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As consumer demand for laboratory-grown diamonds grows, retailers wrestle with how — or even whether — to sell and market this new product.



When Richard Kessler decided to sell laboratory-grown diamonds in his seven Kesslers Diamonds stores in Wisconsin and Michigan a couple of years ago, he jumped into the market with both feet. “We don’t do anything halfway,” he says. “We brought in a nice selection, trained our people how to explain the process and how they are the same as mined diamonds and how they are different.”hen richard kessler decided to sell laboratory-grown diamonds in his seven Kesslers Diamonds stores in Wisconsin and Michigan a couple of years ago, he jumped into the market with both feet. “We don’t do anything halfway,” he says. “We brought in a nice selection, trained our people how to explain the process and how they are the same as mined diamonds and how they are different.”

Within a month, Kesslers Newborn Created Diamonds outsold the company’s signature Kessler 81 diamond that debuted in 2005.

Now Kesslers cuts its Newborn Created Diamonds into the Kessler 81 faceting pattern, and three out of four customers choose the created version. “It’s amazing, absolutely amazing,” Kessler says. “We’re selling the living daylights out of these things and our competitors are telling everyone ‘You don’t want these ‘fake diamonds.’ The fact is they are taking hold.”
When De Beers announced on the eve of the JCK Las Vegas show in May that it would enter the laboratory-grown diamond market in September with Lightbox Jewelry — ungraded laboratory-grown diamonds set in 10K gold and sterling silver earrings and pendants — Kessler says many of his peers panicked, fearing prices on laboratory-grown center stones would plummet.

De Beers said it will sell its Lightbox diamonds by weight alone at $800 per carat, significantly lower than current market prices, which are generally about 30 percent below natural diamond prices. De Beers will market the line as a sparkly, stylish accessory that can complement an outfit, not a serious piece of jewelry to commemorate a momentous occasion.
“The guys I hang with were beside themselves,” Kessler says. “I wanted to take a wait-and-see attitude. But I don’t think De Beers is making a good business decision, and I think it’s a lose-lose for them. It can hurt the laboratory-grown diamond manufacturers, but it’s going to hurt De Beers at the same time on the mined diamond side. There’s little doubt that the price will come down. We’ve already seen some pressure. Prices were based on a percentage below mined diamonds. And mined diamonds have come down.”

These risks, however, are part of the business, he says. “We have the same business risk with the price of gold or platinum nose-diving,” Kessler says.


Kessler says he’s able to reassure customers that whatever they buy will retain its value, at least in his store. His 100 percent trade-in policy might be crazy, he says, but it offers clients the confidence they crave. “So if the created diamond industry crashed to the ground tomorrow and consumers come in and say, ‘This thing is worthless,’ I can say, ‘No it’s not; you can trade that in for $3,000 and not pay an extra penny.’”



Debbie Azar, president of GSI, which grades laboratory-grown diamonds, says despite the flurry of recent news coverage sparked by De Beers’ announcement, consumers remain confused about what laboratory-grown diamonds are and are not. “To clarify, laboratory-grown diamonds are not simulants (like CZ, moissanite, etc.). Laboratory-grown diamonds are, indeed, diamonds that share the same physical and chemical properties as natural diamonds.”

Richard Kessler: “It’s amazing, absolutely amazing. We’re selling the living daylights out of these things.”

Azar says both natural and laboratory-grown diamonds should carry grading reports from reputable gemological institutions in order to provide the consumer with the trust and confidence that their diamond is “what we say it is.” On July 24, the Federal Trade Commission’s jewelry guidelines were revised to include laboratory-grown diamonds in the commission’s definition of diamonds.

The FTC’s previous definition of a diamond was: “A natural mineral consisting essentially of pure carbon crystallized in the isometric system.” The new listing does not include the word “natural.” “When the commission first used this definition in 1956, there was only one type of diamond product on the market — natural stones mined from the earth,” the FTC said. “Since then, technological advances have made it possible to create diamonds in a laboratory. These stones have essentially the same optical, physical and chemical properties as mined diamonds. Thus, they are diamonds.”


Despite the groundbreaking feel of this announcement, not much has changed in how laboratory-grown diamonds can be marketed to the consumer, says Tiffany Stevens, president of the Jewelers Vigilance Committee. Marketers still cannot call a laboratory-grown diamond a “diamond” without a qualifier — laboratory created, laboratory grown or (manufacturer name)-created. The term “cultured” can be used, but only in conjunction with another approved description. The FTC removed “synthetic” from the recommended language, and while it still can be used, it should not be used by a competitor to disparage another seller’s laboratory-grown products.

The FTC has also specified that the words “real,” “natural” or “precious” cannot be used in laboratory-grown diamond marketing.

If the conversation turns to green issues, caution is required there, too. You can’t just claim that laboratory-grown is the green option. The FTC green guides inform how these conversations should be conducted. “It has to be green or not; it can’t just be greener than someone else,” Stevens says.

But Jean-Marc Lieberherr, CEO of the Diamond Producers Association, says the new FTC Guides fail to provide the clarity needed to avoid more consumer confusion and deception, instead introducing unnecessary ambiguity.

Lieberherr says the DPA appreciates that the FTC still requires marketers of man-made stones to differentiate their product from natural diamonds. But Lieberherr expressed “deep concern” that the FTC has approved the qualified use of the term “cultured diamonds.” He says the majority of consumers mistakenly interpret “cultured” as a description used for natural diamonds. Lieberherr expressed surprise, too, by the wide use of the expression “mined diamonds” throughout the FTC Guides in lieu of “natural diamond.” Lieberherr says that “mined diamonds refers to an extraction process and not to a creation process, and the vast majority of the world’s diamonds will never be mined, making this an incorrect qualification.”




Steve Coe, general manager of Lightbox, says De Beers recognizes laboratory-grown diamonds aren’t going away. “You can’t put it back in the box,” Coe says. So, De Beers took a pragmatic approach and developed a line of jewelry based on the company’s consumer research.

That research confirmed that consumers confuse laboratory-grown diamonds with simulants. Once they do know what they are and how they are made, they like them, but prefer them for “lesser” gift-giving occasions, such as a Sweet 16 birthday, for self-purchase and for travel jewelry. But, according to the research, consumers still express a strong preference for natural diamonds for important occasions. “The other thing we heard was that consumers expected it to be a significantly lower price than natural diamonds,” says Coe. They decided to offer jewelry in the $200 to $1,000 range with laboratory grown diamonds in three colors: white, blue and pink.

Beyond whatever effects it may or may not have on the market, Lightbox is “absolutely” expected to make a profit. Coe says De Beers has a huge advantage because its division, Element Six, has been manufacturing diamonds for more than 50 years for industrial applications and has invested more than $100 million in research and development, which has led to advanced technology and capacity, allowing them to produce high quality laboratory-grown diamonds relatively inexpensively.
 “My personal view is that’s where laboratory-grown diamonds would have ended up in a few years’ time, so we’re just doing it now instead of later,” Coe says. “To be honest, this is like any manufacturing technology,” Coe says, citing the trajectory in the sales price of flat-screen TVs. “As technology improves and volume increases, prices always come down.”

Lightbox will initially be sold online, beginning in September. “Once we’ve got that up and running, we will have discussions with retailers about selling it,” Coe says. In the future, Lightbox plans to introduce other shades of blue and pink, and is experimenting with yellow, green and violet, which could be available within a few years. They’re also investing in a new manufacturing plant outside of Portland, OR, intended to significantly increase the volume of product they can supply by 2020.

Robert Smith: “I’m good friends with several growers, and I don’t think they’re going to stand idly by and let De Beers destroy their businesses. If they start a war, it could get really ugly and everybody’s going to lose.”

Suraj Mehta, director of Pure Grown Diamonds, a laboratory-grown diamond manufacturer, says De Beers’ announcement has not affected his pricing as business continues to grow unabated, particularly in bridal. “Ultimately,” he says, “retailers are realizing that it is a choice that consumers would like to have.”

Mehta disagrees with De Beers about the value proposition. “It’s extremely difficult to grow diamonds,” Mehta says. “When the consumer is shown the growing process and it’s explained that each diamond is unique and some diamonds are great and some are not great, it really fascinates them.”

Amish Shah, founder and president of ALTR Created Diamonds, says education is at the core of his product, and he produced a documentary film that retailers can use to demonstrate how created diamonds are grown. “We want to help the retailers’ associates understand that they ARE diamonds. Ones grown above the earth.”

Laboratory-grown companies provide grading reports, but De Beers has said it will not. Lightbox will be priced by weight alone. Coe says DeBeers sees no need to grade them, because once they pass the quality threshold the company has established, they are all nominally of the same “high” quality. “We just took the view that this is a manufactured product and one of the advantages is it’s pretty consistent,” Coe says. “With mined diamonds you get a huge range of quality.” Each will be inscribed with the Lightbox logo beneath the surface, inside the stone.

Edahn Golan, an independent analyst who specializes in the economy of the global diamond industry, says De Beers won’t grade laboratory-grown diamonds because it wants to completely kill diamond terminology in relation to laboratory-grown diamonds. But Golan, who has seen the product, agrees that it’s consistently clean with a great color.

Mehta says transparency offered by grading is very important to the consumer. “They’re not all alike,” he says. “They do come in all colors and qualities.”

Robert Smith of EM Smith Jewelers in Chillicothe, OH, says De Beers has a history of taking a sledgehammer to their competition. “I’m good friends with several growers, and I don’t think they’re going to stand idly by and let De Beers destroy their businesses. If they start a war, it could get really ugly and everybody’s going to lose.” “I think their aim is clearly to drive the growers out of business and then control the laboratory-grown market themselves; a strategy they have used often in the past. The control that De Beers has had over the diamond market has been a huge benefit to jewelry retailers for generations, but their hostile approach to this new challenge may be the death knell for the diamond business as we know it.”Golan suggests De Beers has proved diamonds can be grown less expensively and that U.S. retailers would be wise to demand lower prices from their own vendors. In effect, Golan says, De Beers entered the market to drive down the price and take on the growers who have made laboratory-grown an increasingly important category in the diamond bridal business. “Basically, they disrupted the disrupters,” he says. “That describes their whole strategy.”They are betting that strategy will completely change the game, he says. Golan believes De Beers will win that bet.



Meanwhile, despite De Beers’ effort to disconnect laboratory-grown diamonds from the ideas of rarity, romance and permanence, retailers and other experts report that those often-unpredictable millennials continue to be intrigued with laboratory-grown center stones for engagement rings. Anecdotally, they’re buying them in droves. Says Shah of ALTR Created Diamonds: “She wants the largest and most brilliant diamond he can afford. We are telling her she doesn’t have to compromise.”Pat Henneberry, “The Jewelry Coach” and vice president of Global Training and Development for Hearts on Fire, says friends of her 27-year-old nephew often call her and ask about laboratory-grown diamonds. But she tries to redirect them. “I tell them that I think laboratory-grown is not what you want to be part of your bridal story. What I hate to see is when a customer comes in, and if their first question is ‘What do you think about laboratory-grown?’, immediately a sales associate walks them over to the laboratory-grown counter, even if they also sell natural. Let’s at least walk over to the natural counter first!”

David Brown, president of the Edge Retail Academy, says many a millennial prefers putting money toward a house and an exotic honeymoon rather than a traditional ring. “They’ll do their research online, and when they decide there’s nothing much wrong with laboratory-grown diamonds, they may go that route, as long as it’s being sold by a merchant who can demonstrate the value and show the trust and give them a quality product they can stand by.”

British jewelry designer and retailer Stephen Webster has found that young buyers are often attracted to the technology and modernity of laboratory-grown diamonds. Webster partnered with Swarovski to create a line of jewelry using laboratory-grown diamonds. “Because it’s Swarovski, who don’t mine things anyway, it certainly makes sense,” Webster says. “I have no problem with it as long as it’s defined. It’s very much like fur and synthetic fur. If you’re into fur, you’re not going to be into synthetic fur. But somebody who’s new to jewelry might be attracted to laboratory-grown diamonds.”

As Don Palmieri of GCAL Laboratories puts it, “the younger generation” is not afraid of the terminology “laboratory-grown” because they were raised with technology. “It’s not a negative to them,” Palmieri says.

Timothy Andre of Emma Parker, a retailer with a showroom near Seattle and a primarily e-commerce customer base, says millennials look at laboratory-grown as a solution. They’re in a tight spot if they want to get engaged and also buy a house, which in Seattle means an investment of at least half a million dollars. “Couples come to us, average age 28 or 30, and maybe finally they have a good job and even though they’re both making $90,000 or even $100,000, they’re staring at a tract house for $675,000. There is no point in paying for a natural diamond in this situation, like none at all.”“I’m super-practical,” he says. “If customers are open to laboratory-grown, we show them a 1-carat lab grown, a 1-carat Amora simulant and a 1-carat natural diamond and we’ll just let them pick.”So, in his world, laboratory-grown and other non-traditional centers make up an average of 35 to 40 percent of sales. When it comes to the value question, Andre is blunt. “I tell them if they’re investing in diamonds at all, they should go in another direction. Diamonds (mined or laboratory-grown) are a terrible investment.”



Retailers who have gone the laboratory-grown route and are able to explain it well to customers say they find little resistance.Jonathan McCoy of McCoy Jeweler in Dubuque, IA, realized the potential four years ago when he picked up half a dozen and they flew out the door. So far this year, 84 percent of center stones sold at McCoy are laboratory-grown. “We discuss the rarity of mined diamonds and lack of history of lab,” McCoy says. “Our whole presentation is offering options and showing stones next to each other.”

Brian Rouse, owner of Bay Area Diamond Co., Green Bay, WI, likes to use the term “above ground” diamonds, believing the term laboratory-grown is a little negative. “We want to have everything in the store that the market has to offer and let the customer decide. They look identical. And so, 90 percent of the time, clients pick the laboratory-grown diamond.”

Richard Bennett, owner of PK Bennett Jewelers in Mundelein, IL, says his first laboratory-grown sale was accidental. A couple came in looking for a diamond upgrade to a 2-carat or larger. “When we talked price, it was going to be hard to meet without going down in quality.” While he was searching, a laboratory-grown diamond dealer dropped in. “I asked him if he had a 2-carat radiant and he did, and it was very close to what these people were looking for and within their budget. The whole laboratory-grown thing, that didn’t matter to them at all. It was the beauty of the stone.”

Joseph Villarreal, owner of Villarreal, Designers of Exquisite Jewelry in Austin, TX, mentions the option of laboratory-grown only “as a last resort.” He doesn’t believe they’ll hold their value and he finds it unsettling that wholesale prices can vary widely. “I love the margin,” he says. “However, when I’m asked about the future value, I simply tell them I do not have a crystal ball.”

This article originally appeared in the September 2018 edition of INSTORE.

Eileen McClelland is the Managing Editor of INSTORE. She believes that every jewelry store has the power of cool within them.



Wilkerson Testimonials

When It’s Time for Something New, Call Wilkerson

Fifty-four years is a long time to stay in one place. So, when Cindy Skatell-Dacus, owner of Skatell’s Custom Jewelers in Greenville, SC decided to move on to life’s next adventure, she called Wilkerson. “I’d seen their ads in the trade magazines for years,’ she says, before hiring them to run her store’s GOB sale. It was such a great experience, Skatell-Dacus says it didn’t even seem like a sale was taking place. Does she have some advice for others thinking of a liquidation or GOB sale? Three words, she says: “Wilkerson. Wilkerson. Wilkerson.”

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THE INSTORE DESIGN AWARDS 2019 – Winners Announced!



Jewelry design is the lifeblood of our industry, and those on its forefront are constantly challenging the status quo, pushing boundaries in creativity and wowing jewelry lovers with their skill and passion. These are the creators we seek to honor with the INSTORE Design Awards.

For 2019, we expanded our categories from eight to 25, allowing designers more freedom to enter the best category for each piece. And we received more than 171 entries as a result. In order to determine the best of the best, we recruited a judges panel composed of nine retailers, all of whose businesses carry multiple designer lines, to vote on their favorite jewelry in a “blind voting” process. We also opened voting to all North American jewelry retailers online at, where more than 9,300 votes were cast to decide the “Retailer’s Choice” winner in each category.

And finally, as we have since our competition began, we recognize one up-and-coming designer who embodies the inventive spirit so long encouraged by our former colleague Cindy Edelstein, who passed away in 2016.

Now, turn the page and see the very best that our industry has to offer. Who knows, maybe you’ll find your next hot-selling line right here in this story!

Best Men’s Jewelry

Best Statement Piece


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3 Simple Ways a “Good-Better-Best” Display Can Make You More Money

The success of these pricing strategies has been proven beyond dispute.




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

Offer 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.


Make 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

Follow 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



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.”


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.”



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.”



“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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