Professional Jeweler Archive: Gem Dealer's First Rule:

January 2001


Gem Dealer's First Rule:
Never Let Jewelers Handle Publicity

Imagination is the key to successful promotions

As a dealer in rare cat’s-eye gemstones from Brazil, Henry Kennedy’s livelihood depends on his ability to turn out crowds at jewelry store trunk shows. He has one ironclad rule: Never let jewelers do publicity.

Jewelers – how to put this nicely? – look and behave like bankers, says Kennedy. Specifically, they wear suits and their notion of how to draw crowds involves nothing more than placing an ad, he says. Instead, Kennedy meets the public with an Indiana Jones-like persona – complete with safari jacket and pinned-up hat – and frequently collaborates on special events with local schools and museums.

“Many jewelers have no idea how to do publicity,” he says. “They’re tied to their day-to-day routine, and many have let their imaginations die.”

Kennedy spends nine months a year working leased mines in South America and the other three months doing trunk shows in about 15 stores in New Jersey and Pennsylvania. It’s a brief selling window, so he needs to move goods.

Laying the Groundwork

That’s why, in preparation for an appearance at Warren Jewelers in Lancaster, PA, Kennedy visited a nearby elementary school hauling a large bag of sand salted with nuggets of low-grade silver ore. At an assembly of more than 300 students, Kennedy put on a brief program about mining and showed examples of cat’s-eye gems. The students were allowed to pan for the nuggets and keep what they found.

The best part? A TV crew filmed the excited students as they pulled nuggets from the sand, and the tape was later broadcast on the local news. “There’s nothing more exciting on TV than a smiling kid,” he says. “The media love this sort of thing.”


Making it happen was surprisingly easy. Weeks before Kennedy’s visit, he met and brainstormed with his jeweler-sponsor and the director of a local science and history museum. The museum director agreed to a weekend presentation and, to help promote the event, put Kennedy in touch with the school principal. The principal used his contacts with the local media to help bring in the TV crew. “Kids don’t buy gemstones,” says Kennedy. But they draw the media and get their parents excited.”

Of course, for PR purposes, it helps that Kennedy sells rare gems. Found only in Brazil, Sri Lanka and a few African countries, cat’s-eye chrysoberyl is most popular, selling for $1,000-$6,000 per carat retail. Kennedy sells them loose so his sponsoring jewelers can offer mounting services and companion stones. “Cat’s eyes demand a lot of explanation, a lot of selling,” he says. “That’s what I’m good at.”

Not surprisingly, Kennedy has no sympathy for the suggestion a jeweler selling garden-variety merchandise would be less successful using his flamboyant tactics. “I don’t care what you’re selling,” he says. “If it’s pearls, put on a swimsuit and snorkel and stand outside the store. If it’s estate jewelry, dress up like Henry VIII with a cape.”

• Henry Kennedy, Freehold, NJ; (732) 462-6043 phone and fax,

– Mark E. Dixon

Front and back of a promotion piece about Henry Kennedy’s recent visit to BenAri Jewelers in Media, PA. The promotion was designed and produced by Neff + Associates Inc., Philadelphia, PA.

Copyright © 2001 by Bond Communications