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No Regrets: 13 Jewelers Share Their Bucket-List Adventures

Mark and Monika Clodius

Clodius & Co. Jewelers, Rockford, IL

Currently topping the bucket list:

Seeing the Crown Jewels of England and the treasures of the Kremlin.

Already checked off the list:

The annual Rio Tinto Argyle Pink Diamonds Tender, which showcases the best stones of a year’s production from the Argyle Mine in Western Australia. Mark and Monica received an invitation to a preview in New York through their membership in the National Colored Diamond Association, but they didn’t know till the last minute exactly where or when it would be. They faxed their passports and drivers’ licenses to Interpol in Europe, were approved, and then had to scramble for plane tickets to New York. They flew in on the Friday morning before Memorial Day, without luggage, planning to leave the same day on a 4:30 p.m. flight. “The people with Rio Tinto were very nice, no one even got real excited when I dropped a Tender diamond on the floor!” Mark said. “What amazing diamonds!” In fact, one of the gems Mark held was the Argyle Phoenix, a 1.56-carat rare red diamond.

Also checked off the list:

The Green Vaults of Dresden (largest collection of the jewelry arts intact since the 1500s.)

The Treasure of St. Januarius. (A collection of jewels, gathered in honor of the patron saint of Naples, Italy, for about 700 years.)

The Gem Gallery of the Smithsonian in Washington, DC.

Mark Clodius and the royal jewelers

A special invitation from mining company Rio Tinto allowed Mark Clodius to get up close with some rare red diamonds.

Susan Eisen sees New York

Susan Eisen wants to live in New York and see Picassos in Paris.>

Susan Eisen

Susan Eisen Fine Jewelry & Watches, El Paso, TX

Currently topping the bucket list:

“Rent an apartment in Manhattan for a month. I never get enough time to spend in the cities I visit; I’m always rushing, doing business. I would love to enjoy the culture, museums and restaurants that New York has to offer. I’d also like to go back to the Picasso museum in Paris, spend eight hours a day for two weeks on the Internet doing whatever I want, write another book (my fourth) about the adventures of being a jewelry store owner, and have my home remodeled.”

Already checked off the list:

“Nothing yet! The list keeps getting longer and longer and I put my business projects first. I am waiting until I retire but don’t know if I ever will!”

Jennifer Farnes fires a customer

Jennifer Farnes achieved a dream when she first fired a customer, and now seeks to achieve another by achieving a sales goal and taking everyone on a watery reward trip.

Jennifer Farnes

Revolution Jewelry Works, Colorado Springs, CO

Currently topping the bucket list:

To cross the $1 million mark. “I made a promise to my team that the year we do that, I will take everyone and their spouses on a cruise instead of going to JCK Las Vegas. I want to do that before I die (I think I will get there before the end of the decade).”

Already checked off the list:

Fire a customer. “If you do great work and have that customer that you can never make happy no matter how hard you try, then let them go (politely of course). I’m not saying fire every customer that takes extra time, but that one that sucks the air and energy out of a room when they walk in.”

No Regrets: 13 Jewelers Share Their Bucket-List Adventures

Perry Sporn

Devotion, Garden City, NY, and a chain of Perrywinkle stores in Vermont, New York and Quebec

On the bucket list:

Outer space in 2017. “I’m one of the early position holders for the Virgin Galactic flight,” Sporn says.

Already checked off the list:

“I’m a pilot and that’s my passion in life, flying to interesting places. I love the places I go to buy colored gems and diamonds, including Israel, Bangkok, Jaipur … I’ve been everywhere — except outer space!

John Carom

Abby’s Gold & Gems, Uniontown, PA

On the bucket list:

“It might sound crazy but I’ve always wanted to implement a short series of exhibitions in my town that potentially would pull in interested people from my region showing fabulous finished jewels that would educate and amaze them. Of course, it would have to be scaled to my ability to afford it without profit in mind (it wouldn’t necessarily be a traditional estate and trunk show).

“My wife and I have traveled quite a bit and seen everything from the Crown Jewels in the Tower of London to Fabergé to the Royal Palace in Madrid collection of jewels. No, we can’t bring these types of exhibitions to town, but perhaps for the people who are never exposed to such things we could offer some kind of fabulous experience in the world of jewels without travel abroad or to Cartier in NYC.

“I’m probably being naive but it wouldn’t be the first time that a great idea was born of naivete.”

Already checked off the list:

“I’ve been to Antwerp, New York, LA and other places that give me something interesting to talk about with my customers while fostering trust and credibility. In New York and LA, I visit vendors’ offices. They take the visit as a compliment and go out of their way to show me their operation and solidify our business relationship by furthering our personal relationship. People like to do business with people they know and like. I also visit as many different retail stores as I can, and not just jewelry stores, to look for trends, great examples of customer service, displays, everything retail.”

“Jewelers should go to one source of the product, whether it be the mine, the manufacturer or the distributor. Many small jewelers are intimidated by the ‘fancy and sophisticated’ New Yorkers, forgetting that most of them are just like us with families, commutes and many other similarities.”

Andrea Riso's bucket list

Andrea Riso

Talisman Collection, El Dorado Hills, CA

On the bucket list:

Learn jewelry design at GIA. “I studied at GIA for my GG and did labs there, but I would love to learn jewelry design in that gorgeous setting and apply my knowledge to additional education, with no time constraints and no need to worry about expenses or revenue or anything but the process and the creativity. ”

Already checked off the list:

Spending a week immersed in the Tucson gem shows. “I’ve done this twice in my life,” she says. “It gives a big-picture perspective on the world of jewelry and takes me back to my passions: beautiful stones, people who love what they’re doing, seeing what’s coming down the pike in terms of trends and what’s becoming or has become more rare and valuable. Being face-to-face with people I admire — Michael Traurig, Bruce Bridges, Michael Couch and people from GIA — plus so many vendors from around the world. Running into designers who are like celebrities to me as they are choosing stones — Erica Courtney, Jennifer Dawes, Melissa Joy Manning, Alex Sepkus, Paula Crevoshay and countless others. It’s a thoroughly beautiful experience I feel lucky to have had.”

Denise Oros's bucket list

Denise Oros

Linnea Jewelers, La Grange, IL

On the bucket list:

“Visit Easter Island and the Galapagos Islands. Tour the Amazon. See the Louvre and cruise the Seine in Paris. Dive in Bali, Fiji or Australia. Live simply on a farm, again. See my family grow.”

Already checked off the list:

“In an effort to laugh more and challenge myself, I kayaked the Chain of Lakes in Wisconsin this fall. I had a blast even though I flipped my kayak and lost my hat. I proudly saved my glasses and paddle, but then got a huge fat lip and bloody nose during multiple tries to re-enter my trusty vessel. Best story of the summer, with my best friend. We’re still laughing.”

Matt Doumato's bucket list

Matt Doumato

Ephraim Doumato, Jewelers, Smithfield, RI

On the bucket list:

“Every jeweler should see how a diamond is cut in person. Bringing this knowledge and experience back and sharing with customers, I think, is invaluable. It helps romance the diamond. That’s why this item is on the top of my list. I do think it is important for jewelers to know the process.

I’d like to own my own building. Either a freestanding building or a building with multiple stores that I would rent out, with my store as the main attraction.”

Already checked off the list:

Going to JCK Las Vegas and JA New York. Working toward degrees with the GIA. Becoming a Brain Squad member for INSTORE.

No Regrets: 13 Jewelers Share Their Bucket-List Adventures

Jane Johnson and her jewelry designer son, Zack Johnson, take a break from hitting the slopes.

Jane Johnson

RM Johnson & Sons, Salem, VA

On the bucket list:

Sending in my application for America’s Coolest Stores competition — and winning!

“Skiing is a passion, and has been ever since I first learned 50 years ago in upstate New York. Next ski destination is Telluride in March. I am passionate about traveling, too, and I decided once the kids were grown that I would get back to doing something for me, so I joined the Roanoke Ski Club. My sons like to snowboard, so we often go together.”

“Visiting every state is on my to-do list. I am a little over halfway through them all.”

Already checked off the list:

“Working on a cruise ship in my 20s.
“I married one of my best friends and started a family with him at age 30, and founded our jewelry store with him at 35. Sadly, my life changed forever and my survival skills had to kick in at age 46 when my husband died suddenly and I had to simultaneously raise children, run a business and help run a city (as the second woman ever elected to our city council). I am proud to have survived all that, particularly given the fact that it was all during the Great Recession.”

“Just last year I decided to be brave and use some of my inheritance to completely remodel my store to make it my dream store. I also wanted to attempt to inspire other local business owners to follow suit and take pride in their businesses. We won the local Green Business Award this year, an initiative I co-founded as a city council member.

“Currently, I can brag that Bob and I raised two sons who possess the entrepreneurial spirit (one of whom is busy creating beautiful and unique jewelry while learning the family business)!”

Daniel Spirer's bucket list

Daniel Spirer

Daniel R. Spirer Jewelers, Cambridge, MA

On the bucket list:

“If I haven’t done it yet, I probably don’t want to at this point. Well, maybe I’d like to spend my final years in Big Sur …”

Already checked off the list:

Drinking Clase Azul tequila before creating something beautiful. That’s something I’ve done at least a hundred times! I’m a little perversely passionate about tequila.”

Bill Warren

The Goldmine Fine Jewelry and Gifts, Hudson, NC

On the bucket list:

“I look forward to a trip with my wife to Hawaii as well as a two-week vacation to tour the western United States.

“I’d like to remodel the store soon because it’s looking a little weary after about 10 years.”

Already checked off the list:

“After 22 years of owning my store, my wife and I finally took a one-week cruise to the Caribbean, which was absolutely wonderful. In general, we decided to start taking more time off from work and enjoying life, since we have a well-trained staff, who can manage without us. We purchased a vacation home in Hilton Head Island, SC, which we’ve put to great use for us, our family and friends, plus our employees. We plan to retire there someday.

“I continually try to learn new things about the business by investing in me and in my staff, with quality training. We joined the SJO Buying Group and we regularly network with other jewelers personally and through the Polygon Network.

John E. Thompson

Shabree Jewelers, Sheboygan, WI

On the bucket list:

“Living the remainder of my days energized by God’s grace in joy and peace. 2. To watch all of my nine grandchildren get married.”

Already checked off the list:

“My biggest thrill was taking a tour of De Beers in London in 1983. I went with a select group of store managers. We were part of the Sterling group rewarded for our store sales exceeding our sales quota. We saw tables of diamonds piled up high. The diamonds graded by the human eye and sunlight. The diamonds are broken down by lots, placed in a parcel and sold by a handshake. With all of our technology, it was an honor to see the simplicity of selling and trust coming together. I’ll always refer to this as my jewelry utopia.”

Gayle Chinn

Chinn Jewelry, Royal Oak, MI

On the bucket list:

To sell a 10-carat-plus diamond.

Already checked off the list:

“I sold a 9.23 many years ago. Since that time I have sold a couple 6-carat diamonds and a few fives but I’m not getting the calls like I used to get. Heck, I’m only in my early 70s, so never say never on a 10!”

What else should be on retailers’ lists, according to Brain Squad responses? Here are the 10 most popular categories.

1. Take some time off. Take weekends off for a month, to see how the other half lives, suggests Joseph Molfese of Bella Cosa Jewelers in Willowbrook, IL. Take Christmas week off, at least once in your life, says Robert Devoe Peter of Lecirqe Jewelry Design. Take a six-month sabbatical, says David Abrams of Grand Jewelers, Rancho Cucamonga, CA.

2. Explore the world. Try seeing one of the seven ancient Wonders of the World, says David Blitt. (Awkward point of fact here: The Great Pyramids are the only one of the official seven left, but don’t let that stop you; there are a lot of other wonders out there.) Go on an African safari. Hit the road — drive across the U.S., suggests Brenda Hefner, Oz’s Jewelers of Hickory, NC.

3. Work the bench. Learn the basics so you are informed about what’s involved in repairs. Says Andrea Riso of the Talisman Collection in El Dorado Hills, CA: “I’d like to apprentice for my bench jeweler and learn to do what he does.” Adds Elizabeth Breon of Coast Jewelers in Florence, OR: “I believe every salesperson should sit at the bench and create at least a simple silver band. Not everyone who sells jewelry knows what it takes to make it.”

4. Go the extra mile for a special customer, says Deric Metzger of DeMer Jewelry in Carlsbad, CA. “Sell a stone or a piece at cost just to make someone happy,” Metzger suggests. “I did it recently and it was life changing for the client, who needed a deeply meaningful piece but didn’t have a lot to work with.”

5. Do something romantic. “Spend time in a place where couples honeymoon,” says Jonathan McCoy of McCoy Jewelers of Dubuque, IA. “Think Paris. You will see so many couples celebrating their love, and we are an integral part of that.”

6. Do something adventurous. “I think everyone should do a night dive,” says Dorothy Retzke of Krystyna’s Jewelry in Lemont, IL. “It’s an amazingly peaceful experience in the open, very dark ocean with all the night creatures of a coral reef.” Or, “helicopter ski,” suggests Greg Raskin of Raskin’s Jewelers in Prescott, AZ. Drive a racecar, says Connie Stagner of Acori Diamonds & Design in Friendswood, TX.

7. Have more fun while you work. “Grab some of your favorite music, crank up the store sound system and release your inhibitions,” says Morgan Bartel of Susann’s Custom Jewelers of Corpus Christi, TX. “An impromptu store dance party brings a level of energy to the day!”

8. Go to the source. Tour a mine and visit a diamond-cutting facility. Experience Antwerp’s diamond district, or Israel’s diamond bourse. See a jewelry factory in Italy. Go to Basel for watches. Visit the Bangkok Gem Show. Go prospecting, says Christina O’Hara of Blue Mountain Gems in Roanoke, VA. “Make a piece of jewelry from something you found.”

9. Spend extra time at the Tucson gem shows. Suggests Cullen Daane of Pierre and Harry in Naples, FL: “Take time to visit the funky, off-the-track places and take time for yourself. Last year I came home with a beautiful rug for my guestroom from a roadside stand.”

10. Remodel, refresh or update your store. It will give both your outlook and your business a boost. Or at least keep your equipment up to date.



This Third-Generation Jeweler Was Ready for Retirement. He Called Wilkerson

Retirement is never easy, especially when it means the end to a business that was founded in 1884. But for Laura and Sam Sipe, it was time to put their own needs first. They decided to close J.C. Sipe Jewelers, one of Indianapolis’ most trusted names in fine jewelry, and call Wilkerson. “Laura and I decided the conditions were right,” says Sam. Wilkerson handled every detail in their going-out-of-business sale, from marketing to manning the sales floor. “The main goal was to sell our existing inventory that’s all paid for and turn that into cash for our retirement,” says Sam. “It’s been very, very productive.” Would they recommend Wilkerson to other jewelers who want to enjoy their golden years? Absolutely! “Call Wilkerson,” says Laura. “They can help you achieve your goals so you’ll be able to move into retirement comfortably.”

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