools and orphanages through a program called Gemstone Adventure Travel.

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Amid the adventures, education and elephant spotting, retailers couldn’t help but notice that Dery, president of Roger Dery Gem Design, tried to help everyone he encountered, whether by delivering food or water, tipping drivers or bringing resources and education to gem-cutting areas. Says David McConnell of the King’s Jewelers in Walnut Creek, CA: “One of the things that struck me the most was that he always strove to leave almost every individual that he interacted with better than when he started. He really cares.”

Alumni of Gemstone Adventure Travel say going to the source has benefited their businesses by adding transparency to their gemstone sales and by demonstrating a social consciousness that is valued by today’s consumers.

Dery was featured in Sharing the Rough, a 2014 documentary about the journey of gems from mine to market, directed by filmmaker and jeweler Orin Mazzoni. Dery’s myriad retail fans have hosted viewings of the film to educate their customers while enhancing their colored-stone business.

McConnell says his experience in East Africa adds to his credibility and confidence when he’s selling gemstones in his store. He has a positive first-person story to tell about where gems come from — mine to market — and how they can change people’s lives. His store’s most popular event is a gemstone roundtable with Dery.

“How many jewelers can say they’ve been to the mines in East Africa and bought gems from the miners?” McConnell says. “The good I saw being done with schools built for miners’ kids is phenomenal and encouraging. It helps me address concerns when people come into the stores with questions about child miners. Governments are beginning to step in to make sure mines are built correctly so they are safe. Having photos and videos in the store from my trips gives me a level of transparency that most stores can never have.”

Christina Clover-Field of Field’s Jewelers in Redding, CA, says her experience in East Africa motivated her, deepened her understanding of gemstones and made her work more meaningful than she had imagined it could be when she left her position as a hospice nurse to join the family jewelry business. And Chrysa Cohen of Continental Jewelers in Wilmington, DE, donates a percentage of gem sales to Esther, a miner’s widow who took over the business to support her family.

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In August 2018, encouraged by a group led by Clover-Field, the Derys launched Gem Legacy, a 501c3 nonprofit organization dedicated to education, vocational training and local economies in East African mining communities. A Gem Legacy breakfast and panel discussion is scheduled 8:30 to 10 a.m., Feb. 8, at the J.W. Marriott Starr Pass Resort in Tucson, AZ, during the JCK Tucson show.

Roger says he is humbled by the support he has received for what had been an informal, personal project. “Only in retrospect can we say that we were showing them how a small amount of money can make a big difference in people’s lives. We have met thousands of people in East Africa’s remote villages and bush mines where gems have had a remarkable influence on their lives.”

For more information, email info@gemlegacy.org or visit gemlegacy.org.

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This Bride-to-Be’s Surprise Proposal Goes Viral

Commercial shoot for Smyth Jewelers becomes mini-reality show.

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KORI KLINE, A FORMER BALTIMORE Ravens cheerleader, had appeared in two commercials for Baltimore’s Smyth Jewelers, in character as a wedding guest and a maid of honor.

When she got a call from the ad agency working with Smyth and learned she would next be cast as a bride-to-be, she was excited, but had no reason to believe that the third experience would be much, if any, different from the first two.

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When she arrived for the shoot, the director told her that the actor who would play her boyfriend was stuck in traffic and they’d be ready to shoot as soon as he arrived.

So when — instead of a harried actor — her real-life boyfriend, Zach Sullivan, appeared on the set bearing a ring box, she was stunned.

“I had zero idea,” she says. “When I actually saw Zach on set, I was very confused, but very excited at the same time. It took a second for it to click for me.”

Sullivan had approached Smyth’s marketing director with the idea of making the commercial into a mini-reality show and proposing then and there.

“I’ve never been more sure of anything than wanting to marry you and grow old together. Will you marry me?” Sullivan asked Kline. She said yes!

Luckily, he was confident what the answer would be from his girlfriend of four years. “She would give me subtle hints every once in a while, saying ‘I want a ring on this finger,’ pointing at her ring finger. So I was nervous. I didn’t want to mess up, but I wasn’t nervous whether she’d say yes or not.”

Adds Kline, “I might have been sending him pictures of rings multiple times per week.”

Tom Smyth

When Tom Smyth, CEO of Smyth, first heard about the idea, he thought it was pretty cool, but a lot to pull off. Luckily, ad agency TB&C was more than up to the challenge, he says. The video quickly racked up more than 17,000 views within a few weeks in a market where Kline’s connection to the Ravens makes her a local celebrity.

Smyth plans to use the commercial on TV as well.

“Zach also used the ring cam, which records the fiancée’s response from a camera that’s in the ring box,” Smyth notes. “For us, it’s been great to share in this special moment. Zach clearly raised the bar here. I hope the community sees it and comes up with more ideas for raising the bar. This generation loves to make an event out of a proposal.”

While Tom Smyth and a veteran marketing director are in charge of the marketing effort, Smyth credits the agency TB&C for keeping the approach modern, hip and smart. “That’s why you hire people who are better at it than you are. I think we give them more latitude than most clients.”
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Smyth has overseen the marketing effort since the ‘80s.

“I have always liked thinking outside of the box and making it fun and tongue-in-cheek, trying to get the customers to smile. If you make it fun, it’s more memorable.”

And of course, Smyth and company were happy to help Sullivan narrow down the 200 photos of ring ideas on his phone that Kori had sent him.

The perfect ring was discovered within 90 minutes.

“It is absolutely stunning,” Kline says of the ring. “It’s everything I asked for. I told Zach I liked the twisted bands and a halo cushion cut. He went above and beyond. I couldn’t have asked for anything better.”

Kori Kline is surprised by a proposal from her boyfriend, Zach Sullivan, on the set of a commercial for Smyth Jewelers. While Kline thought it was an acting job, Smyth arranged with Sullivan to make it the real thing, and the video went viral.

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