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Bottling Philanthropy

Stephen Silver draws on relationships to raise $300,000 for cancer research.

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Jared Silver and Amy Dornbusch

Jared Silver and Amy Dornbusch

AS JARED SILVER, CEO of Stephen Silver Fine Jewelry, and Amy Dornbusch of Gemstone Vineyard watched an online auction, they were thrilled to see that bidding became frenzied for a special bottle of wine they’d designed.

Stephen Silver Fine Jewelry, based in Silicon Valley, CA, and Napa Valley vintner Gemstone Vineyard had collaborated to design a bottle of wine encrusted with rubies for a digital auction during the V Foundation Virtual Wine Celebration to benefit cancer research. The Ruby Barrel Selection 3-liter jeroboam bottle of cabernet sauvignton was bottled by winemaker Thomas River Brown and named for Dornbusch’s daughter, Ruby.

Silver and Dornbusch, watching the virtual auction at her home with other board members and a small group of friends, decided on the spot they would produce three more identical bottles for the competing bidders. Each of the four wine and jewelry packages sold for $75,000. Their efforts in August raised $300,000 toward the total haul of $3.6 million to benefit cancer research.

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“The auction results certainly exceeded our expectations,” says Silver. “It warms my heart to know that these magnificent bottles will be on display in four of the most prominent wine cellars in the world and that we raised $300,000, ensuring vital funds continue to go to cancer research.”

The cabernet sauvignon was to be poured into each bottle, etched, waxed, expertly set with rubies hand-selected by Jared Silver and presented to each winning bidder in a custom jewelry box. Each winner would also receive a private dinner for six and an opportunity to use the rubies later in a custom piece of jewelry designed by Stephen Silver.

Silver, son of company founder Stephen Silver, says the collaboration with Gemstone Vineyard and the V Foundation resonated with the media locally, nationally, and even abroad, with high-profile coverage by the likes of Modern Luxury San Francisco, Forbes, Robb Report and Business Insider.

“The collective potential reach of those stories is in the billions, and the media value is in the tens of thousands,” he says. “I think this speaks to how the story resonates across different sectors, from local publications to lifestyle, luxury, and business audiences.”

The rubies encrusted on this bottle of wine can be removed to create custom jewelry.

The rubies encrusted on this bottle of wine can be removed to create custom jewelry.

Creating a philanthropic approach to marketing is all about relationships, he says. “Organizations that offer community involvement are easy to find,” he says. “The trick is to package your relationship with that organization in a way that people will remember and that will reflect well on your company.”

Philanthropy has its own rewards as well.

“Let’s also not forget that philanthropy in its various forms is also important, satisfying work,” he says. “Would you rather give your precious marketing dollars to a corporation, or to an organization where it can do some social good? I think you need both.”

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Silver says the vineyard collaboration and the ruby-encrusted bottle make for a fascinating story in their own right, but coupled with the charitable component and virtual auction, the message is even more powerful.

“Our philanthropic partnerships have always been a major cornerstone of our business, and from the start, our goal was that any pre-event coverage would support and drive interest in the virtual auction bottle lot,” he says. “We were so proud that through our collective efforts, demand surged, we were able to quadruple the auction lots, and Gemstone Vineyard and Stephen Silver Fine Jewelry were able to raise $300,000 to support cancer research through the V Foundation.”

Q&A with Jared Silver

Q. How important is community involvement? And why should independent jewelers forge community partnerships? And, if they haven’t done so yet, what would be some simple steps to begin getting more involved, especially now when so many relationships are virtual?

Every jewelry business is a little different, but across the board, the most important asset any independent jeweler possesses is their long-term relationships. It is the reason successful brands continue to do business in the sector. These relationships must be maintained not only on an individual basis, but on the community level as well, where it is essential to reinforce the products we sell with positive emotional content. One only needs to look at the news to see how easily our industry can slip into being perceived as excess.

Let’s also not forget that philanthropy in its various forms is also important, satisfying work. Would you rather give your precious marketing dollars to a corporation, or to an organization where it can do some social good? I think you need both.

Organizations that offer community involvement are easy to find. The trick is to package your relationship with that organization in a way that people will remember and that will reflect well on your company.

Q. How has the pandemic changed Stephen Silver’s approach to marketing, branding & community partnerships?

Stephen Silver Fine Jewelry has always been a high touch, engaging environment for our clients, and naturally the pandemic has curtailed many of the social events where our clients traditionally discovered new and exciting items. Like everyone else, we are refining and strengthening our digital marketing efforts, however we find that the business, more so than ever, revolves around our client relationships. We will use every means possible to make these people feel special, and they respond, not only with interest in what we have to show them, but with care for how we are coping with the situation. I think many jewelers in the country will agree that jewelry and watches have proven a welcome distraction for a great many people. We have found success in providing a private, safe environment for client meetings, including one of the only private outdoor meeting spaces for jewelry and watches in California.

Q. What branding initiatives has Stephen Silver planned for holidays 2020?

Like most jewelry business this year, the vast bulk of our communication will be digital. We produce the bulk of the content for a consistent and specific look and feel, and will be emphasizing the rarity and lasting value of our pieces, themes that seem to especially resonate today.

I expect, however, that by far the most effective communication we will execute will continue to be the calls between our people and their clients. Showing that we’ve remembered them, their tastes and interests, and have reserved something that is not easy to get, continues to be the most compelling message of all.

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

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