Cut & Color

September 1998

Managing:Gemstone Jewelry

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.

Price Profitably
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 worth it."

– by Peggy Jo Donahue




Copyright © 1998 by Bond Communications.


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