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JA New York Continues 40-year Tradition of Cultivating Creativity



A highlight of the JA New York jewelry show, which took place last week, is always the presentation of the 2017 Mort Abelson New Designer of the Year award. 

This year, Lori Friedman of LORIANN Jewelry was the winner, applauded by a circle of fans toasting her with champagne. She’s in good company. Abelson, former JA trade show director, for whom the award was named, launched the inaugural New Designer Gallery 40 years ago. The gallery promoted brands that have risen to prominence, including David Yurman, Lagos, Charles Krypell and Penny Preville. By seeking out and cultivating emerging jewelry artists and proving they could be commercially viable outside of the craft-show circuit, Abelson broke down barriers for designers and eventually changed the merchandising strategy of many mainstream U.S. retailers.

True to the spirit of the Abelson tradition, Friedman doesn’t see herself as a trend follower. “Rather, I am following my passion. I don’t believe in rules or restrictions when it comes to jewelry. Never be hesitant to layer different themes or colors within my collection. It’s all abut wearing what you love and loving what you wear.”

Friedman uses exclusively cut, organic-shaped gemstones for a natural, colorful effect drawn from “all that Mother Nature provides,” from sea life to plant life. Her handcrafted, one-of-a-kind jewelry is also clearly influenced by her hobby of watercolor painting. “Painting in watercolors has taught me to try colors that I would have never thought would work together, yet I found in juxtaposing the unexpected that the natural beauty of the gems are highlighted and they catch a woman’s eye and draw her in on a visceral and emotional level,” she says. Her debut at JA marked her first collection shown entirely in gold.INSTORE Loriann dome earrings 4x4 reflections

A piece from Lori Friedman’s Garden Party Collection.

Here’s a sampling of jewelry from other designers that caught my eye in the design-themed sections of the show last week. Each of the collections is bold in its own way, whether it makes a statement through its size and detail, its creativity or its exuberant use of colorful gemstones.


Statement pieces? Yes, of course. But gemologist and designer Kate Hubley of K8 Jewelry Concepts Bijoux says her jewelry pieces are also conversation starters. Kate won a 2015 Saul Bell award for a sterling silver pendant called MagiSphere inspired by the city of Montreal, where she lives and where her jewelry is crafted. Kate says she only wears black and designs for other women who do, too. “I create fine jewelry for women who wear black. Iconic, elegant, powerful, mysterious, luxurious, eloquent, sexy black.” Because, she says, “women who wear black wear colorful jewelry.” She also launched a fairytale engagement collection this year. INSTORE KateHubley1

INSTORE KateHubley2Kate is wearing a gold pendant called Lumina in 18K gold with gemstones. Also shown is her double ring in 18K gold.

Gigi Ferranti loves to layer, so she creates 14K gold geometric pieces that naturally complement each other while reflecting her inspirations: her Italian heritage and the country’s ancient architecture. Her gem-studded rings can be combined to create what she calls a “super stack” of high style. Her angular silhouettes are splashed with exuberant colors — with blue and pink sapphires, deeper pink tourmalines, pinkish-purple rhodolite garnets, tsavorite and lighter green sapphires. As a former boutique owner, Gigi is also rooted in fashion, and she says she’s been wearing jewelry since she was an infant.

INSTORE GinaFerrantiOne standout piece attracting attention at the show: A yellow gold locket showcasing an Ethiopian opal with a blue sapphire accent on a 22-inch chain.

For Designer Pam Zamore of Chasseur Fine Jewelry, there’s powerful symbolism in jewelry. Her collection, boldly presented in sterling silver and gemstones, made its world debut at the show. Pam, who has a background in interior design, weaves together eclectic influences that range from art and architecture to American Indian jewelry, yoga symbols and Greek goddesses. She loves the juxtaposition of wearing jewelry from different periods and styles and combining textures and motifs. But what really sets her collection apart, she believes, is the attitude of the pieces. “It’s the result of the way I see the world,” she says. It even feels important and substantial.INSTORE PamZamore

This top-of-the-line Starburst diamond & moonstone cabochon cuff is made in America.




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.”

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Eileen McClelland

2019 Big Survey: 10 Times When Jewelry Store Employees Left the Job in Dramatic Fashion

Results of the 2019 Big Survey have been rolling in. Here’s a sample.



WE ASKED SURVEY respondents to share the most epic ways they’d seen someone quit or be fired. Dealing with employees on their way out can be touchy. Sometimes these unfortunate encounters even culminate in award-winning dramatic performances. Read on for the most memorable ways employees have parted ways with jewelry stores:

Top 10 Countdown

The award for best dramatic performance goes to the employees who:

10. Screamed at the top of their lungs, “I QUIT”

9. Showed up in pajamas, had a breakdown, then quit and walked out.

8. Threw rings at the boss while asking for a raise, then quit.

7. Threw a crystal piece through a showcase shelf.

6. Hit the jeweler in the head with a bag of bananas.

5. Threw his key at me.

4. Came in wielding a pipe wrench screaming that we were liars.

3. Ran out of the shop, arms raised in the air, saying “he’s trying to kill me.”

2. Got drunk at a charity event we were sponsoring, hit on one of the ladies and pulled her skirt up. Police were called.

And the No. 1 best dramatic performance goes to:

1. The employee who hired a marching band to quit.

The 2019 Big Survey was conducted in September and October and attracted responses from more than 800 North American jewelers. Look out for all the results in the November issue of INSTORE.

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Wow Your Customers with This Video Messaging App

Jewelers can make online experiences feel a lot more like in-person experiences.




DO YOU REMEMBER the last time a business did something unexpected for you? Something you truly appreciated? Of course, you do. Those are the moments that imprint themselves on our memories. For me, it was with a video messaging app called Bonjoro.

My Wow Moment

When I signed up for their free trial, I expected to get a video message from them. That’s what they do. And they told me I would. What I didn’t expect was to get a video answer about a tech issue I was having minutes after I emailed them about it. That blew me away.

In the jewelry industry, we pride ourselves on our in-store service and fret about our online marketing. Gone are the glory days with greater foot traffic. Now everyone wants to kick the tires online before they commit to coming in. But what if you could bring your amazing customer service to customers before they ever stepped foot in the store?

Bonjoro to the Rescue

That’s exactly what Bonjoro allows you to do. Bonjoro is an easy to use video to email messaging app for businesses. They make recording and emailing a personalized video to customers almost effortless. And you can even send these videos when they’ll have the biggest impact, like right after they fill out a contact form on your site.

Imagine a prospective customer visits your site. They fill out a contact form with some details about the type of engagement ring they’re looking for. After they press submit, someone on your sales team gets a notification. Once they have a free minute, they pull out their phone and record and send a video in less time than it would take them to respond to the email.

“Hi, Jim! I know exactly the style that you’re looking for, and we have some great options for you. You can see a few of them in the case behind me, but I have a few more that I’d like to pull out and show you. You mentioned that you have a lunch break at noon. Why don’t you stop by tomorrow, and I’ll have them all ready for you? In the meantime, there’s a link to our website’s engagement ring gallery in this window. If you see anything else you like, you can write me a quick message, and I’ll be sure to add it. See you soon!”

An Experience Like No Other

This is an experience most jewelers aren’t going to offer. The enthusiasm and confidence communicated in a video are hard to match in an email response. And the customer has likely never received a response like this from a jewelry store. Just the thought that someone took the time to personally address them with a video will make them more likely to stop in. Plus, they already feel like they know you.

Almost Face-to-Face

Bonjoro is a way to send quick, personalized videos to customers. They’re meant to be mixed into the daily routine and workflow of your sales team. This isn’t the time for high-quality video production or perfect angles. This is much more personal and organic than that.

People online aren’t used to being addressed personally by video. It gives them a personal touch that usually only happens in the store. When you use Bonjoro, the most important thing is to press the record button and talk to the customer like they’re right there in front of you. What a wonderful way to wow your customers!

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Commentary: The Business

Customer Fired for Cause

Her phone manners left something to be desired.




Laurelle Giesbrecht of French’s Jewellery says her daughter Heidi, now 15, is not afraid to answer the phone despite what happened and calls it “a learning experience.”

WHILE VISITING A great friend and store owner, Laurelle Giesbrecht of French’s Jewellery in Alberta, Canada, we were commiserating over coffee. I have always loved hearing her stories about community involvement or win/win sales interactions. This time, she had a real doozy.

A customer had recently purchased a $300 ring for her daughter and had sent her back to the store for a free sizing. The young girl had decided it was not going to be on her third finger but the much larger first. That meant the ring needed to be sized from 5 to 10. For this, there would be a charge. The girl left the ring.

Laurelle’s daughter, Heidi, was answering phones as her mom finished closing the store. It was the last call before locking up. Heidi asked how she could re-direct the caller and then, holding the phone to her chest, asked her mom if she wanted to take the call. Mom assured her she was doing fine. It brought a smile to her face when she heard her daughter tell the caller that she would pass the message along to their HR manager.

But later at home, the true story emerged. The call had been from the original purchaser of the size 5 ring, and using a long string of vulgarities, she had demanded a full refund. The next day, typically affable Laurelle left a message requesting a return call. When the return call came, Laurelle informed the customer that the swearing she had done over the phone had been directed at her 13-year-old daughter. She added that she would not allow that treatment of any of her staff. After informing the customer that she would process a full refund, she asked for her mailing address so she could mail it. Laurelle calmly informed the customer that she was not to come back to her store.

But the story was not over. The customer ignored the request to not return to the store and instead brought a beautiful bouquet of flowers with a neatly written card. She wanted to personally deliver them to the 13-year-old child who had listened so intently to her vulgar language. This customer knew that the depth of her apology could only be appreciated by a face-to-face meeting between an embarrassed adult and precocious child!

If there are lessons here, they are written between the lines.

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