Professional Jeweler Archive: Extraordinary Performance

December 2001

Professional Bench/Five Steps to Profit

Extraordinary Performance

Success caring and a commitment to quality work and quality service

In 1976, Michael Warren took his first step on the often-uncertain road to self-employment, leaving his job in a manufacturing retail store near Lancaster, PA, to begin his own trade shop. He provided repair and custom services to independent and multiunit retailers for a year, then in 1977 started his own retail operation. Now, some 24 years later, he and his wife, Arlette, own and manage two Warren Jewellers stores – both models of success from which we can learn.

The Warrens attribute the prosperity of their stores to the quality performance of their shop and service department. Here is how the Warrens use the five P’s (pricing, process, promotion, productivity and professionalism) to make a difference.


The Warrens’ general approach to pricing products from their shop and service department is to “charge a fair price for an extraordinary performance.” Michael discussed pricing with his dentist, who charges $215 per hour for his time plus materials with a suitable markup. As a JA“ Certified Master Bench Jeweler,‘ he felt the time it took him to learn and develop the skills required to perform his trade merited the same amount, so he raised his price to $215 per hour. He tested this price level and determined he wasn’t losing customers. He says this is the high-water mark of pricing for his area.

The staff meets twice a month and routinely covers details related to pricing. The stores don’t use price books.


Important to the Warrens’ method of doing business is a consistent process – standard operating procedures that govern the sequence of taking in work and returning it to customers. The procedures define the level of communication between the store and the customer and between the store and insurance companies. Here are some key components of the process at Warren Jewellers:

  • Since 1988 the Warrens have used Jewelry ShopKeeper computer software for sales, inventory and take-in. Jewelry ShopKeeper generates inserts that fit perfectly inside the clear plastic job envelope and specify all pertinent details. Records are kept in a databank so it’s easy to retrieve information when a customer returns to the store.
  • The staff uses plain, objective terminology to describe any items taken in (for example: one white ring marked 14k with a bluish center stone).
  • The staff writes additional notes on the job sheet to indicate certain features or characteristics of the jewelry (for example: abraded facet junctions on the center stone).
  • Estimated values are placed on each job, as determined and agreed upon by the sales professional and the customer. If they don’t reach an agreement, the jewelry isn’t taken in.
  • ShopKeeper automatically generates all delivery deadlines based on an assumption of two weeks’ work time; the sales professional can change this date as required for a specific job. All work is completed according to the expected delivery date with no exceptions.
  • Store policy: No “rush jobs” are accepted.
  • For custom or customized work, the company’s policy dictates the customer return to the store to view the work in progress. This gives the customer a sense of control, allows Warren an opportunity for feedback and virtually eliminates returns, which can be a huge drain on profits.
  • Warren divides all work between another bench jeweler and himself based on skills, preferences and workload.
  • Warren makes a final inspection of every piece using magnification to review all quality points before the piece is returned to the customer.


“News of quality craftsmanship and friendly service travels fast,” says Warren. He so firmly believes this that he never advertises in any media or format. In fact, he’s not even listed in the Yellow Pages. Warren Jewellers does occasionally invite customers to a special event, such as a focus on a colored gemstone.


Warren has tailored his shop’s floor plan to maximize efficiency and productivity. His bench is located with a view of the parking lot and the front door so he can watch store traffic without leaving his work.

Immediately to the side of his bench is a Rofin laser welder he recently bought from Stuller. Warren chose Stuller because the price of the unit included a full day of training at the company’s headquarters in Lafayette, LA, and a full-day tour of the factory. The value of that learning experience was important in his decision.

In addition to the laser welder, Warren has a more-than-full-sized tool chest equipped with:

  • A small polish motor and vacuum system for prepolishing small parts before assembly.
  • An ABI Tack II tack welder for tack and fusion welding.
  • GRS equipment for graver sharpening.
  • Miscellaneous other tools and equipment that are organized and easy to locate.

Another way Warren maximizes his productivity is to make sure he uses his time efficiently and is compensated adequately for it. Consequently, he usually doesn’t start every “custom” job from scratch – much of his work consists of customizing existing pieces. He will do custom design work in special cases. “If you’re going to start from the design and create a new piece, it has to be worth the time or we don’t take the job,” he says. The typical Warren Jewellers design starts at $8,000.


Every member of the Warren Jewellers staff holds credentials in one of the three JA Certification programs. Warren is a JA® Certified Master Bench Jeweler‘ and holds a Registered Jeweler title with the American Gem Society. He recently won the Craftsman of the Year Award from the Pennsylvania Jewelers Association. Arlette – who oversees sales, purchasing, inventory and staff – is a JA® Certified Senior Management Professional.‘

Warren understands that some employers are hesitant to educate their staff, fearing they’ll go to work for a competitor once trained. However, he feels a business suffers more from having untrained staff than it ever would from training someone who might leave.

The kind of caring and commitment to quality work and quality service – along with attention to the five P’s – comprise the Warrens’ secret of success.

For information about JA’s certification programs, call (800) 223-0673 or visit

Professional Pricing Example

A customer brought this ring to Warren Jewellers because the center stone, a citrine, was loose. During the store’s standard take-in procedure, a member of the sales force carefully inspected the ring and discovered it also was out of round and hadn’t been polished or cleaned for some time – routine jobs for which many other stores don’t charge.

Warren’s sales professionals inspect every job at take-in and are trained to charge accordingly for all the services required. The shop charged $65 for the work on this ring because it required extra skill, time and labor. The shop:

  • Tightened the citrine, which requires extra care when working.
  • Carefully rerounded the ring.
  • Hand-cleaned it.
  • Refinished and repolished it (standard on all jobs).
  • Conducted a final inspection (standard on all jobs).

The Repair Moment

The Warrens have perfected what they call the “repair moment.” They say it’s the most critical step in the process because it builds anticipation and shows customers every item is treated with the respect it deserves. Here’s how it works:

As customers arrive to pick up their jewelry, a staff member greets them enthusiastically, places a special pad on the take-in service counter, removes the jewelry from the lockbox just below the countertop and carefully unfolds the tissue wrapped around the item – never touching the jewelry. The customer is always the first to touch the piece.

The enthusiasm, care and security the staff gives each article of jewelry is obvious to the customer, which encourages them to return.

A sales professional notes all pertinent details during the take-in procedure.
Warren makes a final inspection of every piece, using magnification to review all quality points prior to the most critical step – delivery back to the customer.
Warren working at his bench.
Warren’s well-stocked tool chest.
Michael Warren

Photographs are courtesy of Jewelers of America
©2001 Jewelers of America

Copyright © 2001 by Bond Communications