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WE ASKED OUR Brain Squad to share stories of holiday “whoppers,” those holiday-season sales and successes that are never forgotten. As usual, our readers delivered with a repertoire of stories about big sales, weird sales, and the guy who made a lasting impression 20 years ago because he said he needed to “think about” whether or not to opt for gift wrapping. These stories are both entertaining and informative. They reveal the importance of time-management skills on tight deadlines, of displaying jewelry with prices visible, the real long-term value of keeping your very best customers happy and engaged, and why you should never, ever pre-judge customers, even when they show up in muddy boots and dirty T-shirts.

All-Star Clients
We had the wife of a former all-star World-Series-winning professional baseball player happen in during the summer. We were able to handle her needs, and not knowing who she was at the time, didn’t make a big deal of it. When ringing up the sale, I saw her last name and asked if she were related to the player. Come the holidays, she came in and went on a spree for her friends and relatives and then made her own wish list. She shared that if her husband came in, it would be near closing time on Christmas Eve. The 24th came and I was full of anticipation that he’d come in. I promised myself that if he did, I wouldn’t act like a 16-year-old on prom night. Well, he did come in late with all his kids. He purchased the entire wish list and more. They became very good clients and sent many referrals. And yes, I did act like a 16-year-old at the prom and asked for an autograph on a piece of team memorabilia I had on hand.  — Stew Brandt, H. Brandt Jewelers, Natick, MA

Holiday Whoppers: Jewelers Share the Stories of Their Most Memorable Holiday Sales

Let’s Go Natural

About four years ago, I got a call for a 6-carat lab-grown diamond because her expectation was a very low price. Back then, prices for a large lab stone were not nearly as low as today, so after price comparing, we ended up with a beautiful 5.5-carat natural diamond for about $150,000. It’s one of the most expensive diamonds I have ever sold. That was fun! — Laura Stanley, Laura Stanley Personal Jeweler, North Little Rock, AR

Stumped by a Simple Question

We’re a small, locally owned business and we are always happy but exhausted by Christmas Eve. We close at 3 p.m. so all of us can get home to our families. At 2:30 one Christmas Eve, a man walked in and requested a 1-inch crystal bear pendant. We produced a 1-inch crystal bear pendant and offered gift wrapping. He replied, “Thanks, I’ll think about it.” It’s been 20 years and we still laugh about that. We’re still thinking about it. — Theresa Peregoy, Classic Facets,
Edgewater, CO

Holiday Whoppers: Jewelers Share the Stories of Their Most Memorable Holiday Sales

Strangers in the Night

‘Twas the night before Christmas when a gentleman came into my store with a mission to spread his Christmas miracle. Just discharged from a local hospital, he was overwhelmed by the lifesaving care he received from the nurses. He wanted to purchase all of my diamond crosses, not caring about the price, to show his sincere gratitude. He tapped on the counter and said, “I’ll take them all, I have the cash!” My Jewish father and I were in the midst of closing the store to hurry home for my wife’s traditional Italian Christmas Eve dinner. My father and I, who ordinarily don’t gift wrap, rushed to beautifully wrap these crosses so that the gentlemen could personally deliver the gifts to the nurses as a token of his appreciation. Can you imagine two men trying to wrap 10 gift boxes? My wife repeatedly called the store asking where we were and what was taking us so long. While we were wrapping the gifts, our client told us more about the care he received from the nurses, which touched his soul. This is a heart-touching story about strangers who met in the hospital and how it impacted their lives. When I asked why he chose my store, he replied, “I knew you were a veteran and I wanted to patronize your business.” All he wanted for Christmas was to spread Christmas joy!! — Barry Fixler, Barry’s Estate Jewelry, Bardonia, NY

Holiday Whoppers: Jewelers Share the Stories of Their Most Memorable Holiday Sales

Three Carats? Let’s Double That

The year was +/- 2000ish. A gentleman I had never seen before came in about five days before Christmas and wanted to buy his wife a diamond. He asked to see my biggest diamond and I showed him a 3 carat. He said he was thinking 5 carats or so. I told him I could get some in, he said OK, call me when they are here. This is before websites and most internet, so I had to go sit down, off the sales floor, for about two hours and make multiple calls during one of the busiest days of the year. I ordered about six stones from three or four sources; some made it, some didn’t, due to shipping issues. My dad was smart enough to order every 5-carat crown he could for different styles of settings. (Smart man; I miss him like crazy.) The customer came in Saturday morning two days before Christmas, I showed him three or four stones, and he chose a 6.3-carat round brilliant, J-SI2 Ideal cut. Then he selected a mounting and said he would be back when it was ready. I went back and handed it to my dad, who said, “Close the shop door and leave me alone.” Two or three hours later, out he comes with it all done. He had to cut the mounting to fit the crown and set the diamond down low enough to be worn; it was simply amazing and looked incredible. He was an amazing bench man. The customer came in and selected a $1,000 piece of Lladro and we secured the ring on the figurine’s arm with some foam and gift-wrapped the Lladro box. I would have loved to have been there when she opened it. It was our largest diamond sold to this date, and it was a fun sale. I was pretty young and nervous. Sold him a 3 carat the next Christmas, too! — Tom R. Nelson, Nelson Jewelery, Spencer, IA

It Never Hurts To Ask

I had a gentleman come in on Dec. 24 and hand me a list. At the bottom was “2 carat round diamond in platinum setting.” Luckily, we had items in stock and just needed the goldsmith to set it. While we waited, I asked him how long he’d been with his girlfriend and when he was going to present the ring, etc. He seemed confused and nervous, so I changed the subject. He paid and left. Two days later, the recipient came in. Turns out she was a regular customer of ours and put the ring on her Christmas list as a joke; she never thought he’d buy it! He told her the service at our store was great, but he didn’t know how to answer all my questions since they had already been married for 10 years. — Christine Graichen, Malloves Jewelers, Middletown, CT

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The Casual Approach

I sold a 52-carat antique cushion diamond because he was a collector and she could wear it on a silk cord like it was a smoky quartz. — Warren Lagerloff, Betteridge Company, Westport, CT

Airport Shuttle

We have clientele that make it a part of their holiday tradition to come in on Christmas Eve and have their children pick out their gifts. One gentleman in particular picks up each child from the airport, brings them directly to our store for them to pick something out, drops them off at their home, and repeats three more times throughout the day. Last Christmas, the children had picked out $50,000 worth of pieces by the end of the day. — Rebecca Larson, Barry Peterson Jewelers, Ketchum, ID

Holiday Whoppers: Jewelers Share the Stories of Their Most Memorable Holiday Sales

Know When to Break Your Rules

It wasn’t our biggest sale, by a mile, but it is one of our favorite Christmas stories. Our client had lost her husband and since remarried. She had us make a custom heart-shape pendant with a channel ribbon down the center and set five diamonds each in two hearts for her two daughters so they could have the diamonds originally from their dad. We have a rule that our custom work is always original and cannot be copied. If we make a ring, and your sister comes in and asks for the same one, the answer is no, unless your sister OKs it. Well, the new husband comes in and orders another heart with matching diamonds so his wife can have a heart that matches the ones made for the daughters. That was the only time in 25 years we broke the rule. Oh, to be a fly on the wall that Christmas morning! We heard later there were lots of tears of happiness. — Jo Goralski, The Jewelry Mechanic Inc., Oconomowoc, WI

Enough Cash to Roll in it

My first year in business, we had a lovely, large, five-figure sale that our client paid for in $100 bills. It was for a large diamond pendant and ring purchase (we’re in a rural area and he had sold his calves at market). It was a really big deal for me, because it was my largest sale, price-point-wise, to date. When the day was done, I threw all that money on the carpet and rolled around on it, laughing and giggling. — Sandra Locken, Sarini Fine Jewellery, Vulcan, AB

Uh, My Wife? Oh, Yes, I Have A Wife!

I once had a gentleman who ordered ruby and diamond drop earrings as a Christmas present, good sized rubies, with quarter-carat diamonds at the cardinals and a full carat on each post. When the gentleman came in to pick them up, I commented that his wife would love them. He looked at me in shock (he forgot his wife is a client, too) and picked out a pair of antique diamond drops with covers (each had a 2.5-carat drop from a 1-carat stud). It was a great Christmas season. — James Doggett, Doggett Jewelry, Kingston, NH

A Sentimental Journey

I had a customer who wanted to surprise his wife by designing a ring for her using her father’s wedding band. The band was 4mm and he wanted three princess cuts across the top. He ended up with a 2.5-carat center and two 1 carats. It was stunning. I delivered it to his house, so I was able to see him give it to her. That’s what I love about my job. — Karen Hollis, K. Hollis Jewelerws, Batavia, IL

What Do You Have for $10K? I’ll Take It!

One year, when I was working in a mall jewelry store on Christmas Eve, we had the gates pulled down getting ready to close when a guy ran in and threw his American Express through the slats in the gate and told us he needed a gift, nothing under $10K and he didn’t care what it was! Nice way to end the season! — Susan Kauffman, Black Dog Jewelers, Lewisburg, PA

Holiday Whoppers: Jewelers Share the Stories of Their Most Memorable Holiday Sales

Dressing Down for a Diamond

Customer came in with overalls and a dirty white T-shirt and mud on his boots and asked for the largest diamond we had (7 carats) and paid cash! There may have been a few adult beverages shared that night after we closed, of course. — Tom Sherrer, Lou’s Jewelry, Mobile, AL

Holiday Whoppers: Jewelers Share the Stories of Their Most Memorable Holiday Sales

Self-Purchase Celebration

One of my best holiday sales was to one of my favorite long-time customers who was turning 50. She is not flashy but came in and wanted a large round diamond to celebrate. When we were finished, we all celebrated with her! — Frank Salinardi, Linardi’s Jewelers, Plantation, FL

Private Shopping on Steroids

We did several one-family parties over the pandemic, placed all merchandise on top of the case, gave each family member a jewelry box and they filled them up! These were $500,000-plus events. It really allowed a more interactive shopping experience. These were luxury food, drink and entertainment experiences. — Todd Broadbent, Clarkson Jewelers, Ballwin, MO

I’ll Take Them All

It was four or five years ago and I believe a Saturday Christmas Eve. Things were very quiet. I was in the office doing some cleanup when a gentleman and his son walked in. The gentleman was wearing a T-shirt and shorts (December in LA). We got to talking and it turns out we had sold his business partner his engagement ring. These gentlemen run a large investment company. He wanted something for Christmas and then a few items to give in the future because he knew he would be too busy to shop. He proceeded to pick out several items and said, “I’ll take them all.” It was around $50,000. That was the last sale of the year and a nice one! — Jeremy Auslander, Roxbury Jewelry, Los Angeles

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A Turning Point

Five years ago, we had a boom in custom engagement rings for Christmas and New Year’s. I had to juggle several custom jobs that were similar in style (all halos) and every customer had a similar name (a lot of Johns, and very similar last names). It started to get really confusing when a customer would call to check on a status or return a message. I learned a lot that year about keeping diligent notes with pictures! That was also the year that I sold my highest value engagement ring (at the time), which he paid for in cash. That was a big turning point in my confidence as a sales professional, and my partner and I went out for a drink to celebrate! — Becky Bettencourt, Blue River Diamonds, Peabody, MA

Time Management Skills

On Dec. 21, I got a call from an old client who said, “Make a pair of heart-shaped 1-carat earrings for my wife.” On Dec. 24, the diamonds arrived from Israel at 11 a.m. I had already made the bezel setting and I had them set at 1 p.m. The happy client picked up at 1:30, and we closed the store for Christmas holidays at 2 p.m. — Mary Rozanski, Goldart, Ottawa, ON

Holiday Whoppers: Jewelers Share the Stories of Their Most Memorable Holiday Sales

Extra Motivation

We had a holiday party and told our clients that part of every sale would that night go to a local charity that we had designated. It made people want to buy more because they were getting something for themselves, but also doing something charitable at the same time. One client bought a $120,000 watch that he was going to wait on! — Elizabeth Saba, Presley & Co. Fine Jewelers, San Diego, CA

Building A Bib

We made a very substantial bib necklace for a client (actually, his wife) to signify a huge project he was completing. Without going into too much detail, this client is an architect who was in the final stages of a very major project. He commissioned us to design a piece of jewelry using the same design elements as the structure he was building. It was a very complicated, intricate design. We had the foresight to photograph every step of the process and made a photo book to give him upon completion of this most amazing necklace. — Melissa Quick, Steve Quick Jeweler, Chicago

Christmas Bonus

A corporate gift-buying agent came to us for all their company’s holiday party gifts and spent $170,000. They give great gifts to their employees. — Anonymous, INSTORE’s Big Survey 2021

Impulse Purchase

The piece that comes to mind was about 10 years ago when one of our better clients was picking up a repair and in the case was a memo 6.29-carat VS2-J and he looked down in the case and asked, “How much is that?” I said $74,000, and he said “OK” and pulled out his checkbook and wrote a check on the spot. — Rex Solomon, Houston Jewelry, Houston, TX

Holiday Whoppers: Jewelers Share the Stories of Their Most Memorable Holiday Sales

Window Shopper

One year, I sold approximately $100,000 to a client for his wife and daughters. Beautiful items … he had deep pockets and women who loved jewelry. He was a regular client for fine jewelry including some custom items. (Big sigh … his wife passed away, which prompted a move out West.) He was a regular client of mine who came in for years after a chance beginning. He saw a fabulous piece in our front showroom window, including the price clearly stated and came in. The rest is history. — Laura Sipe, JC Sipe Inc., Indianapolis

Note To Clients: This Is How You Do It!

One of my favorite customers is a guy who travels year-round and doesn’t have a lot of shopping time. So, when our Christmas merchandise starts coming in, I will send him pics of all my fave pieces that I think his wife will love. He will text back and say, “Have No. 3 wrapped and ready. I’ll be there Friday.” He walks in, hands me his credit card and then we will hang out and catch up for half an hour or more. He’s the best! — Mary Jo Chanski, Hannoush Jewelers, Rutland, VT

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The Soft Close Slam

Christmas Eve 2020. We were supposed to be open with a soft close at 4 p.m. But we had dozens of customers there through 5. At about 4:40, we had a customer buy $40,000 of various goods. At the same moment, we sold a 2.36-carat high-quality round diamond for $45,000. Within the last hour, we did over $100,000 in sales! — Anonymous, INSTORE’s Big Survey 2021

The Ultimate Upgrade

A big customer remarried and moved away but continued to buy from us for his second wife. But she did not like the engagement ring he had given her, too small! She saw a lovely ring we had with a gorgeous long oval teal tourmaline and many diamonds. “I want this,” she said, with a diamond in the middle! Wow! Now, how to source such a shape and size? But actually, it was not too hard. Four weeks later, she proudly wore her 6.5-carat gorgeous long oval diamond ring! When he asked if we would take back the old ring, she said, “No! I’ll wear it on the other hand!” We were even happier! — Eve J. Alfille, Eve J. Alfille Gallery and Studio, Evanston, IL

Holiday Whoppers: Jewelers Share the Stories of Their Most Memorable Holiday Sales

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

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It’s Going to Set Us Up Very Nicely for Retirement

You’ve worked hard all your life. And if you’re like most jewelers contemplating retirement, you’re hoping that your going-out-of-business sale will add to your nest egg — with minimal complications. That’s exactly what Doug and Jacki Friedrich, fourth-generation owners of Friedrich Jewelers Inc., of Vernon, Conn., experienced when they selected Wilkerson to run their sale. “Jewelers who are contemplating a sale should go with Wilkerson because of their experience,” says Doug. And with financial goals “exceeding expectations,” the couple can now focus on enjoying the next chapter of their lives. “It’s going to set us up very nicely for retirement,” says Jacki. “The money’s coming in and we have no complaints. It’s been wonderful.”

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