Gems of the Hill Country Lapidaries and Jewelers
IN 2007, when B. Diane Eames opened Gems of the Hill Country Lapidaries and Jewelers, she knew that in order to build clientele, her marketing should draw attention to her unusual product and unique location. Eames specializes in Texas topaz, the Lone Star state’s official gem, which is found only in the Texas Hill Country, in Mason County, specifically, where Eames’ shop sits on an historic square.
Promoting Texas Topaz
Throughout the year, Gems of the Hill Country advertises itself as “your topaz hunting headquarters.” And in 2008, Eames, a graduate gemologist who cuts and facets her own stones, created “Texas Topaz Day,” an annual celebration focusing on the beauty, quality and rarity of the stone. In 2012, Gems of the Hill Country hosted its fifth edition of the event, whose festivities now spill over into two days.
Eames schedules it on the weekend closest to March 26, the official Texas Topaz Day, as proclaimed by the governor. “The end of March is a beautiful time of year to visit our area: the fields are filled with Texas wildflowers in bloom, especially our state flower, the bluebonnet.”
Meet Top Gemstone Cutters
“People can meet some of the finest gemstone cutters in the country, see faceting demonstrations or attend seminars related to new techniques,” Eames says. Others can hunt for rocks on five local ranches, or just browse and shop and enjoy the music and wine. They could also work with Eames’ husband, Brad Hodges, the store’s goldsmith, to create custom settings for the uncommon stones.
Eames’ to-do list begins five months prior to the event when she creates and develops all the promotional materials — ads, press releases and fliers. By developing a timetable of when-to-contactwhom, Eames was able to get free publicity from 10 radio stations, 20 websites (including travel and tourism ones), four magazines, eight major market newspapers, five or six Hill Country newspapers, 15 gem and mineral clubs, five faceting guilds and five universities.
Something new in 2012 was the addition of “rock shops,” three established businesses that set up tables on the sidewalks in front of the store to sell raw materials, agates, books on gems and minerials, finished gems and equipment. She also had three dealers inside, along with a rough-gem dealer from Brazil.
In a seminar sponsored by the Texas Faceters Guild, World Gem Society president Robert James spoke to faceters at nearby Wildlife Ranch lodge.
Though Gems of the Hill Country and The Texas Faceters Guild are the only sponsors, they partner with Sandstone Winery to offer a wine bar.
‘A Great Sales Day’
This year, Eames spent $2,500 on Texas Topaz Day, including the band’s fee. Some 300 people came, and all day Saturday, at any given time, between 45 and 75 people were in the store. “It was a great sales day and customers worked really hard to clean us out of both loose gems and finished jewelry — probably 75 percent of what we sold was finished jewelry,” Eames says.
Do It Yourself: Create a Locally-Themed Event
- Find something special about your area and tie it in with something people can relate to.
- Use free-event websites, including travel and tourism sites to get “boatloads of advertising at no cost,” Eames says.
- Find a partner that can attract a new customer base, like the John Arthur Martinez Band, which plays for Texas Topaz Day festivities.
- Start contacting media for free promotion at least four months before your event.
- Work with local universities, especially if they employ experts or have classes that relate to your business.