Professional Jeweler Archive: Branding Gemstones

June 2000

Gemstones & Pearls/News

Branding Gemstones

A seminar at the AGTA GemFair in Tucson pinpoints several kinds of branding that can help you sell color successfully

With the enormous interest in branding diamonds, it was only a matter of time before the trade started to brand colored gemstones also. A seminar at the American Gem Trade Association GemFair in February took a detailed look at the controversial topic of branding. Members of a panel that discussed the issue included a supplier of branded gems and a retailer who brands his store as the place to buy beautiful color in his market. Seminars at the AGTA GemFair are planned and organized by Charlotte Preston Catalysts, White Bear Lake, MN.

The seminar began with a look at branding principles, presented by Judith Shechter-Lankford of MVI Marketing Ltd., Paso Robles, CA. She reviewed the basics for retailers:

  • Determine your market niche.
  • Own a phrase that describes your mission.
  • Target the customers most likely to respond to your message.

Shechter-Lankford talked about consistency as the most important tenet of branding. “Your ads, your store’s look, your style and your complete image should be coordinated,” she said. Ads should be specific, repetitive and constantly updated with fresh information. A public relations campaign should repeat the same themes as your ads and your in-store signs.

Retail Branding in Action

Retailer Jack Seibert of Jack Seibert Goldsmith & Jeweler, Columbus, OH, demonstrated every principle Shechter-Lankford cited. His presentation was a case study in the successful marketing of his store’s brand. He determined early that his market niche would be “unique and unusual colored gems,” crafted into beautiful jewelry in a working goldsmith’s studio. He sends home these messages in everything he does. Early on, he determined his store would not offer items such as collectibles, clocks or pens. He honed in principally on the color and craftsmanship messages. He also decided not to carry other manufacturers’ branded goods. “I tell customers if they want to buy branded – go ahead; pay for those ads in Town & Country.

To complement his message, Seibert prominently displays the store personnel’s many gemological training certificates and the store’s American Gem Society titleholders. “We know what we are doing [when it comes to choosing fine colored gemstones],” Seibert said. He also displays the store’s awards for colored gemstone jewelry design, along with making his goldsmiths visible to customers.

Next, Seibert turned to his customer base. Sensing his customers would seek the unusual, he moved his store out of an upscale mall and into a freestanding location. He crafted a hand-lettered logo to convey the made-by-hand custom work his store produces. The logo permeates all of his communications.

“You have to spend money on graphic design to communicate your message,” he added. His costly Yellow Pages ad is in color to emphasize the colored gem message.

Because the work of his studio is recognized, he always pictures a piece of it in his marketing efforts. He also pays extra for a consistent location in his print media choices.

Public relations efforts include giving away jewelry for charitable events. “It’s expensive but necessary to further my image,” he said. Because it’s the distinctive styling of his colored gem pieces that sells his brand, the donations have furthered recognition of the niche he has captured.

Branding a Gem

Eric Braunwart, president and CEO of Columbia Gem House Inc., Vancouver, WA, said he sells “exceptional natural colored gemstones” and backs up this promise with branded products that help jewelers to distinguish themselves. Braunwart cited rhodolite garnet as one reason he decided to begin branding gems. Showing a slide of the wide variety of rhodolite garnets, he said, “There are too many different qualities to define all of these as rhodolite.” Yet, to jewelers’ frustration, all qualities of rhodolite are allowed to be marketed that way. This makes it difficult for jewelers to charge premium prices for the finest specimens, the ones Braunwart says deserve the name.

To remedy the problem, he names gems and develops quality standards for them. “I want to protect and support your name and image,” he told the audience of retailers. Grape Garnet™ is one example of his branding efforts. “I never release inferior Grape Garnet.” Braunwart also trademarked Sea Foam Tourmaline™ and is developing a collection of multicolored Chinese freshwater pearls with the name Spice Pearls.™ He developed minimum quality standards for these brands also.

If a jeweler combines well-defined quality colored gems in unique settings then adds educated sales associates and a distinct image specializing in color, the panel concluded, the branding of colored gems can be the path to success in a crowded marketplace.

– by Peggy Jo Donahue

Columbia Gem House has given purple garnets a unique brand name – Grape Garnet.™ Only the best specimens get to carry the name.

Copyright © 2001 by Bond Communications