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Commentary: The Business

Jim Fiebig: People, Get Ready to Unleash Creativity



It’s time for a paradigm shift in the jewelry industry, and it involves creativity, integrity and knowledge.

We need faith in the ideals that made most of us successful: integrity, knowledge and creativity.

Today, America’s biggest jeweler is Wal-Mart, and most jewelers report that their top seller is a line of silver bauble charms. What happened here?

It started when someone decided that jewelry is just rocks and metal; diamond price lists and gold by the gram were the first pieces of excess baggage.

While some people maintain that the diamond and gold industry needed some standards in pricing, it led to the perception of jewelry as a commodity.

Then we started selling boring goods devoid of any design or style. Remember every salesman coming in with stud earrings and solitaire engagement rings: “You gotta have these, they’re bread and butter.”


This is easy money, as long as you keep the unit full, but they’re not very creative.

Our creative difference was that we always had interesting colored gemstone jewelry and lots of loose gems to play with. Like many jewelers, we got to know our clientele pretty well and each occasion we were ready with some new gemstone that would start a collection that would “gift” them through the entire year. We knew the people who like to just point it out and go with finished jewelry and the many people who enjoy playing with the loose and semi-mounts to achieve their own personal looks.

We have squeezed the creativity out of most of our school curriculums, and there are few opportunities to be creative in the workplace.

Involving customers in the “design” process allowed them to express their creativity. It’s great to have the capacity to do counter sketching or CAD and in-house casting, but all we did was combine a semi-mount, a head and a gemstone. This was fun for our staff as well and proved to be a great relationship builder.

The integrity and knowledge bags are constantly being weakened by our own industry and the media. We spend all our time trying to defend science and the presence of our industry in developing countries.

Fact: No one goes to work looking like they did when they got out of bed. We are all enhanced. Everything is enhanced! Tell someone about routine treatments as part of proper jewelry care, and get over it!


Fact: There are adults and children working in difficult conditions in some countries to extract gemstones. The worst of it is probably gold and diamonds. Our industry has been trying to improve these conditions. But I visit many of these places, and if it were not for the existence of a mine or cutting factory, these people would surely die of starvation. A little is better than nothing. And if we all started selling more than 10 percent of our gross revenues as colored gemstones, the prices around the world would go up and these people would benefit too.

It is time for a paradigm change in our industry. Get creative!


Jim Fiebig grew up in the family retail jewelry business in Michigan. In 2005, he sold the store and now does gemstone sales consulting and tourism and serves as global sales director for Zultanite Gems, LLC. E-mail him at [email protected]


[span class=note]This story is from the March 2010 edition of INSTORE[/span]




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