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The Big Story: Las Vegas Buying Guide

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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.


HOT SELLER

MOBILE DIAMONDS

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
goldstarindependent.net


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


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


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


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


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


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


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


OUR EXPERTS’ TAKE

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.

BRAIN SQUAD FEEDBACK

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


HOTTEST SELLER

STRIKING GOLD

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
officinabernardi.com


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


ivanka trump
fine jewelry

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


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


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


OUR EXPERTS’ TAKE

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.

BRAIN SQUAD FEEDBACK

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


EMERGING TREND

INTERESTING EARS

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
hollydyment.com


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


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


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


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


OUR EXPERTS’ TAKE

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.

BRAIN SQUAD FEEDBACK

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


EMERGING TREND

JUST FOR MEN

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
toddreed.com


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


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
michaeljohnjewelry.com


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


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


OUR EXPERTS’ TAKE

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.

BRAIN SQUAD FEEDBACK

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


EMERGING TREND

SAME-SEX COMMITMENT JEWELRY

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
ronytennenbaum.com


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) propositionlove.com


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


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


OUR EXPERTS’ TAKE

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.

BRAIN SQUAD FEEDBACK

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


EMERGING TREND

NEW BOHEMIANS

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
meditationrings.com


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


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


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


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


OUR EXPERTS’ TAKE

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.

BRAIN SQUAD FEEDBACK

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


EMERGING TREND

’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
lanajewelry.com


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


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


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


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


OUR EXPERTS’ TAKE

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

BRAIN SQUAD FEEDBACK

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


EMERGING TREND

MOODY BLUES

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
andreacandela.com


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


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


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


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
dovesjewelry.com


OUR EXPERTS’ TAKE

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.

BRAIN SQUAD FEEDBACK

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


EXPANSION CATEGORY

WEARABLE TECH

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.

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


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


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


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


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


OUR EXPERTS’ TAKE

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.

BRAIN SQUAD FEEDBACK

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


EXPANSION CATEGORY

IN THE PINK

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 | kimint.com


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


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


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


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
rahaminov.com


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
nataliek.com


BRAIN SQUAD FEEDBACK

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

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Cover Stories

You Deserve Better or Best

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The success of thoughtfully implemented “Good-Better-Best” (G-B-B) pricing strategies has been proven beyond dispute. Look around. Airlines offer coach class seats with variable options. Allstate offers auto batteries with warranties ranging from 12-48 months at prices that vary disproportionately. Heating oil suppliers sell plans based on a monthly fluctuating rate as well as a “premium” package in which the rate is fixed for the season.

I read a recent article in the Harvard Business Review (“The Good-Better-Best Approach to Pricing,” by Rafi Mohammed) that made me wonder why retail jewelers were not taking full advantage of this strategy in their stores.

Twenty years ago, Allstate conducted research to determine just how much price really mattered to their insurance customers. They learned that drivers are very concerned that if they are involved in an auto accident, their rates will go up. They introduced three new policy levels to add to their “Standard” level policy. They have a “Basic” policy at 5 percent below “Standard,” a “Gold” policy (6 percent higher price), and a “Platinum” level policy (15 percent higher price). Last year, only 10 percent of their customers downgraded to “Basic,” while a whopping 23 percent upgraded from “Standard” to “Gold” or “Platinum.”

So what can we do in a retail jewelry store to take advantage of this tendency of consumers to move up in price when given attractive options?

Implementing a “Good-Better-Best” plan in your store has three benefits. One, it can entice new and existing customers to spend more. Two, it allows you to compete directly with lower-priced competitors, including Internet shops. And three, a G-B-B strategy will change your customers’ actions through consumer psychology.

Successfully offering a G-B-B option depends on the following considerations:

  1. The price level of the “Good” option should be no more than 25 percent below the price of the “Better” option. The “Best” option should be no more than 50 percent higher than the “Better” option. For example, if we have a $1,000 “Better” item, the “Good” option should be about $800, and the “Best” option about $1,400.
  2. There should be a perceived important difference between the “Good” and “Better” options that motivate the customer to opt up for the “Better” selection. Limit the number of features in your “Good” option to improve the perceived value of the “Better” option.
  3. Each option should be explained in four attributes that differentiate it from the lower-priced option.
  4. Signage should clearly explain the differences and costs of each option. Name each option intelligently. Don’t use descriptions that confuse the merchandise. There is nothing wrong with simply using “Good, Better, Best.”

When you are determining the price points for your G-B-B offerings, consult your “inventory performance by category” report in your inventory management software. This will tell you the average selling price of your current sales for each different category and style of merchandise. Your goal is obviously to sell more at higher prices, so consider a price about 10 percent higher than your current average sale as your “Better” option. For example, if your average diamond stud earring sale is $1,000 now, make your price points $899, $1,099 and $1,399.
Retail jewelers should benefit from the thoughtful implementation of the G-B-B principles. Here are some display suggestions for your store.

Diamond stud earrings and anniversary bands

ffer three grades of earrings in the most popular styles. The differences in stud earring prices are obviously predicated by diamond size and quality as well as mounting material.
Start with 14K white gold mountings with round diamonds in sizes ranging from one-eighth, one-quarter, one-third, one-half, three-quarters and one-carat sizes. Develop a source (internally or externally) that can provide three different qualities in all six sizes. Obtain a display arrangement that allows the three qualities and sizes to be shown with descriptions, as well as prices and monthly payment options. Add signage that explains each of the four differentiating points between the qualities offered. Put in place a reorder procedure that quickly refills the empty space when sales occur.

Bridal

ake your most popular styles of engagement rings (halos, solitaires, sets, three-stone, etc.) and create a display with a G-B-B variation of each in a single tray. If you can, include several of these in each showcase. If you can direct your customer to those trays, you stand a better chance of easily up-selling the customer to a bigger size. Feature payment amounts to make it easier for your staff to sell up.

I am a big believer in organizing your bridal showcase by style, not by vendor brand (unless it is a very recognizable national brand) or diamond size. That is how your customer shops. With all your halo choices collected together in a single part of the showcase, you’ll find it much easier to move up in price and keep your customer from having to visit several showcases in order to see your selection.

Other merchandise

ollow this same strategy. Choose your most popular designs and identify what you can do to that item to be able to sell it at 25 percent less. Maybe it is a smaller stone or a metal change to silver. Make that new item your “Good” selection. Now revisit the original piece and ask what you can add to the design to make it worth 25 percent more. Make that your “Best” choice, and display them all together with prices and payments.

If you are successful with such a strategy, it could make both your customer and you very happy. Your store would be easier for your customer to shop, and your inventory could shrink to fewer pieces offered since your sales are more concentrated in your G-B-B offerings.

Give it a try and see what happens to your average sale. If it works, expand it. If it doesn’t, try something else. Be sure you track the results of your efforts to know what has worked and what has not.

Retail jewelry is hard enough without leaving money on the table when the customer is already in your store and poised to buy. Implementing this strategy might just move your results from “Good” to “Better” to “Best.”

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E-commerce for Everyone: Let Your Customers Buy Something Where & When They Want To

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E-commerce has been vilified by many independent retail jewelers as an under-cutting, price-conscious evil entity intent on stealing hard-earned business from brick-and-mortar stores while ripping their profit margins to shreds.

At this point, though, it’s more or less a matter of if you can’t beat them the way you’ve been operating, you’d better consider joining them.

It’s time to rethink e-commerce as a viable option for you, the independent brick-and-mortar-based jeweler, but also to understand what it takes in dollars and time to drive traffic to a website, says Ben Smithee, digital-marketing expert and CEO of The Smithee Group. The big online players didn’t get where they are without investing considerable time and money into marketing, social media and search-engine optimization.

In other words, simply enabling e-commerce is not like flipping a switch and watching the money pour in. Instead, imagine you’re opening a second store. How much planning and preparation would you put into that? You’d work with a store designer. You’d hire more staff. You’d invest in advertising.

“Most people grossly underestimate what it takes for advertising to send people to the site,” Smithee says. “A lot of them expect to have overnight sales. Start with realistic expectations — they should be thinking about selling one, two, three things a week or a month to start and ramping up from there. Without realistic expectations, they will decide it doesn’t work and will quit,” Smithee says.

Independent jewelers like Tim Wright of Simply Unique Jewelry Designs in Yorktown, VA, have been reluctant converts in recent years. Wright says he realized in the past year that his company has to be searchable and sell its wares online. If not, he says, “We will go away like other independents in our area.”

It took time for Wright to wrap his head around the idea. “I cannot imagine people ordering jewelry, especially our one-of-a-kind pieces, off the Internet, but we are working on a new website to be more searchable and to be able to sell off of it. The basics we all have survived on over the years are not selling in the store anymore because of the Internet.”
Shane O’Neill, vice-president of Fruchtman Marketing, advises independent jewelers to temper their expectations when they turn to e-commerce.

Most jewelers are not going to see significant amounts of e-commerce, he says, because the marketing perspective is much different between traditional stores and online stores. “If they are marketing around a 20-mile radius, we still know that people want to touch and feel the jewelry,” says O’Neill. Plus the data that millennials don’t shop in stores isn’t necessarily true. They shop in bigger numbers than Gen X or baby boomers do. But they shop online with the idea of browsing and checking out pricing, and so they expect a shopping experience with all of the details revealed, O’Neill says.

The preparation it takes to be ready for e-commerce almost certainly will result in increased sales in the store.

“They probably have checked all the boxes in terms of a good user experience, descriptions, photos, categories of metal type and have galleries of multiple products,” O’Neill says. “When someone comes to the website and they have the ability to have a great browsing experience, they make purchasing decisions based on that. When they stop in the store, you should have a higher closing rate. To me, that’s an e-commerce transaction, too.”

The website should be like your second store, O’Neill says, in terms of how you relate to the customer online: “How you flow people through your site is like what a sales associate does in the store.”

For Janne Etz of Contemporary Concepts in Cocoa, FL, e-commerce has grown steadily over the past two years from 35 percent of her business to a solid 50 percent. “You have to pay serious attention to it,” she says. “It is not a set-it-and-forget-it operation. What works with e-commerce this month will evolve into something else next month. It’s a constant learning process. I continue to study and learn and implement the newest techniques, so I can continue to grow!”

Stephenie Bjorkman of Sami Fine Jewelry in Fountain Hills, AZ, says an e-commerce-enabled website seems like a huge project, and it can be. But start somewhere, she says. “Just do it, or just do something,” she says. “Get ready to flip that switch. Take on little bits and pieces at a time and set goals. I am so far from anywhere near where I want to be, but my marketing department and I sat down and made a monthly calendar so that we could plan all of our marketing, social media, blogs etc.” Bjorkman’s team also worked on posting pieces for sale in groups of 24 at a time.

If even this seems like too much, start with making time for your own social media. Friend your top 100 clients and start from there.

“I think you need to make a plan, then work your plan,” Bjorkman says. “You can begin by doing this in the evening when you get home. Or have one of your employees spend an hour a day on it. The first step is that every day you should be posting on social media. Post real pictures and start creating your online image. Connect your posts to your website and tell them how to buy.”

Borsheims

E-commerce continues to evolve in an omni-channel world

Borsheims of Omaha, NE, has been selling online since 1998 and today has seven associates dedicated to e-commerce.

“We’ve seen tremendous growth in the channel,” says Adrienne Fay, director of marketing and business sales — a 40 percent increase year over year in online sales for the past two years. This year that trend continued with a huge lift in January and February. The e-commerce staff is involved in navigation, digital photography, answering questions and virtually holding hands as needed. They also fulfill the orders — 99.9 percent of the inventory is in the store already.

In March 2018, the company introduced a new website that made online purchases easier on all devices, while updating their ring-builder tool to make it both more user-friendly and more luxurious-looking, says Andrew Brabec, director of e-commerce. “A lot of our customers will utilize their mobile device first and then make a purchase on their desktop. They prefer the process on the mobile device; it’s easier, faster.” Chat is used more than ever by customers looking for a promo code or to ask a quick question, but few purchases take much hand-holding.
One reason for that is that the new website is designed to anticipate questions that shoppers might have. Photographing jewelry items next to coins, for example, allows customers to gauge the size of the piece quickly and easily. “The main questions we get are: What size is this? And how does it look on someone?” Brabec says. One goal is to provide more views of each product.

“We try to replicate our customer service online,” says Fay. “It’s a strategic investment. We look at shoppers in an omni-channel fashion. Not as an e-commerce customer, not as a store customer. Simply a customer. We want to be able to knock their socks off in all channels.”

Shoppers who convert to online sales represent a wide demographic — established customers, gift shoppers, fine jewelry shoppers. Average order fluctuates, but recently it was $263. “We definitely have sold items that retail in the tens of thousands. Not every day, but it’s not unusual,” Fay says. Customers log in from all over the U.S. and the world; international checkout is available with exact pricing.

What’s next? Borsheims is testing out products to provide shoppers with 360-degree views of products, a technology that is increasingly common in other industries. Another huge goal is to get 97 percent of their products visible online; currently that number is about 74 percent. “We want to see more items in the cart, too, so we’re working on ways to up-sell in the cart by showing related products,” Brabec says. “In addition, we are going to evaluate pages to make them faster and more effective.”

The year 2020 represents Borsheims 150th anniversary. “And you don’t survive that long if you don’t evolve and grow and roll with the punches,” Fay says. “We used to say we at Borsheims are going to tell you as customers what you need to buy. Now we respond to what they are looking for with content and expertise and education.”

Ringcrush

Growing fast on Etsy

Bailey Lehrer founded Ringcrush, a start-up online jewelry store, selling $30 to $60 jewelry items on Etsy. She started the business with $700 and turned a profit immediately.
“We were able to grow in two years really quickly,” Lehrer says. “I did a little under $1 million on Etsy and another $300,000 on Amazon. It made sense for me to start up online. Etsy is really friendly to people who want to experiment.”

Lehrer says that while high-end diamond solitaires aren’t the norm on Etsy, moissanite rings are moving fast, as are other non-traditional types of diamond engagement rings, usually with an artisan design or a unique setting. “Etsy is primarily for 25- to 35-year-old women,” she says. “A lot of them still want that look and they can swap out the stone later. One of the most popular rings looks like a hand-carved band with a diamond solitaire in the center.”

Bailey Lehrer, founder of Ringcrush

The process of opening a shop on Etsy is easy, Lehrer says, because they hold your hand through the whole process. Still, there’s more to it than just opening. “You have to understand your competition and price point. It can be cutthroat with common items, and there are people from other countries selling items with razor-thin margins. You need something unique. That way you can raise your price.”

Her point of differentiation is pieces of raw gemstones. “So I still focus on precious stones like emerald and sapphire, but I’m able to sell them at $60 because I get them uncut. They’re still blue if it’s a sapphire; still green if it’s emerald. It’s kind of a unique aesthetic, so it’s easy to stand out.”

Another thing to keep in mind, Lehrer says, is that there is clear evidence shoppers will convert to making a purchase if the product is photographed on a white background. “Know how to take great pictures,” she says.

Mullen Bros.

They want to be your local jeweler, no matter where you are

Bob Mullen is owner and founder of Digital Jewelers Academy, as well as an owner of the family business, Mullen Bros. Jewelers in Swansea, MA.

For several years, Mullen and his family pondered the “what ifs” and the concerns they imagined would come with e-commerce while they experimented with product catalogs on their website. “What about stock? What about if we sell things that are sold out? What about fraud? But it’s like having children: If you wait till you’re ready, you’re never going to do it.” In 2014, they began selling online through Shopify and realized $100,000 in revenue the first year.

“In terms of problems, the same things that I thought in my mind would be problems DID happen, but it was not that big of a deal to overcome them. In terms of inventory, it was about keeping things on the site that would be accessible and in stock, unless it’s something like bridal. We only work with designers who have products available that we can get quickly.
“Like anything else, there is no one thing that made it happen. It’s like Jim Collins wrote in the book Good To Great. You build momentum, and it gets easier and easier. It’s the trial and error of learning our audience, learning what they respond to, and looking at Google Analytics.”

Now Mullen, a marketing major in college, is working with other retailers on e-commerce goals. Digital Jewelers Academy, in partnership with Gemsone, administers a private Facebook group with instructional videos and an online posting service. “It’s about e-commerce, creating engaging content, Facebook ads, email strategy, website conversion.”
How much time does e-commerce take? “If you’re budgeting 10 to 15 hours a week of someone’s time, you can make a lot of progress if you know what you’re doing. You can be much more efficient in three hours knowing what you’re doing than 10 hours wandering around.”

Bob Mullen, owner and founder of Digital Jewelers Academy

“The No. 1 question I’m asked is regarding differences in inventory and pricing between the website and physical store. A lot of jewelers feel like they should treat the website like a separate store with lower prices to attract business. But unless you’re trying to build a nine-figure company, you should target a customer most like your own.

Mullen’s average ticket online is around $600, which is higher than in his store. “Our biggest sale was $17,000 and it goes down to $99 here and there. The sweet spot, like anything in jewelry sales, is $200 or $300. But the idea that people are just going online and plunking down 10 grand is a myth.”

The key to success is to provide the same level of service you do in your store. “In my opinion, I can service people a lot better than whoever is manning the call center at Blue Nile,” says Mullen. “You can sell an engagement ring in 10 minutes or have multiple visits over four hours in the store; online, it might take three to six emails. It’s about being proactive and being prompt about responding when people email.”

Local limits mean little when it comes to e-commerce, Mullen contends. “People respond nationally to the same things people respond to locally. Our industry loses 1,000 stores a year. When their jeweler closes, people have to go online or find another local store. More and more people are going online as a result, and are happy to work with a local jeweler, wherever you are. Meet them where they are.”

Sami’s Fine Jewelry

We are definitely on our way to our goal

Last year, Stephenie Bjorkman of Sami’s Fine Jewelry decided that her website and online sales needed to be a priority. But she also knew it was tough, if not impossible, to find time to own the store, work with vendors, manage employees, pay bills, oversee marketing and launch e-commerce.
So she hired one person and then a second person to make it happen.

Stephenie Bjorkman of Sami’s Fine Jewelry

“The only way I could do this was to have a dedicated person to take pics, write descriptions, update events, blogs, social media and more. What is really scary is that I see such an importance in this job, I have already hired her an assistant.”

It hasn’t necessarily “worked” just yet, says Bjorkman. But it is working. “Since I hired devoted staff members, I have seen a 30 percent increase in online sales, along with tons of daily mentions in the store. All of this proves that in the end, having a marketing person is well worth it.”

Online, Bjorkman sells branded items, including her own Animal Rockz line, a custom sterling-silver line of jewelry available in 38 different pet breed varieties. “My store is full of animal lovers, so this is easy for us to be passionate about. We seem to sell at least one of these a day. Prices range from $35-$60 plus shipping. The magic numbers seem to be in the $250-$500 average range. But, with that said, I sold a $30,000 diamond off my website and a $25,000 estate diamond from my e-blast.”

Sales are considered and tracked as “online sales” if everything is done online.

“If you do sell it 100 percent online, you need to handle them like any other client. Answer quickly, make them feel special. We do chat by phone, by social media messengers, text them, and even send them videos. It is a lot of work, but the good news is that it works.

“Our e-commerce actual sales do not currently represent a large amount of my overall business. A two-year goal for me is to sell as much as having a second store. E-commerce also represents the best type of marketing you can do for your business. Long before you advertise in a newspaper, magazine, etc., you should take time to do your online marketing, social media, e-blasts and blogs.”

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Talkin’ ‘Bout a Revolution

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What’s the value of a good idea?

In the rapidly changing landscape of jewelry retail, your good idea could revitalize your business, if you have the vision and courage to put it into action.

In 1998, it was a commonly held belief that by 2019 we’d be driving flying cars. Little did we know that the cars wouldn’t (yet) be flying, but rather that we wouldn’t be driving them. Autonomous cars — highlighted in recent Consumer Electronics Shows — are poised to disrupt an industry that hasn’t changed much since the first combustion engine was added to a push cart in 1808.

Our point is this: progress is inevitable. Change is a part of life, and our industry, much like the automobile industry, is on the verge of an evolution. The independent retail jeweler has the opportunity to be a self-driving car… or a horse-drawn buggy.

On the following pages, you’ll find examples of how innovators with a variety of different backgrounds are experimenting with their own good ideas to embrace change in jewelry retail. Read up. Be inspired. The (r)evolution is now.

CUSTOMERS COMMIT TO CATBIRD

Catbird — the Brooklyn, NY, jewelry boutique with the reputation for appealing to the coolest of celebrities (Meghan Markle, for one) and blowing up trends like stackable rings, multi-stud earrings and delicately layered necklaces — introduced an idea last year that appeals to its most loyal of followers: jewelry you can’t take off. Really.

The retailer is selling a Forever Bracelet, a barely there 14K gold chain bracelet for $94, that solders directly onto the wrist. The custom-size chains are available at Catbird’s Welding Annex in Brooklyn’s Williamsburg neighborhood.

It’s inspired by the idea that many women have favorite pieces they never want to remove. Rony Vardi, Catbird founder and creative director, told Elle Magazine that she never takes off her Catbird Greco Lariat, for example.

“For years, we had been playing with the concept of permanent jewelry,” says Sriya Karumanchi, manager of marketing and communications for Catbird. “Once we acquired a set of welders for our studio, we started to experiment. In the beginning, it was just our jewelers zapping each other and the rest of our staff. Now, almost all of us have a permanent chain on our wrist.”

The idea of offering the jewelry to Catbird’s customers was brewing for some time, Karumanchi says. “We tested it with a ‘one night only’ event a year ago — and that had a really big turnout. Seeing that this was something people wanted from us, we were able to build out a welding annex space that’s open Friday through Sunday.” During the soft opening, they welded about 30 bracelets within a few hours.

“The jewelers who weld the bracelets are also in-house bench jewelers, so they really merge that piece for us: a behind-the-scenes process that is now part of a customer-facing experience.”

Catbird is ethically minded, and boasts cool brick-and-mortar locations and seamless online shopping. Everything a millennial (and her younger sister, too) dreams of.

PROFIT SHARING SPARKS JEWELRY REVOLUTION JEWELRY WORKS

Jennifer Farnes, founder of Revolution Jewelry Works in Colorado Springs, CO, is an innovator across the board — in operations, marketing and customer service. But she points to profit-sharing as the best idea she’s implemented. “It’s shocking to me that businesses (of any kind) are still operating on a commission basis. Profit sharing makes the dynamic of my business completely about the end-goal for everyone under my roof. We celebrate wins together, joke about weird situations, feel loss, and work as a complete unit for each client that comes through the door. If we make the clients happy, and make money, then at the end of the year we all reap the benefit of doing good work.”

“Other business owners look at me like I have a third eye when I explain our profit-sharing structure, except one local restauranteur who adopted my model exactly. He is opening his third restaurant in five years, solely with the profits from the businesses he already is running under my model.”

Revolution Jewelry Works specializes in custom design with an average sale of $1,200. Farnes believes strongly in spending 15 percent of gross income on advertising — with a priority on movie theater advertising as well as radio and TV, but only stations her team listens to. She also runs a business that is completely transparent to her staff, and treats them well — offering paid time off, a 401K plan and competitive salaries, which, not too surprisingly, keeps them around. “We have lost only one employee to a job change,” she says.

Those strategies are working for Farnes, who reports that in 2016, 2017 and 2018, Revolution Jewelry Works was recognized as one of the fastest-growing companies in Colorado. While only six years old, the company has exceeded $1 million annually in revenue and so far is realizing sales that are 45 percent up over last year. ”My opinion is; if you’re not succeeding, you’re doing it wrong,” she says.

SOHA IS A DIFFERENT WAY TO DIAMOND

Retailers Soha and Aubree Javaherian are not working in a huge market in Madison, WI. On the other hand, Madison’s residents tend to be young and open to new ideas, such as the ideas that propel Soha Diamond Co., a self-funded startup with no employees.

Soha Diamond Co. is a click-and-mortar design studio that sells only laboratory-grown diamonds. It’s opposite, Soha says, from what most other jewelers do: “Usually they build a beautiful store and take a lot of pride in it — and the website is an afterthought.”

To build their company, though, Soha and Aubree launched their website first. Although it was up and running by the fall of 2017, it took 18 months to build their e-commerce site to the point that they considered it to be polished, presentable and functional enough to begin building credibility.

Then came the appointment-only design studio, which they opened in an office building. “We find about 50 percent of sales comes from each — half from the design studio and half from online sales. The biggest challenge we have in Madison is that it’s not very common to find a jeweler in an office building. It’s a brand-new building in a nice new part of downtown, but our name is not on the outside of the building. So we are really reliant on the web.”

Soha is a graduate gemologist and a 10th-generation jeweler whose last name means “family of jewelers.” Aubree has a background in wedding planning. They’ve also found success getting out of the office to meet potential clients at wedding trade shows and expos.

When they meet customers in their office, Soha and Aubree can tell from their body language if they are a little hesitant. “We don’t put any pressure on them,” Soha says. “There are no physical products they can buy and walk away with. Everything we do, no matter how nominal, we are making it to order. Generally, our clients are relieved.”

An integral part of their strategy was to sell only lab-grown diamonds, moissanite and lab-grown colored gems. “For us, it’s a very technical sale. We have to go out of our way to describe what these items are, and what their value is. We didn’t want to be a jack-of-all-trades.”

THIRD-GEN JEWELER MODERNIZES APPRAISAL PROCESS

Dustin Lemick is a third-generation jeweler who became frustrated by what he sees as a lack of in-store technology in the jewelry business. After he earned his graduate gemologist certification, he found himself in charge of appraisals and claim replacements for insurance companies. “I realized there are some serious issues here. Communication between the insurance companies and customers was horrible.”

After talking with other jewelers, he came to believe it was an industry-wide problem. “Appraisals haven’t changed in forever, and retail jewelers are getting left behind on the technology front,” Lemick says.

So, together with partners, he launched Briteco, a business concept wherein a new type of personal-jewelry insurance is tied to a user-friendly appraisal software program. He began his efforts by moonlighting after hours, but after a few months, it became clear he had to either make it a full-time enterprise or let it go. He considers his decision to go for it to be one of the best he’s made in his career. “We built a full-fledged insurance company with notable investors and an incredible insurance partner in 48 states and D.C. I hope to launch with approval in every single state.”

The software is intuitive, fast, and it really works, he says. “It’s designed by jewelers, so we completely understand how this needs to function.”

It’s free to qualified jewelers. Algorithms will give jewelers guides for what the pricing of the appraisal should be. Once jewelers complete the appraisal with an easy-to-use online form, the consumer is sent a text message and an email saying, “Don’t forget you need insurance.” They click on a link to get insurance, go through four short screens answering questions that take two to three minutes, and they then have A-rated insurance.

“I believe that millennials and gen Zs still want to go into stores,” Lemick says. “They just want technology to help assist in the process.”

MARKETTE SIX CREATES ONLINE STORE FOR DESIGNERS

Justin and Heather Knapp worked for Apple for years, traveling to launch iPhones in 60 countries. That globe-hopping led them to begin a treasure hunting habit, bringing home collectible souvenirs, which often took the form of gems and jewelry.

Inspired, they decided to strike out on their own to create an online treasure-hunting experience of their own, and recently launched Markette Six, a secure marketplace to sell one-of-a-kind pieces, including jewelry, watches and gemstones. The platform aims to support jewelry designers in telling their brand stories, while being supported by the Knapps, who bring their branding knowledge to the jewelry industry. The site is clean, structured and replete with layered storytelling. “Jewelry is a personal reflection of who you are, whereas online is impersonal. It’s hard to have people trust you,” Justin says. “Storytelling can make all the difference.”

The goal is to let the pieces speak for themselves. Navigation and design are inspired by the aesthetic of sites like Design Within Reach and Lonely Planet.
Markette Six is targeting small- to medium-sized designers for its platform. “We’re looking for originality,” Justin says. “They’ve created a brand and stories about why they have designed what they have designed. Sometimes, they are one of a kind, but always they are things that have stories and will speak in an online setting. You become more emotionally invested when you know the designer and the story behind the piece itself.”

Markette Six holds the funds on behalf of the buyer, notifies the designer of the purchase, and the designer sends the piece to Markette Six. Every piece is received by Markette Six and evaluated by an independent lab in Portland, OR, for authenticity. “That’s a very important step for us to make sure they feel comfortable buying online,” Heather says. “Designers can decide if they allow for returns, and if a client does return it, it is sent back to the lab to make sure it is still authentic and not damaged. We’re never going to hand a customer over to the designer to deal with or vice versa.”

They launched in November 2018, about 19 months after devising a business plan. “Our biggest focus is building the relationships, finding the right partners and building those partnerships that will grow with us,” Heather says.

COOL STORE WINNER PACKS HIS BAG AND GOES HOME

In 2018, Thomas Mann sold his Magazine Street buildings, closing the New Orleans location that landed him on the cover of INSTORE with a 2016 America’s Coolest Stores win. The next step in his revolutionary jewelry career was to regroup into his own home, which contains his shop, gallery and party space. He even shares his kitchen with gallery guests.

He has created an interactive experience where jewelry display and artwork are integrated into living and dining areas. “Because the gallery space is tiny, we’re going to turn every space into exhibition space. Even the decor is for sale,” he says. Every detail of his gallery is an expression of his design aesthetic, from the jewelry furniture and displays he designed and built himself, to the work of other jewelry artists he selectively curates.

His staff comes and goes, often arriving while Mann is still asleep. “People bring their dogs. It has a homey feel. This is where we live and work. There’s no curtain between the two.”

Angele Seiley, who runs the business and marketing side of the operation, says visitors are delighted when Mann comes out of his workshop, meets them in the gallery and then shows them around the space.

Before he moved, he had watched foot traffic decline in his former Magazine Street location. Now, an estimated 10,000 cars a day pass by on busy Tchoupitoulas Street, which connects the Central Business District with Uptown New Orleans.

Mann, a jewelry artist, sculptor and painter, has operated on the cutting edge of art-jewelry design for decades, inventing a distinctive style that initially incorporated found objects into his designs. “I came up with a peculiar look at the right time and the right place for an audience that was ready to receive it,” Mann says. “I wanted to make it as technically fulfilling as possible at a price that most people could afford.”

MORE REVOLUTIONARY IDEAS FROM RETAILERS ON THE CUTTING EDGE

Clicks, bricks and custom keep Green Lake growing

Green Lake Jewelry Works’ entire business model represents a retail revolution. Owner Jim Tuttle replaced traditional sales staff with artists who consult with clients to create custom engagement rings in colorful stores with bench jewelers visible behind walls of glass. That design conversation sometimes begins and often continues online, where shoppers are invited to use a personal design page with a collection of notes, quotes, inspiration ideas and contact information for the designer with whom they worked. They can pick up where they left off the following week or even in the next year. They incorporate live chat, reviews, engagement stories, video-sharing services and a thorough explanation of the custom process into a digital presentation optimized for mobile display. The next step is to engage the customer through a design blog staffed by artists. Both locations, in Seattle and Bellevue, WA, also employ full-time photographers to shoot finished goods, loose gems, wax models, sketches and stages of work, which can be shown to online and in-store clients. Whether online or in-store, design is a carefully considered process. Most in-store customers visit five times.

For D&H Jewelers, seeing is believing

Partners Shawn Higgins and Lindsay Daunell founded D&H Jewelers in San Francisco in 2011 on a commitment to sustainability and responsible sourcing. For the building, they used LED lighting, bamboo walls and recycled doors, restored the wood floors and made displays from discarded material. The sycamore bar top was salvaged from a construction site. Sourcing presented more of a challenge. Higgins and Daunell personally verify every source of jewelry, gold or gemstones. They have traveled to mines in Botswana and Sri Lanka and manufacturers in Canada to verify ethical claims. Ninety percent of their gold is reclaimed from consumer electronics.

At Cut Fine,the emphasis is on quality and yes, cut

Matthew Patton and his wife, Evan, set out to appeal to the youthful bridal market of Baton Rouge, LA. Their goal from the beginning was to sell the best-cut diamonds and gemstones they could find and showcase them in the highest quality settings they could buy or manufacture. The name of the store offers the opportunity to educate customers about the importance of cut when assessing a diamond’s quality. About 80 percent of the business is custom engagement rings. Now Matthew, a pocket knife collector, has started a second brand, a business called Slice, to sell high-end custom pocket knives almost entirely online. They sell for $1,500 to $16,000 and are made to order by expert knife makers all around the world. “There are only a few countries we haven’t shipped knives to,” Matthew says.

Marks Jewelers turns store design upside down

Marks Jewelers in Montgomeryville, PA, completely reimagined the layout of the traditional large jewelry store with the location it designed and debuted in 2016. Each unusual feature of the 15,000 square foot store is designed with a practical reason behind it. The Diamond Diner, for example, affords couples a comfortable, intimate way of choosing a ring at the same time it creates a more effective selling environment. Shoppers are seated in booths, and diamonds are both safe and easily accessible for showing. The gem lab is on a “stage” that is three steps taller than the booths, so the diamond manager can keep tabs on what’s happening in the booths, keep an eye on the movement of diamonds and assist in the sale as needed. It’s resulted in a higher closing ratio, say owners Jim and Dareen Brusilovsky. Also innovative are the spacious fashion lounge, where shoppers can relax and enjoy a drink, and multi-purpose modular cases that can be reconfigured for trunk shows and other events.

Embedded consultant shares what he learned at Mucklow’s

Rod Worley manages Peachtree City, GA’s Mucklow’s Fine Jewelry as a successful business for owner Robert Mucklow, who has retired from the day-to-day business. But Mucklow’s is also a laboratory for Worley, who has used the store to test innovations in marketing, merchandising and management and now shares his insights with other retailers on a contract basis.

Worley is president of consulting company Four Grainer LLC and host of “Inside the Jewelry Trade Radio Show”.

Worley developed a community-outreach program based on charitable giving, through which all marketing funds are channeled with the goal of getting people in the door. It’s worked so well that Worley wrote a book about it — A Reason To Chant — and created a portfolio of marketing and management options that he shares with other retailers on a contract basis. Four Grainer sets up the program, trains the staff and contacts local 501(c)3 charities. Worley’s company also drives traffic to clients’ websites by establishing retailers as the thought leader for jewelry, bridal planning, women’s health, fashion and beauty. The ultimate service is total store management, which allows the owner to retire within 90 days while retaining complete ownership and drawing their salary. “We put a leader in place that has the skill set needed to grow the business and support that leader through continued training and supervision,” Worley says.

Bitcoin on the bayou

David’s Antiques & Jewelry, owned and managed by Sharona Edly and her mother, Ester, in New Orleans, decided to start accepting Bitcoin as a means of payment in 2013. “We think it’s a revolution,” Ester says. “It’s a new, global currency, there’s no government behind it; it’s run by the people. We believe in the system and the idea behind it.” The store deals with people from all over the world, adds Sharona. “It’s pretty much like accepting cash, but even better because it cannot be counterfeited. It has low transaction fees and we enjoy the playfulness of it. Our first Bitcoin purchase was by someone who traveled from Austin, TX, specifically to buy his wife something using Bitcoin, an amber necklace for his wife.”

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