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Buzz Session

What Would You Do with an Extra $20K? Here’s What the Brain Squad Says

Jewelers share their plans to spend a small windfall.

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Diamond jewelry 75 percent, and special unique color jewelry 25 percent. Karin Volz, Kloiber Jewelers, Milwaukee, WI

  • Best investment of all would be about four stainless steel Submariner gents watches … right away. — Teddie Gause, Gause and Son Jewelers, Ocala, FL
  • Gorgeous colored gems for a few super pieces I’d make. Best investment ever. — Klaus Kutter, A Jour Inc, Bristol, RI
  • Ohhhhhhhh! One nice big diamond ring (complete). — Natasha Henderson, Saxon’s Fine Jewelers, Bend, OR
  • I’d consider adding in lab-grown diamonds. I’m not quite on the bandwagon yet. (Yes, I’m just dragging my feet … that’s the way I roll.) — Erika Godfrey, Hawthorne Jewelry. Kearney, NE
  • Jewelry items with low- to mid-range price points like Shy Creation produces. Gold and diamond layered necklaces and fun rings that the younger groups tend to purchase. — Scott Kelly, Jems Jewels & Gold, North Wales, PA
  • I would increase our diamond fashion and our loose diamond inventory. I love the feeling of having more options to show customers, and these are areas I always feel that we never have enough of! — Erica Lorenz, Michael & Sons, Reno, NV
  • Two statement diamond necklaces with half, and bread-and-butter engagement rings that retail under $1,999 with half. — Shahraz Kassam, Shamin Jewellers, Burnaby, BC
  • I would buy each of my staff something personal for them to wear and show off, and then have a display of items that can be ordered. — Kristin Cornwell, Cornwell Jewelers, Athens, OH
  • William Henry knives and jewelry. I think men’s jewelry is a category that will grow this year. — Rick Sanders, Sanders Jewelers, Gainesville, FL
  • Simple diamond rings. I just impulse bought a $10,000 1-carat OEC diamond and ruby ring and sold it in a week. It was estate. — Calla Gold, Calla Gold Jewelry, Santa Barbara, CA
  • We would purchase a few more large oval cut diamonds. Unfortunately, the $20,000 wouldn’t go too far in this category! — Shari Altman, B&E Jewelers & Gemologists, Southampton, PA
  • Dainty yellow gold and rose gold jewelry, unique rough-cut diamond jewelry, loose gemstones. — Cathy Miller, Caleesi Designs Jewelers, Austin, TX
  • Diamond anniversary rings: someone out there is always having an anniversary, they can go up against a lot of engagement rings, and with stackables being so hot, you can wear them with anything and anytime! — Paul Krueger, Krueger Jeweler, Fort Atkinson, WI
  • Investment in inventory would mean paying off bills for inventory. — Bob Goodman, Robert Goodman Jewelers, Zionsville, IN
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  • I would spend half on something trendy that I wouldn’t normally carry. The other half would be for basics or save it for new displays, etc. — Sue Parker, Nyman Jewelers, Excanaba, MI
  • As an online seller who specializes in made to order moissanite engagement rings, I’d stock up on loose stones, elongated cushions, crushed ice ovals and the like. — Jen Hollywood, J Hollywood Designs, Chester Springs, PA
  • Chain, earrings, bracelets and necklaces in gold. With the lower labor factor involved and plenty of styles to choose from, they are always good sellers with not much risk. — Alex Weil, Martin’s Jewelry, Torrance, CA
  • The lab-grown diamond engagement rings and earrings set up in a separate display would fill the need to attract the younger clients. — Ed Menk, E. L. Menk Jewelers, Brainerd, MN
  • I would order materials to make some very cool designs, maybe enter some design competitions. — Mark Thomas Ruby, SunSpirit Designs, Loveland, CO
  • Loose diamonds 100 percent. Specifically 0.85-1.20 carat diamonds. All round! — Mark Snyder, Snyder Jewelers, Weymouth, MA

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

Over the years, INSTORE has won 76 international journalism awards for its publication and website. Contact INSTORE's editors at editor@instoremag.com.

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Buzz Session

How Useful Are Trade Shows? Our Brain Squad Sounds Off (And Provides Suggestions)

Most think there are too many shows these days.

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I am a self-proclaimed show hog. I love shows. Peers are there, information on trends and always a good buy is to be had. Seeing new designs and listening to what others are experiencing in their stores. Seminars will also inspire you to take what you learned back to your store. Energizes you and you can share that energy with your staff. — Amber Gustafson, Amber’s Designs Fine Jewelry, Katy, TX

  • The speakers at JCK have really gone downhill. The educational events aren’t what they used to be at all. No Porte, Decker, Huisken, Geller, etc. Just little techy people that mean nothing. — Steve Hawkins, Sanchez Hawkins Fine Jewelers, Lake Havasu City, AZ
  • It seems that you no longer have to be a member of the trade to attend some shows. I find that very frustrating. So when I attend shows, it is for networking and workshops more than purchasing. I will quickly check out the vendors, but usually don’t place any orders while I’m there. — Doreen Vashlishan, Werkheiser Jewelers, Bethlehem, PA
  • I read your magazine, that’s my trade show. I work six and half days a week. — Barry Fixler, Barry’s Estate Jewelry, Bardonia, NY
  • Build shows around the “must-see” brands that are too complex and sizable for a sales manager to bring to a store. Or, big brands can band together and fly clients to them. — Steven B. Goldfarb, Alvin Goldfarb Jeweler, Bellevue, WA
  • It’s not about inventory anymore; we can see that online anytime. It’s about connections and education. Shift the focus of the shows to that. — Robert Mullen, Mullen Bros. Jewelers, Swanswa, MA
  • Trade shows are too expensive not only for vendors, but to attend. Vegas/vacation is the “dope” show for the larger stores. Smaller “group buying shows” are better for smaller stores. — Larry W. Hall, Baker & Baker Jewelers, Marietta, OH
  • Somewhat useful in regards to new merchandise … always beneficial when using the time to re-focus! — Thomas Piotrowski, Delta Diamond Setters & Jewelers, Plymouth, MI
  • The shows (if they are to survive) need more event status. Where is the value? What is the compelling reason to be at your show as a seller or a buyer? Does your show provide a good answer to the question what’s NEW? Or what’s HOT? — Alan Lindsay, Henry’s, Cape May, NJ
  • Shows are useful but expensive and overwhelming. Please treat us well, spoil us a little. And have a show in an interesting place; we don’t like Vegas! — Meg Rankin, J. Rankin Jewellers, Edmonds, WA
  • I attend the JCK Vegas show to see new designers and styles as well as our vendors. It is necessary to attend shows since many vendors do not support salesmen on the road. The “road” is just too dangerous today! — Laura Sipe, JC Sipe, Indianapolis, IN
  • Many years ago, I would attend four trade shows per year. Today, I only attend one per year. There are too many trade shows. If the number of retailers and wholesalers are declining, shouldn’t trade shows? In my opinion, the fewer the trade shows, the better. — Tommy Navarra, Navarra’s, Lake Charles, LA
  • I love trade shows. It gives us a chance to see what new things our suppliers are doing as well as there are usually plenty of educational opportunities. What I find the most valuable with trade shows are the limitless opportunities to network with other jewelers and learn what they are doing to improve their businesses. — Eric Stevens, Stevens Diamond Jewelers, West Springfield, MA
  • There are too many shows. Maybe there are too many jewelry manufacturers, LOL! I’m always amazed at how much all the jewelry looks alike in Vegas. Anyway, 36 years ago when I entered this business, it felt like the shows were “a service to” and “of service to” the retail trade. Now it just feels like show owners are trying to make money off of their exhibitors by running more shows, charging more for booths, etc. and the exhibitors feel compelled to participate. Advice? Ugh. — Valerie Naifeh, Naifeh Fine Jewelry, Oklahoma City, OK
  • Make the shows reasonable to attend. Four dollars for a bottle of water, pay to park at the show and crazy onsite food costs are part of the poor experience. I now attend smaller IJO shows and get more done. In addition, the exhibitors are so stressed that they forget that at the B2B level, it is still about relationships. — David Blitt, Troy Shoppe Jewellers, Calgary, AB
  • Very useful! Could not be in business without them. Besides talking to my vendors and seeing what’s new, I also check out the machines, the new materials, head to the educational sessions, see my friends, and talk to people who have more experience than me in how to try new things and what I should be doing differently. Since I am not on either coast, the shows are my way to stay up on anything and everything in the jewelry business and I would be stagnant without them. — Susan Eisen, Susan Eisen Fine Jewelry & Watches, El Paso, TX
  • Trade shows are great to find new product and make new contacts. The problem with decreased attendance may have more to do with there being so many available now. — Ben Brantley, Ben Brantley & Co., Shelbyville, TN
  • While I believe in trade shows, it is getting more and more costly to both display and attend. Also, not sure if this has anything to do with it, but, I think these shows are too big. As a result, they can be overwhelming. — Joseph Villarreal, Villarreal Fine Jewelers, Austin, TX

What’s the Brain Squad?

If you’re the owner or top manager of a U.S. jewelry store, you’re invited to join the INSTORE Brain Squad. By taking one five-minute quiz a month, you can get a free t-shirt, be featured prominently in this magazine, and make your voice heard on key issues affecting the jewelry industry. Good deal, right? Sign up here.

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Buzz Session

How Weather Affects Jewelry Stores (Hint: Snow Brings Seniors with Watch Batteries)

Our Brain Squad divulges how weather affects jewelry shopping in their markets.

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Heavy storms keep customers at home but also get them rushing over before and after. Sometimes the heavy rain helps us because we know that the people who make the trip out are serious about purchasing. They also get our undivided attention. — Betsy Barron, Love & Luxe, San Francisco, CA

  • If there is a big snow, I can almost promise we will be dead for the majority of the day except for that “one guy” who always has the “Big Truck” and decides today is the day he’s buying “the ring.” As if he is a Spartan heading into battle, he has waited for the worst possible day to drive, but today is the day, and he will be “the man” and rise up to the occasion and battle the weather and prove his love to her by buying her “the ring.” — Travis Piper, Piper Diamond Co., Vincennes, IN
  • Bad weather brings out old people with canes and walkers. — Jim Greenfield, Spritz Jewelers, Champaign, IL
  • Anything falling from the sky is a business downer. If I use the windshield wipers on the way to the shop, it means I will get to spend the day at the workbench and get a lot accomplished. If it is very cold, it means I will have an influx of senior ladies who know it is a warm place to hangout, and if it is a fine spring day, the traffic will be brisk, people will see me outside working on the plantings around the shop and stop, usually with a sale as a result. — James Doggett, Doggett Jewelry, Kingston, NH
  • I don’t think it matters at all. I remember when I started here 40-plus years ago, my uncle and dad would use weather as an excuse for bad business. If it was sunny, people were out working on their yards or at the beach; if it was crappy, who wanted to come out in the rain or snow? If someone needs to pick up their wedding bands or anniversary gift, they are coming regardless of weather. — Eric Ohanian, Leon Ohanian & Sons, Boston, MA
  • We had 1.7 inches of snow from Dec. 1 to Jan. 18, then we got 18-plus inches in nine days, followed by 54 hours of polar vortex. We were supposed to work the vortex, my husband even put a new battery in the truck, but when he let the dogs out that morning, he came back in and said, “No way!” Most folks that can, leave Wisconsin from January to April. The diehards that stay here are not intimidated by weather. We even had folks point out that we were closed during the vortex! — Jo Goralski, The Jewelry Mechanic, Oconomowoc, WI
  • We call rainy days “diamond days.” We tend to be a little slower when the weather is nice and busier when the weather is not so nice. — Joel Wiland, J. David’s Jewelry, Broken Arrow, OK
  • Rainy days seem to lose us customers … and so do really hot days. — Wadeana Beveridge, Community Jewelry, Brandon, FL
  • After the dreary days of winter, our female customers come out when the sun begins to shine to make self-purchases. — Kristin Cornwell, Cornwell Jewelers, Athens, OH
  • Snow on the way? The sky must be falling because we can see a constant stream of people rushing into the grocery store next door. After the threat of bad weather, people are ready to shop again and we are always busy! — Teri Vogan, Vogan Gold & Silver Works, Colorado Springs, CO
  • Suddenly we had days of way-below zero temps. We had to close a couple of times, and then snowstorms! Hasn’t happened like this in a long time. It affected our sales from January into February! Tough to sell, but thanks to Facebook and Podium, we communicated with customers and made sales happen. — Julee Johnson, Julee’s Jewelry, Mankato, MN
  • Can’t figure weather’s effect on our customers. Some days when I figure, “No one is going out in this $%#@,” they show up. I have no handle on this one. — Cliff Yankovich, Chimera Design, Lowell, MI
  • If the sun is out in the winter, customers come in. I still have customers when the weather is not so good. Ice keeps them away. — Laura Pool, Laura’s Jewelry Designs, St. Robert, MO
  • The snow kills business here. As soon as a storm is announced, everyone goes out to the supermarket — you know people MUST stock up on food and provisions lest they be stuck inside for a day. — Marc Altman, B & E Jewelers, Southampton, PA
  • In the Pennsylvania area, snow means grocery, sunshine means outdoor planting, heat means pool, rain means we’re usually busy with repairs. — Judy Stanley, Skippack Jewelers, Harleysville, PA
  • The most beautiful Florida days usually bring shoppers to more pleasurable pursuits than visiting their jeweler. Me too; I’d rather be at a beach, river, etc. — Robert Young, Robert Young Jeweler Extraordinaire, Belleair Bluffs, FL
  • Snow makes people disappear, except when it’s close to Christmas. A few flakes are fine, but any chance it will accumulate, people turn into bears and hibernate until it’s over. — Gregory Fliegauf, Fliegauf Jewelers, Washington, NJ
  • Snow in December (or even November) definitely gets people thinking about the holidays and wanting to start their Christmas shopping … though if we’ve seen a big snowfall, it usually dampens business because clients head to the mountains to ski! Actually, good weather often has an inverse relationship with our business: it seems counter-intuitive, but because we’re such an active and outdoor community, when it’s really nice outside, our clients go hiking, fishing, camping, skiing, biking or boating. That’s why most live here! — Jennifer Hornik Johnson, Miller’s Jewelry, Bozeman, MT

What’s the Brain Squad?

If you’re the owner or top manager of a U.S. jewelry store, you’re invited to join the INSTORE Brain Squad. By taking one five-minute quiz a month, you can get a free t-shirt, be featured prominently in this magazine, and make your voice heard on key issues affecting the jewelry industry. Good deal, right? Sign up here.

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Buzz Session

Are Some Diamonds Still Overgraded? Here’s What Retailers Say

Our Brain Squad sounds off on diamond grading.

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We have consistently found that EGLUS NY’s grading is equal to GIA Carlsbad. I’ve submitted the same high grade diamonds to both institutions and the EGLUS grade has been more conservative on color and clarity, so I’ve seen them reach a parity on reliability (and the color grading is within ranges of my three colorimeters, Austron, Gran, and Sarin Colibri). However, there are of reports from other labs that are not graded to the same standards, and it is an issue. — Rex Solomon, Houston Jewelry, Houston, TX

  • No, every jeweler should base their grading scale on GIA. Theirs is the standard, and will be. Overgrading will still happen unless you’re a graduate gemologist or a GIA diamonds graduate. — Bruce Goodheart, Burnells Creative Gold, Wichita, KS
  • I think that the grading system is out of whack. Yet prices continue to rise, whether the diamonds are GIA or EGL. — Mary Jo Chanski, Hannoush Jewelers, Rutland, VT
  • I believe overgrading will always be a problem as long as the grading is done by human beings. I also believe that grading companies give the big diamond companies preferential treatment when they give them hundreds of diamonds at a time to grade for them! I took the GIA diamond grading course in 1980, and the guidelines we learned then are not the same as they grade now! — Frank Salinardi, Linardi’s Jewelers, Plantation, FL
  • It still exists as now people are trying to sell diamonds with insanely unrealistic appraisals. Have had several folks come in with appraisals from 10-plus years ago that say VVS1 when they should say I3… — James Doggett, Doggett Jewelry, Kingston, NH
  • We never had any direct blowback. However, we did stop promoting EGL lab reports. The disparity between GIA and EGL reports may have narrowed as a result of the negative publicity. The thought that the EGL is a “red-headed step-child” continues professionally, I believe. — J. Dennis Petimezas, Watchmakers Diamonds & Jewelry, Johnstown, PA
  • No, I think it’s been mostly solved. — Cathy McMurray, The Hunt House, Huntsville, ON
  • Good question. We sometimes see overgraded diamonds, but can stand by our GIA certified gemologist when a customer contests an appraisal. — Chay Rees Runnels, Rees Jewelry, Nacogdoches, TX
  • This isn’t Staples. I sell diamonds, not paper. — Casey Gallant, Stephen Gallant Jewelers, Orleans, MA
  • We feel it has not been properly addressed. You need to check them all, not relying only on the grading reports. I suppose you can only do that if you are familiar with diamond grading, though. — Meg Rankin, J. Rankin Jewellers, Edmonds, WA
  • It affects us when we have to update an older, wildly over-priced appraisal and then explain why their piece is actually “worth less” on the new paperwork. — Loann Stokes, Stokes Jewelry, Stillwater, MN
  • It seems to have been corrected for the most point. We still look to see what country the reports are coming from. There are still some areas that do not stick to the tight guidelines to insure correct grading. We examine all the diamonds we buy first and if we do not agree with the report, we do not show or buy the diamond. — Scott Kelly, Jems Jewels & Gold, North Wales, PA
  • What problem? — Craig C. Curtis, Belfast Jewelry, Belfast, ME
  • It’s still quite subjective, but the spread has become a bit tighter. We tend to stick to GIA, occasionally EGL. With the growth of our lab-grown diamond sales, this may become an a moot point. We are approaching 50 percent of our engagement sales as lab-grown. We don’t advertise this; it’s what the customer is requesting. — Mark Kasuba, M. Edward Jewelers, Pittsfield, MA
  • It will always be a problem; how you handle it will be what sets the tone for your store. There is still a lot of misinformation out there on grading and appraisals, and quite frankly, we all value things differently. Some of us prefer the best of the best, some of us prefer the middle of the road, which gives a balance of size, price, rarity, etc., and some of us prefer the biggest for our buck. We are salespeople. We are going to heavily weight what we value at the end of the day. That is what will steer the ship, and if you listen to the customer, you will meet their needs all while getting your two cents in! — Natasha Henderson, Saxon’s Fine Jewelers, Bend, OR
  • Yes, the long shadow of overrated EGL reports remains a stormy bone of contention in my business every day. Customers come in to sell diamonds that are overrated and overgraded with EGL reports. I have to show, a.k.a. prove to them by comparing master sets next to their stones, that they are not what the reports say. Unfortunately, delivering that kind of truth speech creates an uncomfortable tension in the room, but it is my duty as an honorable independent jeweler to explain to the customer why I cannot give them the value they think their stone is worth, even though they have an EGL certificate! The win here is often gaining the trust and respect of a new customer and creating a new design for the “charity stone.” There’s always something good in every unfortunate situation, you just have to stay positive, be very creative and help your customers find it! Then it is a win-win for everyone. — Denise Oros, Linnea Jewelers, La Grange, IL
  • We did not receive any problems at all. — Alex Weil, Martin’s Jewelry, Torrance, CA
  • Overgrading is rampant. It has become a game, and the online sellers are winning because of it, hands down. Even GIA certificates show crazy variations, but give a seller a chance to overgrade for extra profit, with no repercussions and little to no conscience, and the problem has exploded. Along with our suppliers selling online, the overgrading issue is resulting in the demise of brick-and-mortar stores. — David Blitt, Troy Shoppe Jewellers, Calgary, AB
  • No, not solved. It will always be an issue when “opinion” is how things are graded, just like figure skating. It’s getting better, but is still an issue. — Stacey Gelmici-Saunders, Gelmici Jewellers, Edson, AB
  • I was very outspoken in applauding Rap for taking that step. There is no shortage of overgraded diamonds in the marketplace. It has never affected me as a jewelry retailer because I am a trained gemologist and have taken ongoing coursework and diamonds for the better part of 30 years. It is our responsibility as jewelers to know how to grade a diamond, to know how to plot a diamond, and to make not only our customers but the public at large aware of diamond grading benchmarks and pitfalls. Given that the Internet educates people all about diamonds before these people even walk into our stores, any retailer who can’t see through an overblown cert and who doesn’t point out the pros and cons of said cert when presenting the diamonds doesn’t deserve to be in the business. — Andrea Riso, Talisman Collection, El Dorado Hills, CA
  • After 38 years in the industry, I do not think it has gotten better. Even with GIA, I think there is less consistency than it should be. I’ve had in my opinion SI2s graded I1s and I1s graded SI2s through GIA. Have even had yellow stones graded H and above on both GIA and EGL. I always tell my customers what I truly believe a stone should be, whether that’s what the cert says or not. — Newton Starnes, Newtons Fine Jewelry, Flowood, MS

What’s the Brain Squad?

If you’re the owner or top manager of a U.S. jewelry store, you’re invited to join the INSTORE Brain Squad. By taking one five-minute quiz a month, you can get a free t-shirt, be featured prominently in this magazine, and make your voice heard on key issues affecting the jewelry industry. Good deal, right? Sign up here.

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