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December 1999

Gemstones & Pearls: News

Cutting an Edge in the Competition

A small but rewarding niche

There's no shortage of retailers specializing in diamonds. But it's a rare breed of jeweler who commits to selling only fine color – a niche offering a gamut of choices and more opportunity to make a healthy profit margin.

"We concentrate on unique one-of-a-kind designs with a focus on quality colored gemstones," says Mark Loren of Fort Myers, FL. "I'm known for innovative designs featuring high-end gems, including large fancy-color diamonds. You can make a good dollar with fine color because it's very difficult to price-shop. You become the only resource, and clients come to expect this higher standard."

Loren – a designing jeweler honored with several American Gem Trade Association Spectrum and Platinum Guild design awards during in his 16-year career – uses an array of cut gems from AGTA Cutting Edge winning lapidaries, including Richard Homer, David Brackna and Thomas Munsteiner.

Make the Most of Vendor Relations

It's a coup for a retailer to land a Cutting Edge-winning gem or two around which to build a custom piece. Jeff Ketay of Ketay Jewelers, Peoria, IL, has developed a "first refusal" relationship with a number of cutters and gem dealers during the eight years he's been in business. "Because few retailers are strong in color, it's a great niche to develop, and not many pursue Cutting Edge pieces," he says. "We've had 12 to 13 Cutting Edge winners from such artists as David Brackna, Bill Day and Steve Avery." Ketay describes American cutting as "the finest in the world to unlock the beauty of a gemstone."

Becky Thatcher of Becky Thatcher Designs, Glen Arbor, MI, enjoys touting the joys of fine color. Thatcher, who carries such award-winning lapidaries as Ben Kho and Steve Walters, issues an informative newsletter several times a year to customers and hosts many in-store educational gem events.

Similarly, Loren often invites cutters to demonstrate their expertise as part of a special event. "It removes some of the mystery that cloaks our business," he says. "I highly recommend making the most of vendor relations. Trunk shows, especially with vendors enthusiastic about color, prove to be a great resource."

Promote Color

These gem-savvy retailers say their primary ad program has been word-of-mouth. "People are starved for unique products," says Ketay. Loren, Thatcher and Ketay use a variety of networking options, from private invitations to e-mail notes to phone calls to invite top customers in to view new items. These jewelers, and others like them, are often located in resort towns or in communities rich with professionals boasting a lot of discretionary income.

It seems the biggest challenge for this category is the limited supply of really fine rough on the market for cutters to perform their magic on. It's a never-ending quest for those in this niche, but one that's what makes it all worth it in dollars and sense!

by Deborah Yonick

Mark Loren's 2.2-ct. cushion-cut ruby with diamond platinum ring won a Platinum Honors award and is only one of the award - winning designs from many designers and cutters his gallery features.
Color lovers will respond to unusual shapes and colors in pearls, as demonstrated by these dark pearl designs from Becky Thatcher Designs.

Copyright © 1999 by Bond Communications.


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