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The Big Story: Las Vegas Buying Guide




Las Vegas is a destination built on distractions, but when you’re there on business it pays to keep your focus. To make this year’s make-or-break buying trip more efficient than ever, we’ve assembled a list of the trends (some familiar, others just beginning to emerge) that warrant your attention. Once you’ve stocked up on your customers’ most wanted jewelry in record time, you just might have time to fit a round of poker or a Cirque du Soleil spectacle into your schedule.



Naysayers thought that mobile diamond designs — pieces featuring stones that swing freely from a central pivot point — would be a flash in the pan destined to survive only one holiday season, but they’ve proven their staying power. Styles with diamonds that sway with the faintest hint of movement still charm consumers and top the list of best-selling styles for retailers. And there are more ways than ever to sample the look: Manufacturers have begun creating pieces with larger stones, increasingly elaborate designs and even engagement rings with twinkling diamonds.


goldstar independent
14K white gold and diamond (0.33 TCW) pendant. MSRP: $999
(866) 368-5700


Daisy pendant in satin finish 14K rose gold with diamonds. MSRP: $849
(866) 553-1515

rhythm of love
Ring in sterling silver and diamonds (0.10 TCW). MSRP: $299

asher jewelry
Color Diamonds in Motion pendant in 14K gold and blue and white diamonds (0.65 TCW). MSRP: $1,395
(800) 726-0706


dinaro creations
14K tri-color triple halo pendant with diamonds (0.50 TCW). MSRP: $599
(516) 439-5200

victor corporation
Earrings in 14K gold and diamonds (0.25 TCW). MSRP: $1,649
(800) 543-1131

idd jewelry
Key pendant in 10K white gold with diamonds (0.50 TCW). MSRP: $1,329
(212) 869-0325


simply diamonds
Earrings in 14K white gold and diamonds (0.90 TCW). MSRP: $899
(800) 746-7062


SHAYE STRAGER: When diamonds dance in jewelry, the movement adds to the light and the allure. The designs span the range from classic to modern, which has given this trend real traction.

DUVALL O’STEEN: Motion continues to captivate attention in the diamond category, enhancing the impact of sparkle as designers find clever ways to place center stones in rings and pendants on pivot points that allow them to move and reflect even more light.


Will you stock it for the holidays?

Love the idea. We are also using dangling/mobile diamonds for designs. Now there are even rings. My customers are going to go crazy when they see them. Karen Hollis, K. Hollis Jewelers, Batavia, IL

I have had them in the store for the last two holiday seasons. They do well and hit a great price point. My advice: Keep the diamonds small. The earrings and pendants both are great. Steven B. Goldfarb, Alvin Goldfarb, Jeweler, Bellevue, WA

Both men and women love these. The movement seems to just make the sale. Tom R. Nelson, Nelson
Jewelry, Spencer, IA

We have stocked and promoted vibrating diamonds for 2-1/2 years. It has grown into one of our top categories and will still be an important category, but I believe it has peaked in our market. Greg Phelps, Bob’s Jewel Shop,
Fayetteville, NC

Our sales are going well. It’s nice to have something new and eye-catching, but they’re not for everyone. Ronald D. Scott, Scott’s
Jewelry, Americus, GA



The recent dip in prices has unleashed an enthusiasm for chunky yellow gold that hasn’t been seen in decades. It’s unlikely that anyone will wear layers of giant, Mr. T-style chains anytime soon, but a single, timeless piece in the precious metal instantly upgrades an entire wardrobe. When it comes to investing in important jewelry that will become a personal signature, consumers are beginning to bank on gold again.


officina bernardi
14K gold Mimosa collection moon bead earrings. MSRP: $718
(212) 273-0797

Supreme collection 18K yellow gold cuff with diamonds. MSRP: $16,750
(305) 372-8025

ivanka trump
fine jewelry

Metropolis Lune dome ring with diamonds in 18K yellow gold.
MSRP: $10,950
(212) 776-0700

Hand-engraved 18K gold necklace with magnetic clasp. MSRP: $27,310
(305) 534-7669

marco bicego
Diamond Lunaria earrings in 18K yellow gold with pavé-set diamonds. MSRP: $7,910
(415) 249-3800


SHAYE STRAGER: Investing in gold is most fashionable when the heavy metal is worn at the neck or wrist. Bold gold cuffs and collars are seductively sculptural in both shiny and matte finishes.

LAUREN PARKER: Bold yellow gold styles seem to be taking over every jewelry trend report and replacing the rose gold revolution. If bold yellow gold bibs and plate necklaces are a bit too much, sleek stackable rings are a fine choice.


Will you stock it for the holidays?

We recently added gold bracelets for the first time in years. It will be a slow growing category for us, but it is improving. Richard Frank, Goldstein’s, Mobile, AL

We never stopped selling larger pieces as we always emphasized quality over price. We are seeing more chain sales recently, particularly larger sizes. John Przeclawski, Jewelry Plus, Casselberry, FL

We’ve been selling heavy gold pieces for many years now and it’s only getting better as people are getting more comfortable with it. Marc Majors, Sam L. Majors, Midland, TX

We have used our high-karat gold scrap and created unique yellow gold bracelets, pendants and stackable rings. We love it, and so do our customers. Denise Oros, Linnea Jewelers, La Grange, IL

We’ve always loved yellow, rose and green gold! We’ve been creating yellow gold, handmade chain for about a year now to create big gold pendants that will dangle on the cool chains! Paolo Salamone, Paolo A Modern Jeweler, Cincinnati, OH



Traditional pairs of studs and chandeliers aren’t going anywhere, but they’re getting stiff competition from alternative ear adornments. Designers are busy inventing cuffs that encase the upper ear, climbers that snake up its length and jackets that embellish lobes from front and back. And suddenly, it’s not a fashion faux pas to leave the house wearing a single earring or a mismatched pair. Anything goes, as long as customers have enough piercings to keep up with their creativity.


holly dyment fine jewelry
18K Empress earrings with mandarin garnet (11.95 TCW), amethyst (7.99 TCW), ruby (2.03 TCW), white diamond (0.72 TCW) and pearl beads (6.02 TCW). MSRP: $7,750
(212) 463-7950

anita ko
Multi-sapphire and emerald ear cluster. MSRP: $3,675
(424) 302-0413

sara weinstock
Yellow gold single row six-prong white diamond ear cuff. MSRP: $1,180
(213) 291-9888

14K yellow gold round freshwater cultured pearl front-back earrings. MSRP: $255
(212) 886-6000

melissa joy manning
Recycled 14K gold and sterling silver ear cuff. MSRP: $175
(212) 219-2194


DUVALL O’STEEN: No category has shown more inventiveness in recent months than earrings. Now cuffs, climbers and double-sided earrings prevail, showing off the entire ear. Single statement earrings are also gaining in popularity.

SHAYE STRAGER: It takes a trendsetter to pull off a single earring, but thanks to the celebs rocking the trend this category will be a winner with the under-40 crowd.

LAURA PARKER: From Cara Delevingne to Gwyneth Paltrow, we’ve seen ear cuffs and crawlers scaling their way to the top. Mismatched earrings are also a fierce new trend. These zippy little sparklers graced the fall 2015 runways of major designers including Celine, Valentino and Nina Ricci.


Will you stock it for the holidays?

Ear cuffs and crawlers are still a little too forward for most of our clients, but we’ve bought a few for those who aren’t afraid to try them.
Valerie Naifeh, Naifeh Fine Jewelry, Oklahoma City, OK

We’re a staff full of girls! Of course we want them! The runway is our go to for fashion trends! Mary Jo Chanski, Hannoush Jewelers, Rutland, VT

We see this trend happening in a big way! Adam Langdon, Adam Michael Jewelry, Omaha, NE

Love this trend. Hey, it’s young and you don’t need another piercing. What’s not to love? Erin McMichael Hess, Extinctions, Lancaster, PA

I will stock them in lower price points since I think they will be for a younger audience. Elva Valentine, Valentine’s Jewelry, Dallas, PA



When Johnny Depp donned a diamond ring not much different from his fiancée’s to celebrate his engagement, it sparked plenty of conversation about men and their jewelry wearing habits, or lack thereof. Most guys aren’t ready to step out in a multi-carat solitaire, but they are starting to experiment with subtler pieces. Unless they’re A-list actors or chart topping musicians, the most popular pieces for men feature clean, uncomplicated shapes with texture and rich, dark color.

todd reed
Pendant in 22K yellow gold and silver with black brilliant-cut diamonds (0.25 TCW) and raw diamond (0.10 TCW). MSRP: $4,620
(303) 442-6280

Titanium bracelet with black cable. MSRP: $83
(800) 877-7777

michael john jewelry
18K gold and black rhodium cufflinks with round brilliant diamonds (0.41 TCW) and rose-cut diamonds (2.84 TCW).
MSRP: $11,500
(800) 404-8633

Damascus steel 10mm concave band with rounded edges. MSRP: $597
(888) 252-7388

john hardy
Bedeg triangle line pattern sterling silver ring. MSRP: from $395
(888) 838-3022


SHAYE STRAGER: I never thought I’d be thanking The Voice and American Idol for inspiring trends, but they have definitely helped in shining a spotlight on men who wear jewelry well. With the industry’s ample variety and price points, men have become more comfortable adding more fashionable jewelry to their wardrobe in addition to manly classics, like watches and wedding bands.


Will you stock it for the holidays?

We’re happy to see more men bejeweling themselves in central Indiana. Susan Schube, Avalon Jewelers/Gallery, Zionsville, IN

We will be expanding our men’s line. Our best-seller in the men’s category has been bracelets. Tom Schowalter, Miners Den Jewelers, Royal Oak, MI

We have begun to sell “man-gagement” rings!! We love them. Mary Jo Chanski, Hannoush Jewelers, Rutland, VT

We sell a lot of stainless bracelets, crosses and contemporary metal wedding bands. Hopefully the trend will move to gold and diamonds as the recovery continues. Jim Ellis, Ellis Jewelers, Concord, NH

We’re currently obsessed with men’s! Custom cufflinks, bracelets and of course men’s wedding bands are a big hit! Paolo Salamone, Paolo A Modern Jeweler, Cincinnati, OH

Men’s jewelry is super important. We can help men that come into the store feel comfortable but they will not stay or come back to buy if we don’t have a nice dedicated selection of cool things for them. Karen Fonger, 58 Facets Jewelry, Alhambra, CA



With each passing year, same-sex marriage becomes the law of the land in more states than before. A growing list of jewelry companies isn’t shy about serving a new wave of couples that are eager to tie the knot. Some brands were created with LGBT clients in mind and even incorporate symbols and words relating to the pride movement, while others feature coordinating designs with a special appeal to couples that want to wear rings that are the same, but a little different.

rony tennenbaum
Fusion collection two-tone gold solitaires. MSRP: $3,800 (rose and white gold); $4,000 (yellow and white gold).
(917) 575-9566

proposition love
fine jewelry

Love Is Love ring in white gold and yellow gold diamond eternity ring. MSRP: from $795 (wide white gold band); $495 (yellow gold band)

suzy landa
Hardware bands in 18K yellow and white gold. MSRP: from $2,800
(212) 874-2346

love and pride
18K white gold trillion diamond (0.60 TCW) combination ring. MSRP: $4,495
(866) 808-5683


SHAYE STRAGER: Just as there are very few rules left for weddings these days, the same applies to wedding bands for same-sex couples. Fresh styles incorporate insets of unique stones, wood and textured metals. Diamonds, stackables and braided medals are also interesting new variations.

DUVALL O’STEEN: As more states legalize same-sex marriage, more of a market is being created for same-sex commitment jewelry. Wise designers are leading the trend with symbolic, matching or engraved designs, some with rainbow colored gemstones, and all with a classic design aesthetic for enduring appeal.


Will you stock it for the holidays?

We have been working with LGBT couples for years now. We participate in events with that community, also. It is great for business. Meg Rankin, J. Rankin Jewellers, Edmonds, WA

We always have [merchandise for LBGT clients] but I should have done more years ago. Steve B, Goldfarb, Alvin Goldfarb, Jeweler, Bellevue, WA

The requests of LGBT couples can usually be met with the merchandise that we already carry. We’ll be happy to honor special orders.
Donnie Blanton, Brittany’s Fine Jewelry, Gainesville, FL

We are the only store in the county that will service LGBTQ couples. It’s old school and rural where we are. We have a niche: We celebrate love in any form and try to give everyone the same exciting experience. Joshua Bardhardt, Barnhardt Jewelers, Spencer, NC



There’s no rule that fine jewelry has to be formal. Pieces that mix earthy, organic materials with precious metals are easy to wear on the most dressed down of days. And designs that incorporate leather and silk cords are customer favorites because they get even softer with wear and are simple to layer.

meditation rings
Spinning band rings in sterling silver and sterling silver with gold. MSRP: $129-$279
(905) 882-8595

nina nguyen
Bouvardia necklace with a stalactite and 22K gold-plated sterling silver.
MSRP: $595
(720) 459-7664

anne sportun
Gemstone wrap bracelet in multicolored cubic zirconia.
MSRP: $395
(800) 788-1247

tamara comolli
India leaves pendants in carved Bubinga wood and 18K gold. MSRP: $980 (large); $540 (small)
(561) 659-3700

brooke gregson
Diamond and semiprecious gemstone silk cord bracelets. MSRP: $950-$5,790
(310) 309-0674


LAURA PARKER: With summer right around the corner and Coachella trumpeting covetable jewelry trends, boho-style bling makes a fierce comeback. From Chanel’s medallion charm bracelets and necklaces to Forever 21’s tiered tribal bibs, there’s more than one way to work this warm weather essential. If arty statement necklaces or chunky rings don’t fit into your style matrix, try layering sleek pendants or stackable rings for an edge of globetrotting glam.

DUVALL O’STEEN: Fashion runways are full of bohemian styles like elongated necklaces with large, dancing pendants, oversized florals and draping bracelets that cover the entire hand. Some of the hippie styling from the ready-to-wear collections calls for carefree, unconventional jewels.


Will you stock it for the holidays?

This is our niche. Hitting it is natural for us. It’s easy to dress up or down and looks special. Erin McMichael Hess, Extinctions, Lancaster, PA

Always have, always will. (We are old hippies.) Carol Drake, Touch of Silver Gold & Old, Nashville, IN

There are lots of attractive, trendy, fashionable looks that incorporate bohemian-influenced style. Tory Michel, Tory’s Jewelry, Marblehead, MA

We’re already selling these pieces because they’re priced right and great for self purchasers. Ira Kramer, The Diamond Exchange of Maryland, Rockville, MD

We are doing well with leather cording. We have it displayed with a variety of charms to accessorize. Joshua Barnhardt, Barnhardt Jewelers, Spencer, NC


’70s STYLE

Bellbottoms are making a comeback, and so is jewelry that’s reminiscent of the disco era. Shiny stacks of bangles, oversized hoops and necklaces with long lengths of moving fringe complement the fashions unveiled on fall runways. The current look is more streamlined than the original designs from the ’70s, but is just as ready for the dance floor.

lana jewelry
14K gold fringe choker. MSRP: $3,890
(312) 226-5262

frÉdÉric duclos
Cascade Shimmer earrings in sterling silver and yellow gold plating. MSRP: $150

old world chain
Crossover hammered sterling silver bangle with diamonds (1.32 TCW)
MSRP: $3,360
(800) 367-1858

18K gold Stardust bangle. MSRP: $15,000

Pendant in sterling silver and rhodium plating. MSRP: $287.50
(866) 872-2842


DUVALL O’STEEN: As the fashion world continues its nod to retro inspirations, jewelers are wisely following suit with thin sleek silver and gold collars, oversized hoop earrings and armfuls of bangles and wide cuff bracelets. Aesthetics range from Charlie’s Angels femininity to Star Trek modernism.

LAURA PARKER: From Rebecca Minkoff’s feather pendants to Alex and Ani’s ethereal fringe bibs, the stylings of the sexy ’70s are back (I’m still trying to dig up my mood ring). Mysticism has manifested itself through the widespread popularity of moonstones, icy sapphires opals and pearls


Will you stock it for the holidays?

We may still have some of the originals that we purchased in the ’70s. Ooo-ooo-ooo-ooo stayin’ alive … Hank Haan, Haan Jewelers, Byron Center, MI

This area has already started trending up for us. Jeff Vierk, Vierk’s Fine Jewelry, Lafayette, IN

We love ’70s-inspired jewelry. Scott Schlagenhauff, Jewelry by Morgan, Kansas City, MO

A touch of this trend is necessary to be relevant and meaningful. Annette Kinzie, Leonard Jewelry, Stillwater, OK

Peace signs are hot, too. Eileen Eichhorn, Eichhorn Jewelry, Decatur, IN



Sometimes it’s not so bad to have the blues. With so many pretty, neutral variations, the color is always a favorite for jewelry buyers, but it’s in the midst of an even higher peak in popularity. Instead of soft pastels, the hues getting extra attention echo the intensity of the sea and sky: Think stones like turquoise, lapis and London blue topaz. And doublets, which give gemstones an intriguing, mystical quality, are on the rise.

andrea candela
Estrella Fugaz collection 18K and sterling silver necklace with blue topaz and diamond.
MSRP: $550

vahan jewelry
14K gold and sterling silver bracelet with London blue topaz. MSRP: $2,250
(800) 365-6101

Paradise ring in sterling silver and 18K gold with a turquoise and quartz doublet.
MSRP: $350
(401) 490-5100

suna bros.
Platinum ring with blue zircon (12.42 TCW) and diamonds (1.50 TCW). MSRP: $19,800
(212) 869-5670

doves by doron paloma
18K white gold and diamond earrings featuring white topaz over lapis tops and white topaz over natural turquoise bottoms. MSRP: $8,175


DUVALL O’STEEN: Sultry blues are on the rise as opaque stones like lapis and turquoise gain favor among designers. These unique hues offer an exotic appeal and a freshness following the prevalence of translucent pinks and oranges in recent years.

LAURA PARKER: Lapis, icy blue topaz and turquoise are sprinkling jewelry collections at every price point. And the A-listers on the red carpet played with jewelry box blues during awards season, with Cate Blanchett in a stunning turquoise Tiffany & Co. statement bib and Margot Robbie in sapphire tassels by Van Cleef & Arpels.


Will you stock it for the holidays?

We love having jewelry with bright, vibrant colors in our store. They really stand out and often receive compliments! Kathy Buccieri, Buccieri’s Gems & Jewelry, Oak Ridge, NJ

We have always sold blue colored stones well, and I intend on adding more and unusual pieces to our stock. Marc Majors, Sam L. Majors, Midland, TX

There’s a big resurgence in turquoise and a lot of interest in lapis lately, also sapphire, spinel, aquamarine and blue topaz. John Joseph, S. Joseph and Sons, Des Moines, IA

It has always been about that blue hue! Not only is it our signature color, but it has been proven over and over to be the hottest-selling color among gemstones. Morgan Bartel, Susann’s Custom Jewelers, Corpus Christi, TX

Pantone is only relevant to people on both coasts. They try to impress each other with trends. Blue is hot! James Adair, Adair Jewelers, Missoula, MT



Our arsenals of smartphones and technological devices have proven so indispensable they’ve been integrated into jewelry pieces that are as functional as they are ornamental. Gemstone rings light up to notify us of incoming calls, bejeweled necklaces monitor our activity level and sleep schedules and diamond necklaces hold personal messages from loved ones embedded in digital codes. Don’t be surprised if it is just the beginning of jewelry design with more than meets the eye.

SmartRing with social media and smartphone connectivity.
MSRP: $150

Rhodium-plated rutilated quartz telephone notification ring. MSRP: $195

nurture by reena
Celestial Star pendants with lab-grown diamonds and digital QR code. MSRP: $12,072 (pink diamond); $7,250 (colorless diamond)

Shine Vio activity tracker jewelry set (includes an interchangeable band, not shown). MSRP: $249
(401) 464-1179

Timewalker Urban Speed e-Strap watch. MSRP: $4,900
(800) 995-4810


SHAYE STRAGER: Teaming up with fashion designers to make wearable tech appealing has been a big win, especially in the case of Tory Burch, Rebecca Minkoff and Opening Ceremony. Millennials gravitate toward the tech and don’t question the value when fine jewelry has more meaning — artful or otherwise.

DUVALL O’STEEN: As Fitbits and iWatches come onto the scene, consumers are celebrating portable technology. Groovy headphones in the form of ear cuffs, bracelet watches and high-tech eyewear are making technology more accessible and ever more fashionable.


Will you stock it for the holidays?

I think wearable tech is going to become important, but at this point it will be an uphill battle to compete with Apple. Allison Leitzel-Williams, Leitzel’s Jewelry, Myerstown, PA

It is worth considering. Many of my staff wear them and it would be a nice area of expansion. Scott Schlagenhauff, Jewelry by Morgan, Kansas City, MO

I’m going to leave this category to the electronics guys. Jeff Vierk, Vierk’s Fine Jewelry, Lafayette, IN

We already offer a tech watch and it has sold very well. The Proximity from Citizen Eco-Drive has all the bells and whistles! Morgan Bartel, Susann’s Custom
Jewelers, Corpus Christi, TX

I think we have to have some, just to show we are not ignoring the technology and trends. Steve B, Goldfarb, Alvin Goldfarb Jeweler, Bellevue, WA

Our watch brands are covering this, and I imagine it will be bought for fall in a larger selection. Marc Solomon, Solomons Jewelers, Plainview, NY



Year after year, white metals were the undisputed rulers of engagement jewelry. That tide has begun to change, at least a little, and rose gold has seen a spike in popularity. Brides choose rose gold to tweak convention. And the availability of countless variations on the hue means there’s a specific alloy that flatters every skin tone. Even the smallest accent of rose gold goes a long way toward making a traditional ring stand out.

kim international
Romance 18K rose gold and diamond halo ring with millegrain details and round side stone accents (1.00 TCW). MSRP $4,730 (excluding center stone)
(972) 385-7555 |

mark schneider design
Wonder 14K gold engagement ring with diamonds (0.19 TCW). MSRP: $2,347 (excluding center stone)
(866) 570-3112

fana jewelry
18K white and rose gold
engagement ring with diamonds. MSRP: $2,200 (excluding center stone)
(800) 433-0012

Vita 14K engagement ring with two-tone rope detail and diamond halo. MSRP: $1,815 (excluding center stone)

rahaminov diamonds
18K rose gold engagement ring with oval rose-cut diamond center (1.71 TCW) and round rose-cut diamond accents (0.27 TCW). MSRP: $21,600
(213) 622-9866

natalie k
18K rose and white gold split-shank engagement ring with pink and white diamonds. MSRP: $2,675 (excluding center stone)
(800) 688-6101


Will you stock it for the holidays?

Just about everything we have purchased in rose gold sells before we can say, “Holycowthatringsoldfast.” Hank Haan, Haan Jewelers, Byron Center, MI

I have always carried rose gold. I love it personally. It’s easy to sell when you like something yourself. Amber Gustafson, Amber’s Designs, Katy, TX

We have believed in rose gold for several years, and are seeing the excitement growing. I want this to be a staple, and not just a trend, so we talk about rose gold as another option to white and yellow gold. Annette Kinzie, Leonard Jewelry, Stillwater, OK

The romantic hue is a no-brainer for the vintage-inspired bride. Morgan Bartel, Susann’s Custom Jewelers, Corpus Christi, TX

Currently stock and sell rose gold. We have expanded our rose gold jewelry considerably. Jim Alati, Simmons Fine Jewelry, Meridian, ID

We’ve made several custom rose gold rings with plans to cast our best-sellers in rose. Dorothy Retzke, Krystyna’s Jewelry, Lemont, IL



Wilkerson Testimonials

Texas Jeweler Knew He'd Get Only One Shot at a GOB Sale, So He Wanted to Make It Count

Most retailers only have one GOB sale in their lifetimes. This was the case for Gary Zoet, owner of Shannon Fine Jewelry in Houston, Texas. “Wilkerson has done thousands of these sales,” says Zoet. “I’ve never done one, so it’s logical to have somebody with experience do it.” The result exceeded Zoet’s expectations. Wilkerson took care of everything from marketing to paperwork. When it’s time for you to consider the same, shouldn’t you trust the experts in liquidation?

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Cover Stories

How to Know When It’s Time to Go



Author Seth Godin says strategic quitting is the secret of successful organizations, while reactive quitting is the bane of those who strive and fail to get what they want. “And most people do just that, they quit when it’s painful and stick when they can’t be bothered to quit,” he writes in his book, The Dip.

In the case of retail jewelers, consultants say, some simply don’t have enough time to collect their thoughts, let alone devise a plan. Others may fear change.

If you’ve had enough, it may be time to call it quits and do something else. “Quitting is better than coping because quitting frees you up to excel at something else. All coping does is waste your time and misdirect your energy,” Godin writes.

Whether that something else turns out to be beach-combing in retirement, pursuing a hobby or reimagining a new way to do business, having a plan is a prerequisite to success. Jewelry store owners who do plan for the next phase of their lives express a strong sense of freedom, both before and after they activate that plan.

Consultant Bill Boyajian of Bill Boyajian & Associates has not run into any long-term jewelers who, deep down, don’t love what they do.

“That’s part of the problem,” he says. “They can’t envision what they will do if they leave their business. They haven’t had any free time to develop any hobbies. I encourage them to think about becoming a private jeweler, but being involved to a lesser extent.”

Josh Hayes, business analyst for Wilkerson, says retailers he’s worked with on retirement sales do want to stay involved with the industry. Many set up offices with a few display cases of sample lines and work by appointment. “It works out perfectly because you still have your customer lists from your store, so after your closing event, you can transition your old customers to your new endeavor. Then you have the flexibility to work as much as you choose.”

But even semi-retirement requires planning. According to David Brown of the Edge Retail Academy, 37 percent of jewelry store owners have no retirement plan at all; many just hope their exit works itself out. The key is to be in a position to retire — financially, physically, and mentally.

“Knowing that you can gives you answers,” Brown says. “Knowing that you can’t gives you stress.”
“Ask yourself, what options do I have: I can sell the business, close the business down, or I can groom the business so it runs without me, become an absentee owner and get a good income out of it,” Brown says.

On occasion, the millennial successor wants to speed up their parents’ exit, or in other ways would be an unpleasant or unsuitable business partner during a lengthy transition. In these cases, Boyajian advises the parents to liquidate most of their inventory in a sale to ensure they have money for retirement, and then simply let their kids take over the lease and the business and build up the inventory again.

Closing and retirement sales are regulated by law, and they can only be done once. Most of the store owners’ retirement income rests on the return from the sale event, so it’s incredibly important that the event is conducted properly. While Wilkerson can put together a closing event in about three weeks in an emergency situation, a year of planning will improve results, perhaps dramatically.

“Once the sale is complete, the new owner has lower inventory, minimal debt and can usually get some consignment inventory from vendors they know, and build up the store in the direction they intend to take it,” Hayes says.

Here are some examples of transition tales that show every indication they’ll be success stories.

Continue Reading

Cover Stories

The 19 Contrarian Rules of Business

Don’t promise excellent service? Run annoying ads? Business leaders insist these counterintuitive principles work.




TO MAKE A POINT about how our brains operate, the American neuroscientist Gregory Berns likes to encourage people to close their eyes and imagine the sun setting on a beach. If you just tried it, odds are the image that arose was the clichéd one — a warm tropical island scene, most likely framed by the frond of a coconut tree, awash in orange, as opposed to, say, a dark, wind-whipped pebble beach off the coast of northern Scotland.

The brain “is fundamentally a lazy piece of meat,” Berns writes in his book Iconoclast. It needs energy to operate and has evolved to use it as efficiently as possible. As a result, it defaults to shortcuts as it can — past experience, other people’s opinions, common practice — to avoid the taxing effort of perceiving or imagining afresh.

There are, of course, people who make it a habit to buck convention, who have a knack of seeing something no one else does. Berns refers to these disruptive original thinkers as “iconoclasts.” Generally, they are probably better known as contrarians. These are the brave and often odd souls whose questioning of the conventions of society or their professional field have repeatedly caused history to change course or leap forward.

In business, entrepreneurs are often contrarian by definition — they see value and opportunity where others do not. The contrarian investor Bill Gurley notes that “you can only make money by being right about something that most people think is wrong.”

The idea of being an independent spirit appeals to many. In a recent Brain Squad survey, 58 percent of our readers identified themselves as contrarians compared to 30 percent who said they were conformists and 12 percent who said they were neither. Of course, by definition, it’s not possible for the majority to be contrarian, even more so in a tradition-bound industry like jewelry. We suspect the result reflects most jewelers’ thoughts of themselves as independent operators charting their own destinies in a world where most of their fellow citizens opt for the security of more regular employment.

It is not easy being a true contrarian. There is the risk of ridicule, having to live with constant uncertainty. Being contrarian for the sake of contrarianism is pointless.

There is, unromantically, much to be said for doing things the timeworn “best practice” way. We thus begin our exploration of contrarianism with a caveat — doing something differently is exciting, possibly liberating, often far more lucrative than the conventional way … and often dangerous. Go charging away from the herd with care. Ultimately, you want to choose the ideas — new or old, intuitive or rational, bizarre or conventional — that serve you best.

The customer is not always right

1It’s actually irrelevant if a customer is right or wrong. This is, after all, a commercial transaction, not a debate. Just because a customer wants, needs, or expects something does not mean that delivering it is the best thing for your business. Indeed, “keeping certain customers happy can be a horribly inefficient and downright distracting way to run a business,” note Brent Adamson, Matthew Dixon, and Nicholas Toman in an article in the Harvard Business Review. It’s also not much fun.

As a business owner, you need to make decisions that best apply your company’s capital, intellectual energy, and product capabilities. Rather than customer satisfaction, the ultimate goal should be running a sustainable business. Have a written, legally defensible terms of service statement, warranties, guarantees, and a simple process to determine which clients or customers deliver the strongest ROI and which are actually costing you money. In some cases, it’s better for long-term growth (not to mention store morale) to jettison a high-maintenance client and focus on improving the quality of your customer base.

Ignore terrific opportunities

2One of the dangers of business success is that it leads to more opportunities. Pursue them at your peril. In business, there is always a trade-off. Doing one thing well invariably means you can’t do another at a high level as you spread yourself too thin. The result is a damaging mediocrity.

In his book, Essentialism: The Disciplined Pursuit Of Less, Greg McKeown cites studies that show the loss of focus is a key reason companies fail. The antidote? Spurning good opportunities. “Not just haphazardly saying no, but purposefully, deliberately, and strategically eliminating the nonessentials. Not just getting rid of the obvious time wasters, but being willing to cut out really terrific opportunities as well,” he says. “Few appear to have the courage to live this principle, which may be why it differentiates successful people and organizations from the very successful ones.”

Don’t give your staff the resources they need to fix a problem

3Constraints breed resourcefulness. This is an idea that has been gaining influence in business circles for the last few years. “Is there something in the nature of constraints that brings out the best creativity?” writes Scott Berkun, the author of Mindfire: Big Ideas For Curious Minds. Consider a good haiku or sonnet, and the answer is obviously yes: it’s precisely the limits of the form that inspire new ways of working inside them. In the workplace, that means no more “blue sky” brainstorming: if you want the best answers to a question, focus it narrowly; consider a time limit, too. Google sometimes puts fewer engineers on a problem than it needs; it inspires ingenuity. Behind all this is the counterintuitive insight that discipline and structure are often the path to freedom, not its enemy. See constraints as a game. Not only are games about fun, but they are distinguished by the rules that govern them.

Forget trying to fix your weaknesses

4In a series of bestselling books, the Gallup consultant Marcus Buckingham has made a persuasive case for a strengths-based approach to life and business: it’s both more effective and more enjoyable, he argues, than struggling to fix your weak spots. According to Buckingham, most people try to “plug” their weaknesses, while the really successful focus on exploiting strengths. You’ll rarely improve a weakness beyond mediocrity, argues Buckingham, not least because it’s hard to invest sustained energy in something you don’t enjoy. If you truly know what you’re bad at, you’re already ahead of the pack. Don’t throw that away by wasting your time getting slightly less bad.

Don’t believe in long work

5Few things are as American as the belief in the merit of hard work. The problem is too many small business people confuse work and progress. A day when lots of things get done, when you arrive home exhausted after holding six meetings with staff and vendors, clearing 300 emails from your inbox, and finally straightening those old files in the backroom, sort of feels like a productive day, but it’s unlikely to have helped your business take the next step forward. Marketer Seth Godin calls this bias for efficiency over effectiveness “the trap of long work.”
“Long work is what the lawyer who bills 14 hours a day filling in forms does.
Hard work is what the insightful litigator does when she synthesizes four disparate ideas and comes up with an argument that wins the case—in less than five minutes.

“Hard work is frightening because you might fail. You can’t fail at long work, you merely show up.”

The management guru Peter Drucker suggested the best way to address this issue was by constantly asking yourself the question, “What’s the most important thing for me to be doing right now?”

Think small

6In his 1994 book Built To Last, Jim Collins introduced the world to Big Hairy Audacious Goals, or BHAGs, his term for the ambitious long-term goals that he argued galvanized successful companies. And it seems the term is rolled out in every discussion of good business practice. But the problem is that the excitement, energy, and envelope-pushing boldness stirred up by such endeavors often dissipates quickly in the face of the day-to-day running of business. Worse, such big-picture thinking, telling yourself something is epic and of crucial importance, often leads to fear, resistance and ultimately inertia and disappointment. As the psychologist John Eliot writes in his book Overachievement, “Nothing discourages the concentration necessary to perform well … more than worrying about the outcome.” The marathon runner who’s reached a state of “flow” isn’t visualizing the finish line, but looking through a narrower lens, focusing on one stride, then another, then another. Like the formula for contentment (happiness = reality – expectations), it’s often better to forget the end goal, aim low and just focus on the process if you really want to get things done. This can apply to everything from setting low targets for salespeople (spurred on by achieving the goal, they will often break through and hit a higher number) to big projects. The young Jerry Seinfeld’s scriptwriting technique involved marking an X on a calendar for every day he sat and typed. His goal was an unbroken chain of Xs. If he’d aimed instead to write masterful jokes, he’d have been distracted and intimidated.

Forget audacious. Just go do it.

Get rid of the rules

7Too often, managers assume the key to improvement must be clearer procedures, more exactingly enforced. But the result is organizational structures that permit zero autonomy — and extremely annoying customer service (“Sorry, sir, our policy doesn’t allow you to …”). Perhaps even worse is that such management fails to capitalize on the talents of those lower down the hierarchy. Zappos’ contrarian founder Tony Hsieh made headlines a few years back when he said he was rolling out “Management by Holacracy,” which eliminates the traditional oversight role of the manager and instead relies on the employees themselves to decide how to get their day-to-day responsibilities completed on the basis that they probably know best. That may be too much for most business owners, but according to Harvard Business School research, “loose monitoring” of employees makes for higher profits as well as happier workplaces. Striking the right balance between autonomy and control is very likely the essence of being a good manager.

Give away your time

8Overwhelmed by work? Feel you are in a constant race against the clock to get things done? Try making some time for others. “While it might seem counterintuitive to sacrifice some of the very thing you think you don’t have enough of, our research shows that giving a bit of time away may, in fact, make people feel less pressed for time,” Cassie Mogilner Holmes, an associate professor at UCLA and Michael Norton, a professor at Harvard told the Wall Street Journal. Another hack to deal with time scarcity — erase a day from your schedule. Busy? Don’t schedule anything for Fridays. The work you didn’t get done will flow over, and you’ll finally knock off those to-do list items.

Hire more introverts

9On the surface, introverts don’t seem to have the makings of great salespeople or even managers. Social interaction tires them, they have trouble with insincere flattery, they don’t like to push people, and they don’t tend to contribute vocally to meetings or brainstorming sessions. But there are positive flipsides to all this: introverts tend to demonstrate a higher degree of sensitivity in emotional interactions, they are more likely to be experts in their field, they are less likely to be yes-men or women, and as for managing people, they do better than extroverts when the staff itself is full of self-directed go-getters. “Although extroverted leadership enhances group performance when employees are passive, this effect reverses when employees are proactive, because extroverted leaders are less receptive to proactivity,” says Susan Cain, author of Quiet: The Power Of Introverts In A World That Can’t Stop Talking.

Be last to market

10Among business gurus, few things are as unquestioned as the notion that innovation is the path to success. “Innovate or die!” goes one mantra. Yet if innovation were a surefire way for companies to achieve dominance, the world might look very different. White Castle, RC Cola, and Diners Club were all innovators, but think of fast-food, soft drinks and credit cards, and those are unlikely to be the first names that come to mind. The upsides of unoriginality are clear: imitators let others make the costly mistakes, and then incorporate the lessons learned into a far better product. (Exhibit A: the iPhone.) In his book Copycats, the management theorist Oded Shenkar argues we need “to change the mindset that imitation is an embarrassing nuisance.” Rather, it’s a “rare and complex” capability, one we could all do with cultivating, he says. In his book Zero To One, Peter Thiel argues that “it’s much better to make the last great development in a specific market and enjoy years or even decades of monopoly profits.”

Run annoying ads … often

11There’s a reason that grating TV ads work: the more they grate, the more you’ll notice them, and noticing — thanks to what psychologists call the “mere exposure effect” — leads to liking.

Depressingly, whatever we’re repeatedly exposed to, and regardless of any other reason to like or dislike it, we’ll end up growing fond of. According to Roy H. Williams, author of The Wizard Of Ads, there’s actually no way for successful advertising to avoid being irritating to some degree. “Ads that twist our attention away from what we’d been doing are always a bit annoying,” he says. But if you fail to get your audience’s attention, your ad has failed at the first hurdle. “Consequently, most ads aren’t written to persuade; they’re written not to offend. But the kinds of ads that produce results make us answer yes to these three questions: Did it get my attention? Was it relevant? Did I believe it?” Williams claims 98.9 percent of all the customers who hate your ads will still come to your store and buy from you when they need what you sell. “These customers don’t cost you money; they just complain to the cashier as they’re handing over their cash.”

Stop holding meetings

12Jim Buckmaster, chief executive of Craigslist, has a simple policy: “No meetings, ever.” There are several reasons why meetings don’t work. They move, in the words of the career coach Dale Dauten, “at the pace of the slowest mind in the room,” so that “all but one participant will be bored, all but one mind underused.” A key purpose of meetings is information transfer, but they’re based on the assumption that people absorb information best by hearing it, when only a minority of us are “auditory learners.” The key question for distinguishing a worthwhile meeting from a worthless one is this: is it a “status-report” meeting, designed for employees to tell each other things? If so, it’s probably better handled on email or paper. That leaves a minority of “good” meetings, whose value lies in the meeting of minds itself — for example, a well-run brainstorming session.

Drop some F-bombs

13The jewelry world is one of refinement, education and professionalism, not the place for profanity. Yet swearing, when done judiciously, according to various psychologists, boosts endorphins, promotes social bonding and makes people more persuasive. Periodically, let your staff and customers know you’re human.

Stop asking, “Where do you want to be in 5 years?”

14Hiring employees who will challenge management is another staple of business advice, but everyone has probably worked with “yes, but” employees who basically oppose every new idea and approach. To find true contrarians, Thiel in his book Zero To One recommends asking the following question when interviewing employees: “Tell me something that’s true that nobody believes in.” (God, global warming and aliens don’t cut it.)

Don’t ask for the sale

15The traditional approach to selling says tout the benefits, close throughout, close with an assumption and then push for the add-on followed by another. You’re just efficiently taking the customer in a direction she wanted to go anyway. In contrast, the “slow sales” movement, which has been gaining ground for a few years, argues that there are intelligent, deliberate customers who prefer an almost “do-it-your self” zero-pressure environment. Granted, getting them to the cash register may take longer. But according to INC magazine, this technique alleviates the extra costs of post-purchase dissonance from returns, customer service time, negative feedback, and customer churn.

Look for mentors and staff who do it the “wrong way”

16Tim Ferriss has an interesting approach to considering contrarians: Be on the lookout for the anomalies, like the wispy girl who can deadlift 405 pounds. They’re performing with techniques rather than genes. “These iconoclasts show the differences in techniques and attributes,” he says. “If someone has become really good at doing something in a very nonstandard way, you can infer that the standard path isn’t necessarily the best methodology for learning a skill.”

Don’t promise excellent customer service

17Ask independent jewelers what is their point of competitive advantage and they’ll overwhelmingly say excellent customer service. But, something big corporations know (but never publicly say) is that delivering excellent customer service ultimately results in unhappy customers. Thus the field of “expectations management.” “If you want satisfied customers, it’s certainly wise to act in ways that will satisfy them. But it’s also wise to pay attention to (and, if possible, influence) their criteria for feeling satisfied,” writes Oliver Burkeman in The Guardian. Training customers, employees, and partners not to expect a “yes” in response to every single request might be crucial for preserving sanity. Far better to have a reputation as a jeweler who, for example, turns around a repair within three days than one who does it overnight — because in the latter case, as soon as you fail to deliver on that tight deadline, you’ll be seen as underperforming.

Ask customers for favors

18The “Ben Franklin effect” states that if you want to get someone to like you, you should ask him or her to do you a favor. The strategy, named for the founding father’s habit of borrowing books from opposing politicians to win them over, works because humans hate cognitive dissonance: we can’t stand a mismatch between our actions and thoughts. So if we find ourselves helping someone out, we’ll unconsciously adjust our feelings for them. The implications are striking. Don’t suck up to your customers — ask for favors or even just their opinions (“Where do you think the economy is headed?”).

Don’t be so professional

19We live in an era with more opportunity than ever to burnish the image we’re projecting, and more pressure than ever to do so. But in her new book, Cringeworthy: A Theory Of Awkwardness, Melissa Dahl makes a persuasive case for celebrating those times when “someone’s presentation of themselves … is shown to be incompatible with reality in a way that can’t be smoothed over.” Awkwardness pierces that facade, exposing the imperfect life behind it. Quoting the words of the philosopher Adam Kotsko, she says it creates “a weird kind of social bond” — a solidarity arising from seeing that behind the fakery, we’re all just trying our best to seem competent. The awkward you, then, is the real you, the one without the defensive performance. And people will like you for it.

Click here for 8 more Contrarian Rules, as well as the exclusive online article, “12 Contrarian Rules of Jewelry Retail.”

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Next Generation Owners See Opportunity in Bozeman



When Jennifer Hornik Johnson was working in advertising in Atlanta, she might have had a hard time envisioning how she’d end up owning a jewelry store in Bozeman, MT. Born into a South Florida jewelry store family, Hornik decided to return there to work with her family, who sent her to the GIA to pursue a GG degree. While at the GIA, she met Cec Johnson, a former math teacher, who had also decided to work in his family business, Miller’s Jewelry of Bozeman, MT.

“It ended up being a marriage and a merger,” Jennifer says. For a while they commuted betweenSouth Florida and Montana, assuming a snowbird kind of schedule and working in both stores. But when their first baby came along, they realized they needed more stability and chose to settle down in Bozeman. Now they have two young children.

When Cec’s parents, Mark and Kay, turned 65 last year, it seemed like a natural time for them to transition into retirement. So on Jan. 1, Cec and Jennifer became the proud new owners of Miller’s Jewelry.

Miller’s Jewelry has been in the Johnson family for three decades, but it was established in 1882 — a year before Bozeman was incorporated — and had been owned by several local families before the Johnsons. The business has occupied one of the oldest buildings on Main Street for more than 70 years and is outfitted with wall cases built in the 1880s and safes from the turn of the 20th century. It’s a piece of history and a stop on city tours.

Cec and Jennifer Johnson are the new owners of his family’s store in Montana.

Cec and Jennifer see a lot of room for growth in Bozeman, which is both college town and tourist destination.

“We’re really excited about this chapter,” Jennifer says. “We knew what we were getting into. I do all the accounting and marketing; he does the inventory and he will have to take over more of the lab, which was his father’s domain. His mom was head of the sales floor, so we’re going to be doing more of that. We both did buying and inventory and merchandising and HR; we wear all the hats. It’s just going to be even more.”
Cec has two sisters who are not in the industry, so buying the business worked out best for their situation. “We did a big retirement sale and that was a way to touch more people and convey the message of the passing of the baton. And also sell a lot of inventory to lower our buy price and clean up older inventory.”

The new owners plan to ease out of the giftware business entirely to concentrate on fine jewelry. 

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