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First-Generation Texas Jeweler Finds a Niche in Custom Design

Joseph Villarreal understands the difference between price and value.

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Gemologist Joseph Villarreal owns Villarreal Fine Jewelers, a custom, appointment-only jewelry retail business in Austin. Ninety percent of his business is engagement and wedding focused. The other 10 percent comes from well-heeled collectors, who prefer to shop by appointment. “The best compliment I’ve gotten is, ‘Wow, Joe, you have exceeded my expectations.’”

Q&A with Joseph Villarreal

THE JEWELRY DETOUR. My interest in rocks evolved to geology and I thought I wanted to work for the oil companies. But oil wasn’t doing well then. It was a fluke that turned me from geology to gemology. My brother and I both attended GIA in Santa Monica.

IDEAL DAY OFF? Playing golf on a weekday. I have a lot of friends who are business owners as well and I don’t know how they find the time to play so much golf. I’m lucky if I get to play twice a month.

RAVE REVIEWS. We constantly query our clients on how they heard about us. Ultimately, they come to us because of the Google reviews. And then they say, “After speaking with you, Joe, we felt you were a better fit for us. You had the experience and the knowledge.”

KNOWLEDGE IS POWER. You have to know what you’re talking about. It’s all about education. Jewelry and gemstones are blind items for consumers. This is why they’re very hesitant about buying. They see pricing all over the place. They see fictitious pricing, like constant 50 percent off. Those kinds of practices made me want to do better and it made me want to be very pro-consumer, especially by way of educating the consumer. Not that I thought I was a big shot, but once you have that education, you know certainly more than the average consumer.

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BIG TICKETS. I was the first in Austin to do custom design from scratch. My average engagement ring sale is $7,500 to $10,500. We sold more in 2020 than we sold the year before by 30 percent. There were a lot of bigger ticket items. I sold a stone valued at half a million wholesale that belonged to a private collector that I sold to a private collector.

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