Instant Disclosure

August 1998

Gemstones & Pearls:News

Instant Disclosure

Northwest retailer discusses treatment with customers in a positive manner

With help from technology, a noted educator and a national association, Ben Bridge Jewelers is taking a leading role in navigating the treated gemstone disclosure minefield.

"The cornerstone is education," says Scott Sedlacek, vice president and merchandise manager of the Seattle-based chain. Education begins at the sales counter. The company's computer gurus developed pop-up screens that, once employees type in a key word, give specific "disclosure language" to use with customers.

Information about that piece of jewelry's enhancement properties is also printed on the sales slip, which customers are asked to initial. "That's added confirmation the disclosure happened and that the customer heard it," he says.

Customer reaction is generally positive, he says, because the disclosure is handled in a positive way. "The only exception occurs when customers tell us they haven't been told about these things anywhere else," he says. "But we're taking the attitude that there's nothing to be afraid of."

Sales associates at all Ben Bridge stores also study the American Gem Trade Association's new Gemstone Enhancement brochure, which explains how to make customers feel comfortable about gem enhancements.

In addition, sales associates attend seminars conducted by Orley Solomon, the company's education director and winner of the 1998 American Gem Society Shipley Award for contributions to the jewelry industry.

Ben Bridge also looks at the supply chain to eliminate weak links. The company now buys colored gems only from vendors that belong to AGTA, which requires members to disclose gem enhancements on all memorandums or sales receipts.

– by Robert Weldon, G.G.

 The Basics

Take Ben Bridge Jewelers' lead and start a disclosure program of your own. This list will get you started:

  • Education is the foundation. Have at least one gem-savvy, full-time employee available to handle colored gemstone sales and teach seminars for other sales associates. Subscribe to scholarly and informative journals. Establish an in-store reading and video library.
  • Demand information. Enhancement information and education is available from the American Gem Trade Association (214-742-4367), Gemological Institute of America (760-603-4000), Jewelers of America (212-768-8777), American Gem Society (702-255-6500) and other industry groups.
  • Demand excellence from suppliers. Be sure your suppliers adhere to a code of ethics and disclose any enhancement in writing. Be sure they'll take back a gem that doesn't meet your standards and replace it with one that does.
  • Establish a policy and procedure. Make sure your policies and procedures are in writing, no matter how small your store, and familiarize your employees with them. Decide in advance how to handle disclosure challenges.
  • Let the computer do it. There will never be a substitute for the human mind and warmth, but make it easy on yourself! Have a computer expert design an information system for your computer and cash register that provides disclosure information and prints it on sales slips.
  • Handle enhancement in a positive way. Don't discredit natural, unenhanced gems – they will always be desirable. But enhanced gems are interesting too. Relate gem enhancements in a simple and straightforward manner. Remind customers of the cost benefits, availability and beauty of enhanced stones.

Copyright © 1998 by Bond Communications.


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