Cut & Color
Promoting uniquely designed colored gemstone jewelry is a slam dunk
for jewelers who follow a few simple guidelines
Trade magazines are filled with dazzling photos of well-cut colored gemstones.
The trade shows you attend provide tantalizing choices when it's time to
buy. What's more, jewelry designers in-store and in the field are outdoing
themselves with inspired designs in color.
Without question, it's a great time for jewelers to be in the business
of buying colored gemstones, especially when you can create or commission
unique settings for them.
Nevertheless, there's still that last 12 inches of counter to contend
with when it's time to sell these beautiful wares. You need to manage your
gemstone collection to maximize your profits. At the AGS Conclave this year,
four jewelers who are masters at this trade shared their tips with attendees
in a session titled "Custom Design With Colored Gems." Here are
their pearls of wisdom.
Make it a Niche
Because turnover and margin are so good on unusual colored gems, expert
color sellers suggest jewelers make it a real niche. This means stocking
a great variety of gems and making custom design an integral part of your
selling strategy. If you don't have on-staff jewelers who can do the kind
of high-end custom design you're looking for, go outside. "There are
plenty of people you can hire or designers to whom you can send the gems
for design," says Bob Lynn of Lynn's Jewelers, Ventura, CA. "Customers
don't mind you sending it out, as long as you tell them positively you have
a designer who's just right for this gem."
Keep it Unusual and Affordable
Unusual gemstones afford great opportunities to sell pieces with great price
tags. Jack Siebert of Jack Siebert Goldsmith Jewelers, Columbus, OH, has
had great success recently with onyx, opal and other black and white gemstones.
He's also seen a growing interest in different colored sapphires and colored
diamonds. The wholesale cost of some unusual gems can be lower than consumers
imagine, allowing good markups.
Make Display a Priority
Joe de Bella of de Bella Fine Gems & Jewelry, Santa Fe, NM, displays
200-300 gems daily. He changes his displays about once a month. He also
features a focus on one gemstone (tourmaline, for example) and displays
the heck out of it so customers learn a great deal. "Why display so
much color?" asks de Bella. "Because I'm lazy and I want it to
sell itself. I'm also snobbish about color and I only display pieces that
talk to me. I don't care if it's amethyst, citrine, sapphire or even diamonds,
it all has to be well-made."
De Bella has had great success with unusual display props, such as acrylic
tubing or wooden rails usually used to display marbles. "The important
thing is to let people touch the stones," he says. "They want
to hold and fondle them." Exploring the "sex" appeal of great
gems makes the route to ownership much shorter, he believes. Of course,
written signs explaining country of origin and certificates of non-treatment
(if such is the case) add to the appeal of displays, de Bella says.
Making a profit from unusual colored gems and the custom designs they often
require means assigning appropriate pricing. Many jewelers who do on-site
custom design underestimate their costs and short-change profits as a result.
Because many pieces are original, copyrightable designs, this should be
accounted for in your prices and on any appraisals of the items.
Use Buzz Words in Promotion
Mark Moeller of R.F. Moeller Jeweler, St. Paul, MN, moderated the panel
and shared his approach to promoting unusual color and custom design. He
hired a well-paid, highly qualified bench jeweler to do his colored gemstone
custom work. "We promote our custom work using such buzzwords as one-of-a-kind
and studio," he says. "I paid for the best and it's been well
by Peggy Jo Donahue
Copyright © 1998 by Bond Communications.