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One Week In The (Business) Life




ELENA HUNG-SHUM spends much of her time conveying the sometimes whimsical wishes of New Jersey mall customers to a bench jeweler in Manhattan who speaks only Chinese. What ensues is often a comedy of errors, but it doesn’t seem very funny at the time. Still, she may have a future in diplomacy. She’s one of the owners of Jade Creations, which operates two mall locations in Paramus and Woodbridge, NJ, each about 700 square feet. She manages the Paramus location. The company specializes in jade and natural stones, custom engagement rings, hand engraving and contemporary jewelry made from stainless steel, titanium and tungsten carbide. Hung-Shum has a bachelor of science degree, GIA certificates, and is working toward becoming a gemologist. 
September is normally dead. But we have a lot of special orders, so busy weeks like this one are bound to happen. We started out with carts in the mall, selling jade jewelry in 1995, and expanded to a full line of jewelry. Four years ago, we built both stores, had them designed and built to meet our needs. We get a lot of customers who bought something in China 30 or 40 years ago and want something made to match it. I’ve had a good working relationship with our bench jeweler, David, for over 10 years. He speaks Chinese, and I do, too, but we speak certain words differently. I’m Chinese, but I was born in Venezuela. So every time we talk, there’s a misunderstanding. We argue back and forth, but with no hard feelings. Whatever crazy thing I tell him to make, he will do it. We’ve grown together. 
font-family : Verdana, Geneva, Arial, Helvetica, sans-serif;font-size : 15px;color: #333333;font-weight : bold;MONDAY, SEPT. 10  
10 A.M. ? Open and set up the store. Return all the jewelry to the front-window display cases. 
11 A.M. ? I call the jeweler to see if the casting of an engagement ring is ready. It is. Order side diamonds to match the center stone. Place other special orders.  
Noon ? Eat lunch and arrange for a messenger to pick up the melee diamonds for the engagement ring. Check e-mails and reply to them. 
2 P.M. ? Diamonds are here, but they’re the wrong size! Too big. I panic for a few minutes. The ring deadline is Wednesday. Then I call the dealer, and hear some good news. Smaller diamonds are available. So I send the messenger out again. 
4 P.M. ? The bench jeweler confirms the diamonds are good.  
6 to 9 P.M. ? Check the activity in the mall. Have dinner. A few customers come in. 
font-family : Verdana, Geneva, Arial, Helvetica, sans-serif;font-size : 15px;color: #333333;font-weight : bold;TUESDAY, SEPT. 11 
10 A.M. ? Open and set up the store. 
11 A.M. ? Call the bench jeweler to make sure the engagement ring is ready. So far, so good! He says he’s just finishing the details. E-mail customer. Confirm appointment for tomorrow. 
Noon ? Lunch. Then check repairs and special orders. I take some time to plan my Wednesday. I expect a very hectic day. I am very busy on Wednesdays because I do all my errands that day. The stores are normally quiet. 
2 P.M. ? A regular customer comes in to pick up a special order. I had made a ring for her friend once. She wanted the same exact ring. It was a CZ cushion-cut bezel-set in a heavy thick band. Before making it, I told her ?if you want it exactly the same, please tell your friend to drop off her ring.? She told me the jeweler would remember it. Well, he didn’t, exactly, so the jeweler made it again. Now she likes the ring. 
4 P.M. ? Mall is very quiet. Call the other store, which is, too. 
6 to 9 P.M. ? A potential wedding-band buyer comes in. We discuss the different types of metals available. 
font-family : Verdana, Geneva, Arial, Helvetica, sans-serif;font-size : 15px;color: #333333;font-weight : bold;WEDNESDAY, SEPT. 12 
10 A.M. ? Stop in the other store to make sure the key holder opens. Key holder was running late. Help her open. Wednesday is usually the day that I go to see my bench jeweler, buy all kinds of stones, depending on the special orders I’m working on. Visit a few suppliers to see what’s new. It’s a day out of the store, working. 
11 A.M. ? I go to see the bench jeweler to pick up the engagement ring for delivery. Panic! The ring did not come out the way I wanted it. The ring is a 1.29 carat D VS2 radiant cut with .31 side diamonds. The side diamonds are prong set. The ring has to be perfect, but I notice that three diamonds on the side of the band were not prong set. They were pave set. There was no continuity on the band. I stare at the ring for a few minutes. Time to brainstorm! 
Noon ? I grab some lunch, still thinking about what to do. 
1 P.M. ? I discuss the problem with the bench jeweler. We find a solution. We decide to add tiny beading on the side of the band. I’m not 100 percent happy with it, but I think it will meet the customer’s expectations. 
2 P.M. ? I’m still very anxious about the situation. I can’t sit around and wait, so I go to place other castings. 
3 P.M. ? The ring finally is ready. I call the customer and we agree to meet at his office. 
4 P.M. ? I meet with the customer, who is very satisfied, just worried that his girlfriend won’t like it. I assure the customer that if she does not like it, we’ll make a new setting. But the diamond is gorgeous! She can’t complain. 
6 P.M. ? Back to the store. 
6 to 9 P.M. ? This evening, I receive a lot of engraving orders (Our specialty is hand engraving). 
font-family : Verdana, Geneva, Arial, Helvetica, sans-serif;font-size : 15px;color: #333333;font-weight : bold;THURSDAY, SEPT. 13 
10 A.M. ? Open and set up the store. 
11 A.M. ? Receive a few phone calls. Check and return e-mails. Eat lunch. 
Noon ? Spend some time with a few customers. Our stores are set up like a museum, with a lot of examples of stones and carvings. A lot of people come in inquiring about different types of stones. One customer is particularly interested in jade because of the movie Apocalypto. I explain the different types of jade and he purchases a jade pendant for his wife.  
2 P.M. ? I call my West Coast supplier to find charcoal jade. She says that it won’t be very difficult to fill the order. That’s a relief. It’s not normally very hard to find, but my customer wants 12 pieces to look about the same.  
4 P.M. ? I try to relax. Then I decide to start stringing a triple strand choker. It’s a very difficult task, though, because the customer is picky and wants a tailored fit. 
6 P.M. ? I find I’m unable to finish the necklace, so I set it aside. 
font-family : Verdana, Geneva, Arial, Helvetica, sans-serif;font-size : 15px;color: #333333;font-weight : bold;FRIDAY, SEPT. 14 
10 A.M. ? Open and set up the store. 
11 A.M. ? Check e-mails and return phone calls. Eat lunch. 
2 P.M. ? A regular customer comes in to pick up a special order of a pendant made with three princess-cut citrines. She had wanted to make it into a pendant I had in the store. Finally, she is happy with her piece (it took three tries). Her friend orders a watch link.  
4 P.M. ? A German customer, in the area visiting her daughter, comes in, and is very happy with a pearl necklace.  
6 to 9 P.M. ? Eat dinner. Take care of some customers. 
font-family : Verdana, Geneva, Arial, Helvetica, sans-serif;font-size : 15px;color: #333333;font-weight : bold;SATURDAY, SEPT. 15 
10 A.M. ? I make sure the key holder opens. 
I take the rest of the day off, taking advantage of the fact that my key holder is able to handle it, because I need to spend time with my 3-year-old daughter. I am in touch with the store all day long via cell phone. 
font-family : Verdana, Geneva, Arial, Helvetica, sans-serif;font-size : 15px;color: #333333;font-weight : bold;SUNDAY, SEPT 16 
The mall is usually closed on Sundays. Our store is in Paramus, NJ, and it follows the Blue Laws. (Only restaurants and supermarkets are open.)



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