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Creative concepts drive the success of these mavericks

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In the mood to shake up your business? These seven retail risk-takers have gone out on a limb to create unique shopping experiences for clients. From (live!) scorpions in cases and taxidermy on the walls to completely private shopping experiences and virtual custom design, these entrepreneurs have tried all manner of experiments to thrive in today’s retail environment.

 

Integrating Clicks and Bricks

Green Lake Jewelry Works, Seattle and Bellevue, WA

Green Lake Jewelry Works’ entire business model represents a maverick approach. Owner Jim Tuttle has replaced traditional sales staff with artists who consult with clients to create custom engagement rings in store.

That design conversation sometimes begins and often continues online, where shoppers are invited to use a personal design page with a collection of notes, quotes, inspiration ideas and contact information for the designer with whom they worked. They can pick up where they left off the following week or even in the next year.

“None of our designers ever sits down and designs without our website open, so there’s a starting point for clients. We’re very much a bricks-and-clicks operation — they go together intimately,” Tuttle says.

To persuade website visitors to sign up for a design page, they incorporate live chat, reviews, engagement stories and a thorough explanation of the custom process into a digital presentation optimized for mobile display. The next step is to engage the customer through their design blog, staffed by artists. “It’s really that human element that turns these casual inquiries into gorgeous rings,” says Eric Robertson, creative director.

Both locations also employ full-time photographers to shoot finished goods, loose gems, wax models, sketches and stages of work, which can be shown to online and in-store clients.

Green Lake’s online-only business accounts for a third of the company’s total revenue. That category has grown 30 percent in volume over the past four years. Quick video sharing services like Vimeo and Instagram have enabled the Green Lake team to communicate ideas with a richer story than any static product shot could offer. “As a result, we’ve won numerous diamond sales from clients on the other side of the country just by showing the gems on an actual hand and in various lighting environments,” Robertson says.

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A Conversation Piece

GOGO Jewelry, New Orleans, LA

A mounted taxidermy bobcat with a squirrel in its mouth might be the first clue that GOGO Jewelry has its own sense of style. But it’s certainly not the last.

Gogo Borgerding’s store is decorated with paint-by-number masterpieces and tchotchkes of all descriptions, her interior design sense inspired by her grandmother’s passion for garage sales.

But the thing that really sets GOGO Jewelry apart is the fact that the business is built on the captivating nature of Borgerding’s signature jewelry pieces — colorful sterling silver and anodized aluminum cuffs distinctive enough to spark conversations in far-flung locales.

Her career was strongly shaped by her education. At the Savannah College of Art & Design, Gogo’s senior thesis explored conversational jewelry — jewelry that would spark a dialog between people. At the same time, she had created a bold cuff bracelet for herself using a technique she had learned to anodize aluminum.

The cuff immediately began selling itself when observers found it as powerful a motif as she did. “I couldn’t go anywhere without someone making a comment about it,” she says.

Her jewelry secured her a booth at the New Orleans Jazz & Heritage Festival, where she quickly sold out of everything. In 2006, she opened a store in New Orleans with festival earnings.

She makes her jewelry in the back of her quirky retail space on New Orleans’ popular Magazine Street. “I describe it as if you’re walking into my house,” she says. Art from floor to ceiling; toys everywhere, sense of humor prominently displayed.

“I’ve been to a lot of jewelry stores that are sterile and clean, and I can totally understand why people want to have an emphasis on the jewelry, but I wanted to create an atmosphere where you could feel the personality of the person who owns the business,” she says.

“Everything is for sale except my lamps and my taxidermy. The taxidermy adds character and the lamps are actually functional.” Her taxidermy collection started with a deer head given to her by her dad and grew from there, with contributions from friends. “You never know what’s going to walk through those doors,” she says. “People know it’ll have a good home.”

She mentors fledgling jewelry artists, especially those who use offbeat materials, like stainless steel, rubber, nylon, formica and even 3D printing. Each artist’s name is spelled out in Scrabble letters. Prices are displayed on dice. Average prices for artists she represents are $60 to $80, while the sweet spot for her cuffs is about $250.

Word of mouth is key, although her store is listed in a variety of travel books, such as the French language Fodor’s Guide to New Orleans.

Her only concession to marketing is funny and irreverent direct-mail postcards. “I use drag queens or theater friends of mine or something controversial,” she says. “I try to have fun with them and people put them on their refrigerators.”

By Invitation Only

Mayfair Privé, Syosset, NY

To move forward with their fourth-generation jewelry retail business, Lauren Kulchinsky Levison and her family closed their main store in August and reopened three miles away in September.

In the process, they fired customers. And began to cater exclusively to clients.

Gone is their traditional store, replaced by Mayfair Privé, an appointment-only enclave in a 4,000 square-foot former warehouse. New clients are welcome, but only by referral.

“We didn’t see the point of doing business behind a showcase anymore,” Kulchinsky Levison says. “It had to be a new location and a new concept. A client is someone who is not a price shopper, not someone who comes in every five years for a repair. Our die-hard, love-what-we-do, love-what-we’re-about client.”

Mayfair Privé is for them.

The Mayfair team offers private shopping in an upbeat environment. First sales, particularly of engagement rings, are too important to leave to chance and the vagaries of other customers’ moods. “If you sell someone an engagement ring, 99 percent of the time they are going to buy everything from you for the rest of their life,” Kulchinsky Levison says.

The new space has private salons, a piano, a full kitchen, great lighting and the ambience of a high-end spa lounge. At Mayfair Privé, the team will know how you take your coffee, if you drink coffee, or if you prefer champagne. The entire shopping experience is customizable for each client.

The majority of their business has been done by appointment for the past 10 years.

“Most of our clients wanted to shop with the store closed, without their neighbors seeing them shop. And most of my VIP clients came in on days we were closed, so we had to operate around their schedule.” This meant their old store was often closed to the public at odd hours, a source of consternation to their former landlord.

Mayfair Privé offers a tempting alternative to the choice of shopping online at home or venturing out into a potentially unpleasant retail environment. “The second an appointment is made, it’s like a sale,” she says. “People forget that privacy is a type of currency.”

It’s lifted everyone’s mood.

“I only want to be surrounded by happiness,” she says. “My father is 68, and for him, this has been his most incredible experience so far.”

Best of all, it’s working. They’re busier than ever, but now they can plan their days in advance, which makes the operation more efficient.

“Selling under glass is definitely in the past,” Kulchinsky Levison says. “You might as well be behind a computer screen and we know we don’t want that.”

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It’s Part of the Package

Honey Designs Jewelry, Cincinnati, OH

Chelsea Mead helps clients devise creative proposals as part of a package she offers, meeting with them in coffee shops or in her co-working office space.

“My client base is coming to me for that specific reason, a fully catered service,” Mead says. “It’s not for people who want to get the best deal and say, ‘See you later.’”

The package includes proposal coaching and photography along with the engagement ring. Photographers are “willing to sell their kidneys” to capture those proposals because they often lead to wedding work, she says.

About 75 percent of ring recipients are involved in the design process. “The girls are the lowest hanging fruit in my business,” Mead says. “If they are happy about the ring design, it’s like a guaranteed sale. I don’t want to ruin the surprise, but it shouldn’t be a complete surprise at this point in your relationship.”

After a styling appointment with the couple, Mead talks privately about the budget with the groom. “Guys go from being stressed to hugging me when they leave.” She even sets up preliminary design workshops with groups of women expecting to be engaged soon.

Mead helps plan the proposal to make it personal and retain some element of surprise, whether it’s simple or over-the-top. She recommends a lunchtime weekday proposal because it’s unexpected. Flowers are always a part of it. One creative proposal involved a scavenger hunt on the riverfront. “We coach them to avoid cliché situations or places,” she says.

 

The World’s Most Dangerous Jeweler

South Lyon Custom Jewelry and Watch Repair, South Lyon, MI

The best $30 Scott Ward ever spent on advertising was the first time he incorporated live scorpions into his jewelry display cases.

“I did that as a display idea when I first opened,” he says. “I had lost my job and couldn’t find work as a full-time bench jeweler, so I started doing trade work. I opened a little shop. When I got my first showcase, I did a Southwestern display, filled it with sand, went to a pet shop and I remember seeing these huge black scorpions in there.”

The finished display cases looked like a desert tableau. It led to a lot of publicity, including a call from Good Morning America. It also made the store an attraction of sorts. He started calling himself the world’s most dangerous jeweler.

He also has a honey bear named Lucy living in the store, which has a bit of a rainforest theme. Honey bears, also known as kindajous, are rainforest mammals with a lifespan of 23 years in captivity. Ward and his staff are dedicated to keeping her comfortable and well cared for. “Everyone is used to Lucy; they bring her marshmallows and stop by to see her.”

Quirky attractions — along with a focus on custom work — have helped Ward make a name for himself in a small town dominated by big box players and mall stores. Now his son has joined him in the business.

And, yes, he does bring back the scorpions from time to time. With a diet of crickets, they can live for several months.

Employees are trained to hold the scorpions to avoid being stung or pinched. “Stay alert, stay alive; that’s our store motto,” he says.

Custom Confidential

Mint DIAMONDS, HOUston, TX

Jewelry designer Nick Miller specializes in custom engagement rings for guys without much of a clue. Often, all they do know is that they want an awesome ring that won’t blow their budget — and they’d rather shop online.

Miller narrows down what they want with a questionnaire followed by as much handholding as they’d like through the design and manufacture process, usually by phone or Skype. Although he has a showroom in Houston, 90 percent of customers don’t visit, and only about 20 percent are local.

“Usually, they’ll find us through a referral, or social media or marketing,” he says. “I point them in the direction of the questionnaire with basic information, like ‘What shape?’ ‘What budget?’ and a few other questions, and I design the ring for free and show them digital renders usually within three days.”

Then he sends the digital rendering of the ring as well as a quote and a GIA certificate for a diamond he thinks would be a good fit. “Usually,” he says, “they like the first one I design, and about four weeks later, we are delivering the ring.”

Most customers are spending $5,000 to $6,000 and choosing a 1- to 1.2-carat center stone. The rings are made in Houston by a small group of craftsmen. “We’re bringing the best value and design to our customers without the huge overhead,” he says. Average production is five to six rings per week and Miller wants to keep growth manageable. Mint offers a 30-day, no questions-asked refund policy.

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It’s All Under One Roof

The Smithery, Columbus, OH

For years, Columbus jewelry artists Anne Holman and Jen Townsend found themselves wearing too many hats.

Holman had been selling her own jewelry at art festivals for years before opening a store became even a thought. “I was teaching and traveling and doing art shows and changing hats every day,” she says, while Townsend dreamed about giving up her day job in retail management to work full time in jewelry.

When Holman and Townsend, both graduates of the Columbus College of Art and Design, began sharing a studio, they talked about the concept of teaching workshops, selling and making jewelry all under one roof.

After creating a business plan and securing a modest loan, they opened the Smithery in 2014, the only jewelry store in the area that contains workshop space for the public, exhibition space and studios for themselves. Finally, they could hang up those figurative hats in one spot.

While Columbus has a vibrant art community, metalsmithing and art jewelry venues have been few. “We were anxious to bring the field we love to a greater presence in our city,” Townsend says.

Holman and Townsend each have their own line of jewelry and collaborate on a collection as well. They also represent 95 other artists. They’re rearranging the space to allow for temporary exhibitions of edgier, avant-garde collections.

They engage in social media, offer an e-commerce website and enjoy pedestrian traffic. Most important, perhaps, they encourage an interactive experience with their clients, including beginner friendly, project-based workshops that provide all of the tools and materials needed. “They’re often amazed they can make something and have so much pride that they made it with their own hands,” Townsend says. “People now see us as a place to go to experience a fun event with friends and family.”

Children’s workshops have included a make-and-take metal-stamping class for all ages. “A 5-year-old made a bunch of pieces for the whole family,” Townsend says. “You never know when you’re going to make a big impact on someone, a young budding artist who has a first experience working with metal at The Smithery.”

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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America's Coolest Stores

Cool Store Design for Albany Store Based on Consumer Research

Vice-president Gregg Kelly considered aspects from the scent of flowers used outside to handicapped signage.

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Northeastern Fine Jewelry, Albany, NY

OWNER: Raymond Bleser; FOUNDED: 1980; OPENED FEATURED LOCATION: 1998; ARCHITECT: C2 Design Group; LAST RENOVATED: 2017;BUILDOUT COST: $1.3 million; NO. of LOCATIONS: 3; EMPLOYEES: 14;AREA: 5,000 square feet; TOP BRANDS: Cartier, Tacori, Simon G, IWC, Forevermark


WHEN GREGG KELLY told customers he was planning to redo the Albany, NY, location of Northeastern Fine Jewelry, they inevitably asked him, “Why are you spending money on a store that still looks beautiful?”

But Kelly, vice president and son-in-law of owner Raymond Bleser, understands the importance of updating a store’s look and making it as functionally modern and approachable as possible. He invested untold hours studying store design, traffic flow and consumer behavior before embarking on the major remodel he undertook in 2017, which went far beyond a touch up or a new coat of paint.

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In fact, the store was gutted, all while it remained open, with the support of its two sister stores in Schenectady and Glens Falls, NY.

What’s new? A 1,000-square foot addition, the floor plan, the cases, a glass façade, a patio and landscaping. Even the parking lot is new.

“We try to redo the stores every 10 years, and some stuff was falling apart,” Kelly says. “When a customer visits a few times a year, we want to re-engage them and give them a new environment, a new experience.”

The company realized a 15 percent increase in business the first full year following the renovation.

In preparation, Kelly painstakingly considered every detail and collected sources of inspiration from around the world, making it a priority to visit stores when he travels.

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He also reads the Robb Report and other national luxury magazines to stay on top of retail trends. He took a class with neuroscientist Robert Cooper, a New York Times bestselling author and business strategist specializing in consumer behavior. Kelly was particularly interested in what gives people the ability to make good, conscious decisions based on the retail environment itself. “Once you have their attention, it comes down to the associate who guides the decision to purchase.”

To get their attention, Kelly wanted the store to have an open floor plan and optimal traffic flow while balancing the individual requirements of a variety of international shop-in-shop brands with less of a choppy look.

Michael Roman of the C2 Design Group says the overall challenge was to take Kelly’s concept and bring it to life within an existing building.

The sense of openness was achieved by repositioning the entry and shifting it over, which also affected the exterior of the building. The goal inside was to improve traffic flow, so shoppers could feel comfortable, meandering freely without encountering any obstacles. “It’s the experience that’s going to bring you back,” Roman says. The shop-in-shops are tied together with materials and lighting, while accommodating each vendor’s own design criteria.

The glass facade offers a transparency that puts shoppers at ease as they approach. Especially at night, the window reveals the character of the store within, Roman says. And the casual patio setting in front offers a decompression zone between parking lot and shopping experience, easing threshold resistance.

Finishes are sleekly upscale and timeless, rather than trendy.

Kelly also told Roman he wanted a store that looked like it had leaped off the pages of a luxury magazine. Accordingly, finishes are sleekly upscale, but timeless rather than trendy. Decor includes shades of gray and imported European leathers. LED lighting is new, green and efficient. Roman describes the materials used in the interior as the bow on the design package — timeless, clean and relatively simple, designed to complement the design without overshadowing it or being too understated.

Kelly put himself in the shoppers’ shoes when it came to details.

“We changed a lot of different things as we went and I always kept the consumer in mind. Even things like how they experience walking through the parking lot, the pitch of the sidewalk, and the feel they get when they step out of their car,” says Kelly.

“We researched for hours how to get the right thing — from handicapped signs that weren’t run of the mill, to the garbage can, to the outside rugs, to the extension of the awning over the front door to give them enough space for their umbrella, so they’re not getting wet when they get into the store. I studied the music, the rocks we used outside and the flowers we put into the planters to make sure the scent is appealing.”

While all of this was going on, by far the ultimate challenge was that the full-service jewelry store remained open, to the extent that it could, one section at a time, while chaos was kept at bay.

“The biggest challenge was to make our employees comfortable, as well as our customers,” Kelly says. “We sectioned off parts of the building so we didn’t lose too much consistency. Every part was gutted. We did all right, too, and our customers were great to us. They still shopped and stayed loyal. We were able to move things from store to store and still fulfill their needs.”

Ray Bleser, who founded the company, was happy to leave the renovation project to Kelly.

Originally, Bleser had studied to be a pharmacist, planning to follow in his father’s footsteps, but after just one day in that professional role, he knew it wasn’t for him. Instead, he decided to pursue his hobby of collecting and selling rare coins and gold.

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Northeastern Coin Gallery opened in 1980 and quickly expanded in scope, becoming Northeastern Fine Jewelry by 1985. In a twist of fate, the company’s flagship location in Schenectady, NY, occupies the building that once housed the drugstore where Bleser’s father worked.

Bleser has given his son-in-law his seal of approval. “He’s stationed in Schenectady, and every time he comes in, he says this is the nicest store from here to New York City,” Kelly says. “It’s a real modern look that’s attractive to all age groups. You get a New York City feel combined with a hometown experience, and I think that’s hard to accomplish.”

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Five Cool Things About Northeastern Fine Jewelry

1. The Diamond District edge. Northeastern Fine Jewelry has an office in the Diamond District of New York. “We’ve never been one to just order stuff and ship it in. We like to look at things ourselves and have the first pick of diamonds. We’re picky when it comes to buying. And it gives us a nice edge to pick out what we want and pass those savings on to the consumer based on our buying ability,” says Kelly.

2. Training is top of mind. The company sends staff for training provided by its top brands and invests thousands of dollars a year into additional education. The expectation of expertise extends beyond sales to custom design and the repair shop. There’s also a watchmaker on staff.

3. A respect for jewelry history. They plan for an estate sale every year. “We try to keep our roots and the things that made us who we are today. They’re fun, too, because you get to look at things that are older and helped develop the jewelry industry for what it is today,” says Kelly. “And it’s fun to sell one-of-a-kind, rare things and tell the story of how it became what it is.”

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4. Making marketing a priority. “Traditionally, the jewelry industry markets for six weeks leading up to the holidays; we work hard to have a consistent approach to educating the consumer,” Kelly says. “We’re marketing 12 months out of the year.” Marketing is about 30 to 35 percent digital, and the website recently became set up for e-commerce.

5. Promotional savvy. In 2017, Northeastern sponsored a contest to win the opportunity to propose in a live commercial aired during halftime of the Super Bowl on FOX. The winner was featured in People Magazine, the Daily Mail in the UK and the New York Times. They also sponsored a half court shot during a Siena College basketball game; the contestant made the shot and walked away with $25,000, leading to intensive coverage from ESPN.

TRY THIS

When updating your store’s appearance, consider function as well as form and put yourself in your customer’s shoes. Imagine you are the consumer approaching the building. What is the experience like? Is there shelter from rain? Are curbs accessible? Is there space for seating? Can they tell what kind of a store they will be entering? Have you provided a decompression zone between street and store?

 

JUDGES’ COMMENTS

  • Geoffrey Brown: “Very strong positive word-of-mouth going on here. The more personable and authentic you are, the more you stay top-of-mind.”
    Laura Davis: “The exterior is beautiful and the interior is very nice.”
  • David Lampert: “Nice looking store. Clever promotion with the Super Bowl.”
  • Katherine Bodoh: “I like the modern exterior with the large windows and natural light. The interior layout looks beautiful and very upscale.”
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Best of The Best

Tiny Jewel Box and Harry Kotlar Celebrate Partnership with Film and Featured Jewelry Masterpieces

November trunk show highlighted Kotlar’s 70th anniversary.

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WHEN A RELATIONSHIP between a high-profile independent jewelry retailer and an esteemed brand blossoms, it’s only natural to throw a big party.

When Tiny Jewel Box of Washington D.C. and luxury jewelry brand Harry Kotlar first partnered about 10 years ago, they started with a small selection of merchandise. Last November, Tiny Jewel Box debuted the first Harry Kotlar in-store boutique on the East Coast, which includes a full collection of rings, earrings, bracelets and pendants, all handmade and hand-forged.

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The ensuing celebration also marked the 70th anniversary of Harry Kotlar. “The opening of the Harry Kotlar boutique inside Tiny Jewel Box represents a confluence of those two histories. It’s also tangible proof of our shared commitment to excellence and luxury,” says David Wiener, Harry Kotlar’s president and head designer.

Matthew Rosenheim, president of Tiny Jewel Box, says the event celebrated the union of the two family-run companies. The guest list included Kotlar collectors, jewelry enthusiasts, influencers and editors.

The focus was on the anniversary collection of seven curated jewelry masterpieces. Each piece references popular design hallmarks that are nonetheless timeless. “We picked out seven pieces — some vintage, some re-created, representing seven decades of our brand’s existence,” says Czarah Cabrera, Harry Kotlar’s marketing director.

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Each piece was featured within the pages of a coffee table book as well as in a short film, which also made their debut at the boutique opening. The book and two-minute film gave the audience a first-hand look into the evolution of Harry Kotlar’s design philosophy and dedication to the craft.

Cabrera says curating the seven pieces to be included was no easy feat. “As far as research goes, I was banging my head, looking at all of our mood boards and vision boards of every decade, including the mod ‘60s, psychedelic ‘70s and punk-style ‘80s, but we couldn’t be too literal because Harry Kotlar is more on the classic and sophisticated side.” She tied together the themes by using models wearing the little black dress, which changes in structure but is always classic and sophisticated. The staff wore little black dresses as well for the event, and influencers in jewelry, fashion and style in DC and New York were also invited to wear the LBD.

Each piece was displayed in a museum-like vignette with an audio guide. Eighteen of Harry Kotlar’s collections were also displayed in a museum-like environment. Guests had the opportunity, too, to sit down with a Harry Kotlar illustrator to create their own Harry

Kotlar pieces, making the event even more personal.

Rosenheim says great relationships between special brands and retail jewelers are built on clear communication, defining and aligning goals and expectations, collaborating on which merchandise will sell best in the specific market, and providing education and training on the brand and products so that the sales team can be passionate brand ambassadors and storytellers. Events support the sales team in their efforts to forge great personal relationships with their customers as well.

Cabrera says an event like this is all about experience and theatrics. And it does drive sales. Some guests bought pieces or put in special orders. “We also were able to prime our customers with gift ideas for the upcoming holidays,” Rosenheim says. “We had a great turnout of our top customers and media partners. The event had a positive and energetic vibe.”

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Tiny Jewel Box must walk a fine line between having too many and two few events as part of its marketing program, Rosenheim says. “In Washington DC, just like in other major metropolitan areas, people are time-deprived,” Rosenheim says. “Fortunately, our customers are loyal and they love coming to our events because they know it will be something special.”

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Best of The Best

Retailers Team with Roger Dery to Help Educate East Africans

The program is called Gemstone Adventure Travel.

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SINCE 2010, GEM CUTTER Roger Dery has led jewelry retailers on dozens of trips to East Africa to visit mines, lapidary schools and orphanages through a program called Gemstone Adventure Travel.

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Amid the adventures, education and elephant spotting, retailers couldn’t help but notice that Dery, president of Roger Dery Gem Design, tried to help everyone he encountered, whether by delivering food or water, tipping drivers or bringing resources and education to gem-cutting areas. Says David McConnell of the King’s Jewelers in Walnut Creek, CA: “One of the things that struck me the most was that he always strove to leave almost every individual that he interacted with better than when he started. He really cares.”

Alumni of Gemstone Adventure Travel say going to the source has benefited their businesses by adding transparency to their gemstone sales and by demonstrating a social consciousness that is valued by today’s consumers.

Dery was featured in Sharing the Rough, a 2014 documentary about the journey of gems from mine to market, directed by filmmaker and jeweler Orin Mazzoni. Dery’s myriad retail fans have hosted viewings of the film to educate their customers while enhancing their colored-stone business.

McConnell says his experience in East Africa adds to his credibility and confidence when he’s selling gemstones in his store. He has a positive first-person story to tell about where gems come from — mine to market — and how they can change people’s lives. His store’s most popular event is a gemstone roundtable with Dery.

“How many jewelers can say they’ve been to the mines in East Africa and bought gems from the miners?” McConnell says. “The good I saw being done with schools built for miners’ kids is phenomenal and encouraging. It helps me address concerns when people come into the stores with questions about child miners. Governments are beginning to step in to make sure mines are built correctly so they are safe. Having photos and videos in the store from my trips gives me a level of transparency that most stores can never have.”

Christina Clover-Field of Field’s Jewelers in Redding, CA, says her experience in East Africa motivated her, deepened her understanding of gemstones and made her work more meaningful than she had imagined it could be when she left her position as a hospice nurse to join the family jewelry business. And Chrysa Cohen of Continental Jewelers in Wilmington, DE, donates a percentage of gem sales to Esther, a miner’s widow who took over the business to support her family.

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In August 2018, encouraged by a group led by Clover-Field, the Derys launched Gem Legacy, a 501c3 nonprofit organization dedicated to education, vocational training and local economies in East African mining communities. A Gem Legacy breakfast and panel discussion is scheduled 8:30 to 10 a.m., Feb. 8, at the J.W. Marriott Starr Pass Resort in Tucson, AZ, during the JCK Tucson show.

Roger says he is humbled by the support he has received for what had been an informal, personal project. “Only in retrospect can we say that we were showing them how a small amount of money can make a big difference in people’s lives. We have met thousands of people in East Africa’s remote villages and bush mines where gems have had a remarkable influence on their lives.”

For more information, email info@gemlegacy.org or visit gemlegacy.org.

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