Accentuate the Positive
When it comes to gemstone enhancements and synthetics, our industry is
positively grim. Of course, when television personality Diane Sawyer finds
out her own beautiful ruby necklace is made up of undisclosed synthetics,
it's easy to see why no one is smiling. I kept wondering if Mike Nichols,
her famously funny husband, was still able to smile. Or did some jeweler
reel from his chewing out the day after she revealed on national television
that her necklace was synthetic? Will a wickedly funny movie skewering jewelers
be on director Nichols' short list next year?
I know I appear to be making light of something we all consider to be
very serious. But if we don't laugh, we'll cry. I'd rather laugh and do
something than cry and do nothing.
There are so many factors to think about. First, you have to be vigilant
about the many gemstone treatments, synthetics and imitations, with more
coming every day. We at Professional Jeweler pledge to report on
the latest developments and on efforts to root out the jerks who try to
deceive you. Keep reading, taking courses and learning. A good defense is
better than the ostrich approach.
Next, there is the training issue. In all the television exposés,
there are discouraging examples of clueless sales associates, along with
the intentional deceivers. View training as a learning opportunity; a lot
of today's treatments and synthetics are truly amazing, involving advances
in technology, science and gemology that probably would boggle the mind
of a gemstone pioneer such as Robert Shipley.
You can engage your staff in a fact-finding mission using today's on-line
research capabilities. Get each sales associate to research a treatment
by computer during work hours, then hold weekly meetings to share the results.
I know who has time? Other retail industries don't have so much to
learn, right? Wrong. Think of the fast food industry. Remember when environmentalists
went after McDonald's because of its styrofoam boxes? Your burgers aren't
as hot now, but McDonald's learned. What about the nutritionists? Fast food
chains answered their health concerns with salads, grilling and other innovations.
Every industry has to keep educated and respond to people's concerns.
The most important issue concerning gemstone treatments, however, is
being examined by a new Jewelers of America task force. The industry needs
to ban the negative connotation we've all given treatments. JA Education
Director Bev Hori told me she'd like us all to stop using the loaded word
"disclosure" in favor of a more neutral or positive term. Today's
treatments, when explained honestly, are often fascinating stories that
can be explained as part of a range of choices. Consumers will need some
time to stop viewing treatments and synthetics with suspicion because that's
how we've all viewed them for so long. But treatments and synthetics are
here to stay, especially given consumers' clear interest in quality merchandise
that's also a good value. A beautiful treated gemstone, in the eyes of many
consumers, is better than a lousy untreated one.
by Peggy Jo Donahue
Copyright © 1998 by Bond Communications.