Connect with us

Eileen McClelland

Gem Adventure Tours Support East African Mining Communities

Group’s leader sought “to leave almost every individual that he interacted with better than when he started.”

Published

on

The 70 children of the Luzi Children’s Orphanage near Lilongwe, Malawi have all been orphaned by different circumstance and are cared for by the Orphanage, which provides shelter, food, and school fees. They are currently seeking to sustain themselves through gem rough sales.

Since 2010 Roger Dery has led retailers and other jewelry industry professionals on dozens of trips to East Africa to visit mines, lapidary schools and orphanages.

Amid the adventures, education and elephant spotting, his guests couldn’t help but notice that Dery, president of Roger Dery Gem Design, reached out to help everyone he encountered along the way.

Chrysa Cohen of Continental Jewelers in Wilmington, DE, joined him in June.

“Roger gives back wherever he goes, whether it’s visiting the miners and bringing them food and water, whether it’s tipping the drivers, bringing resources to gem-cutting areas,” she says. “If there is a need for knowledge as well as for resources, he finds a way to provide that.”

David McConnell of The King’s Jewelers in Walnut Creek, CA, joined Dery on trips in 2011 and 2014.

“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,” McConnell says. “If it was someone selling rough and there was nothing Roger wanted to buy, he would try to give the guy something, even if it was a new baggie to hold the rough. Supplies of any kind are hard to get and expensive.

Advertisement

“And that endears people to him. That certainly helps in his business, but that’s not why he does it. He really cares about these people.”

McConnell is one of many jewelers who urged Dery and his wife, Ginger, to set up a non-profit organization so that other people can help, too. “When you’re THERE, there are opportunities to give, to throw in some cash for the school. But when you go back to the U.S. and you’re doing gem roundtables and talking about gemstones and all the good they do, it’s hard to NOT have an organization set up for people to contribute to.”

“Over the years, that’s something I’ve been whispering in his year,” McConnell says.

In 2017, a group he led got together, contributed some money and again encouraged the Derys to start a fund.

“They wanted us to have ready funds and also something they could easily contribute to,” says Ginger. “It wasn’t our idea and we probably wouldn’t have thought of it. We were humbled and overwhelmed. It’s pretty amazing that people who came from all different walks of the retail industry would come together and want to make such an incredible difference in East Africa. 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.”

As a result, Roger, Ginger, and their daughter Rachel launched Gem Legacy in August, a 501c3 nonprofit organization dedicated to education, vocational training and local economies in East African mining communities.

Advertisement

“Gem Legacy is dedicated to what we’ve been doing in Africa for over 20 years,” says Roger, “In our 57 combined trips to Africa, 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. Gems bring hope, make a difference, and leave a lasting change, a timeless legacy.”

The organization has several initiatives, including Gem Faceting Training, Kitarini Primary School, and Gemological Training. One hundred percent of every donation will return directly to the communities where gems are mined.

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. The film traces the path through the supply chain of a single gemstone and touches on the potential of the gem industry in Tanzania and Kenya and the importance of gemological education there.

“The first time I went in September 2011 it changed my perception of the industry, my ability to talk about it, my heart for the people, the miners, the kids,” Ginger Dery says. “And so that’s what we want to share with retail jewelers. If it can do that for me, and I live colored stones, what can it do for them, to be able to say `Yeah, I was there. Let me tell you about it. Let me tell you about this school in Africa that we support.”

Roger encourages retail jewelers to travel to Africa, or if not Africa, then to Oregon sunstone mines or Maine tourmaline mines or gem shows in Tucson. “If clients know you just order something from New York or LA, that’s not very exciting. You would like to be able to say, `I traveled to this particular mine in Kenya, bought the miners a couple cases of water and a 5 kilo bag of corn, sat and talked to the guys and had a pretty good feel about what they were going through that day.”

McConnell says his visit to the school in northern Tanzania, in a ruby mine area, made a deep impression on him. “A school has been put together by the local mine owner to benefit the miners’ children. It’s a direct result of having ruby in the area, and there’s Western money coming in. There are hundreds of kids there, who have enthusiasm for life and for interacting with us. That was one of the absolute highlights of my trip.”

Advertisement

McConnell says his African experience also added to his credibility and confidence when he’s selling gemstones in his store. Now he has a first-person story to tell about where the gems come from and how they can change people’s lives.

Gemologist Meredith Schlessinger of Byard F. Brogan in Pennsylvania made the trip in 2016. “Just the little bit we donate goes a long way. A couple hundred dollars can feed children at an orphanage for close to a year. I was so moved by what they do that that was why I decided to go on that trip.  I’m excited for the people of Eastern Africa because they are the ones who are going to benefit.”

Just the little bit we donate goes a long way.

Maggie Szekely-Lusso, president and jewelry designer for Servis & Taylor in Los Angeles, says her socially conscious California customers are impressed knowing their jeweler has gone to the source. “We bought rough and had Roger cut it. People just love it. Customers have adopted foster elephants in Africa, and if they haven’t been to a gem roundtable yet, they ask to be put on the list for next time.”

Szekely-Lusso’s trip was in 2017. “For us, being independent jewelers, having the challenges with the diamond world, we were already interested in color. But recently we made a huge turn toward color. There’s more happiness in it and better margins. Selling loose gems, we create a lot of custom work.

Cohen of Continental Jewelers met Dery three years ago when she hosted a viewing of “Sharing the Rough” in her store. “Roger has developed a relationship with people to understand what they need and what he can do to help.”

The story that most resonated with Cohen was that of Esther, widow of miner Gichuchu OKeno (featured in Sharing the Rough), who had to work hard to support her children when her husband died. A single mom, Esther founded Precious Women Mining and now spends her days crawling in holes with a hammer and chisel searching for tsavorite. Cohen is working on raising funds for Esther, whose most immediate need is a new $5,000 compressor to push more air into the mine. Cohen is donating a percentage of her colored-gem sales to Esther’s endeavor.

For more information about Gem Legacy Inc. or to donate, email info@gemlegacy.org or visit gemlegacy.org. To learn more, follow Gem Legacy on Instagram @thegemlegacy and on Facebook @thegemlegacy.


PHOTO GALLERY (11 IMAGES) 

{igallery id=1|cid=1639|pid=22|type=category|children=0|addlinks=0|tags=|limit=0} 

PHOTO GALLERY (11 IMAGES)

{{gallery_holder}

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

Advertisement

SPONSORED VIDEO

Wilkerson Testimonials

When It’s Time for Something New, Call Wilkerson

Fifty-four years is a long time to stay in one place. So, when Cindy Skatell-Dacus, owner of Skatell’s Custom Jewelers in Greenville, SC decided to move on to life’s next adventure, she called Wilkerson. “I’d seen their ads in the trade magazines for years,’ she says, before hiring them to run her store’s GOB sale. It was such a great experience, Skatell-Dacus says it didn’t even seem like a sale was taking place. Does she have some advice for others thinking of a liquidation or GOB sale? Three words, she says: “Wilkerson. Wilkerson. Wilkerson.”

Promoted Headlines

Eileen McClelland

Could ‘Another Piece of Your Story’ Be the Next ‘Got Milk?’

Jewelers of America raises $300,000 to test a consumer-facing marketing campaign for the jewelry industry.

Published

on

JEWELERS OF AMERICA has met an initial fund-raising goal of $300,000 with support from industry associates, including INSTORE, to test a jewelry-marketing campaign that organizers hope will become as widely recognized by consumers as the ubiquitous “Got Milk?” campaign.

The announcement was made during the JA National Convention in New York this week by JA’s Amanda Gizzi, director of public relations and special events, and Molly Fallon, director of marketing and communications, along with Mark Smelzer, industry consultant and JCK magazine publisher.

Podcast: Wisconsin Salesperson Uses Life Savings to Live Her Dream of Jewelry Store Ownership
JimmyCast

Podcast: Wisconsin Salesperson Uses Life Savings to Live Her Dream of Jewelry Store Ownership

Podcast: Making the World a Better Place in Steps Both Big and Small
Over the Counter

Podcast: Making the World a Better Place in Steps Both Big and Small

Podcast: From Tanzanite to Greenland Ruby, Hayley Henning Loves Selling Color
The Barb Wire

Podcast: From Tanzanite to Greenland Ruby, Hayley Henning Loves Selling Color

The goal is to promote the national jewelry industry as a whole and focuses on the potential of the female self-purchase market. Testing will begin on a targeted group of women in Los Angeles in mid-September. The five zip codes in the test market were selected based on their volume of JA member stores as well as the number of women who fit the demographic.

The tagline for the initiative is “Another Piece of Your Story,” developed by ad firm Cramer-Krasselt 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. So much so that each piece of jewelry a woman chooses to wear becomes another piece of her identity. “No one ever cried when they got their Grandma’s cell phone,” Smelzer says.

The campaign will be tested on 30-something, married-with-children jewelry enthusiasts, who represent 8 percent of the population and have a combined income of over $100,000, as well as on 20-something women, who are single, make less than $100,000 and have been indifferent to jewelry. They represent 11 percent of the population.

Companies that have supported the effort thus far were recognized as being a part of the Pioneer Program. “The purpose of the campaign aligns with INSTORE’s core mission to support independent fine jewelers,” says INSTORE Publisher Matthijs Braakman. “Collaborative initiatives assure that our industry evolves and grows to meet new consumer demands. We encourage all stakeholders to learn more about the campaign and contribute where possible. INSTORE is proud to be a pioneer sponsor.”

Pioneer Sponsors also include independent retailers H. Watson Jewelry Inc. and Krombholz Jewelers as well as Jewelers of America, The Plumb Club, American Gem Society, Ashi Diamonds, Artistry, Ltd., Emerald Expositions, Forevermark, Gemological Institute of America, Gumuchian, Jewelers Mutual Insurance Group, JCK Industry Fund, Midas Chain, Rahaminov Diamonds, Royal Chain Group, Shy Creation, Silver Promotion Service, Synchrony, Chow Tai Fook North America, Hearts on Fire, Memoire, Gabriel New York and Greenland Ruby.

The next step is to work toward creating a large-scale industry campaign for early 2020, for which more funding will be required.

For more information about the initiative, contact agizzi@jewelers.org or mfallon@jewelers.org.

Continue Reading

Eileen McClelland

7 Quick Tips From the Stuller Bridge Conference

It took place July 21-23.

Published

on

EVERY YEAR HUNDREDS of Stuller’s retail customers make the trip to Lafayette, LA, to attend one of Stuller’s interactive Bridge conferences. Classes include deep dives into issues such as repair pricing, bridal merchandising, inventory management, and new directions in customization technology.

Attendees pick up tips and tricks from Stuller experts as well as fellow jewelers.

Here are just a few of many I picked up from this week’s session:

WELCOME TO MY STORE. Include a photo of your storefront on your website, along with text-based directions. It makes it easier for shoppers to find your store and eases threshold resistance.

MAKE THE MOST OF YOUR TIME. If you’re taking photos of jewelry for social media, zoom out. That will give you the ability to use one photo across all platforms and crop it to optimize the size and shape for Pinterest, Facebook and Instagram.

BUILD YOUR BRAND VOCABULARY. Begin to craft a brand identity by choosing three words that best describe your company. Imaginative? Resourceful? Purposeful? Adventurous? For example. Involve your staff in that exercise.

GOOGLE YOURSELF. A first impression online is critical. Take control of your content and the ability to interact with reviewers by verifying your Google business listing at Google.com/MyBusiness. Check your name, address and local phone number, URL, store hours and photos. Fill out every single field on this form with as much detail as you can. Verify location with a phone number or postcard verification.

REFRESH YOUR EXPERIENCE. Design intentional experiences that delight your customers. Don’t be afraid to draw on inspiration from other types of businesses. Sephora for example allows customers to interact with products. Saks Fifth Avenue emphasizes the importance of an open feeling and unobstructed, uncluttered sight lines. Starbucks has changed the vocabulary of ordering coffee from small, medium and large to tall, grande and venti! Take a fresh look at your store and rethink the status quo.

ELEVATE THE STANDING OF GROOMS. Bring men’s wedding bands out into the light. Don’t treat them as an afterthought to languish in a drawer or a corner. Men want to be included in the romantic symbolism of commitment.

OFFER ALTERNATIVES. Think stacking is just for fashion? That’s no longer true. The stacking trend has become very popular in bridal, too. Some brides are even opting for a stack of diamond bands instead of a traditional engagement ring.

Bridge is a three-day conference offering business insights, networking opportunities and more held at Stuller’s headquarters in Lafayette, LA. Bridge is free for qualifying customers of Stuller. Upcoming Bridge dates in 2019 are Sept. 22-24 and Oct. 20-22. For more information visit: stuller.com/bridge

Continue Reading

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.

Published

on

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.”

Continue Reading

Advertisement

Advertisement

Advertisement

Subscribe


BULLETINS

INSTORE helps you become a better jeweler
with the biggest daily news headlines and useful tips.
(Mailed 5x per week.)

Latest Comments

Most Popular