Professional Jeweler Archive: Success Comes Early

February 2002

Professional Bench/Five Steps to Profit

Success Comes Early

Drive, determination and a relentless commitment to quality equals success

Todd Vinson started at the bench as a high school junior and became certified as a master in 1999. His first bench job was at Ledbetter Wholesale, a trade shop owned by Gerald Ledbetter and Todd’s father, Troy Vinson. He served as polisher for two years before attending the Texas Institute of Jewelry Technology, where he graduated in 1989. Since then, he’s worked at family-owned Troy Vinson Jewelers as a bench jeweler. This retail shop is host to one of the most uniquely capable and highly productive bench environments in the nation.

Vinson credits much of his success to working with others who are passionate about their work and proficient in their skills. His coworkers include two other JA Certified Master Bench Jewelers, Gerald Ledbetter and Curt Vinson (who will be highlighted in future issues of Professional Jeweler); a JA Certified Bench Jeweler, Barry Spencer; a watchmaker and a die-maker. Vinson’s father, a legendary retailer and the store’s cofounder, also keeps two benches in the shop – one for wax, the other for metalworking.

“It’s rare being surrounded by this level of expertise,” Todd says. “We all share knowledge and experiences with one another, and I’m fortunate to be a part of this team.”

Todd also credits his interest in taking on challenges as a means of continued learning. He refers to it as “trial by fire.” “I’ll tackle a project beyond my level of expertise and, if I run into a problem, I’ll figure a way to work myself out of it,” he says. Here is how Todd Vinson uses the five P’s of pricing, process, promotion, productivity and professionalism.


Sales professionals take in all repair and custom work. Prices are determined using Repair Pricing Guide by David Geller and the store’s own price lists for common custom-made items. Prices for all in-house manufactured products are calculated taking into account time, materials and markup. The Vinsons include all costs when determining prices, including overhead and labor related to their six-person, 1,500-sq.-ft. shop.


The store takes in a large quantity of work daily, so all employees are diligent about following established procedures for take-in and handling of customers’ jewelry. After take-in, jobs are placed into an “in” box. Barry Spencer, the store’s repair veteran, sorts through the box a couple of times each day. He selects work that he’s required to complete and places the rest in the appropriate bench jeweler’s “in” box. Jobs requiring parts not in inventory go into an order box; orders are placed daily.


Troy Vinson Jewelers hardly needs to promote its shop and service department but does so on occasion. Word-of-mouth from elated customers has generated so much work it’s sometimes difficult for the staff to keep up. Still, the store published a Holiday 2001 catalog featuring special selections and best-sellers. The catalog, distributed to a database of customers and to select areas through newspapers, noted the store’s credentialed bench staff.


The majority of Vinson’s work is assembly, custom and stone setting. He’s an efficient worker and has developed procedures that allow him to move quickly through his projects. He sorts the jobs for ones requiring similar skills and accomplishes them quickly – together. Then, he methodically works through the balance of his daily work.

Troy Vinson Jewelers has two laser welder workstations – one in each store. Todd Vinson has logged several hundred hours on the equipment and uses it for almost everything. With three other full-time bench jewelers in the shop, there’s often a scramble to get to a workstation before another bench jeweler jumps in.

The castings that result from the die-making process often require assembly, custom finishing and special stone setting. Vinson enjoys working on these projects. Because his preparation is so perfect, the assembly, custom finishing or setting is also. He finishes projects thinking of how efficiently the jewelry will work and wear. While assembling a pair of earrings with Omega backs recently, he quickly wiped his brow when completing the project. He appeared pleased and relived that he had concluded the project, but then he placed a bit of oil from his forehead on the rivet of the Omega assembly after it came out of the ultrasonic cleaner so it would operate smoothly.

Vinson takes advantage of technologically advanced equipment the store has invested in for his daily procedures, but he’s quick to say that quality is the first priority.


Todd Vinson’s JA Bench Jeweler Certification projects are displayed in the store, along with the masters’ projects from the store’s other bench jewelers. Photos of each individual are included with the projects, and their certificates are displayed prominently in the store.

For information on JA’s Bench Jeweler Certification program, call JA at (800) 223-0673 or visit For information on Repair Pricing Guide, call (888) 255-9848.

By Mark B. Mann, Director of Trade Programs, Jewelers of America

Featuring Todd Vinson, JA“ Certified Master Bench Jeweler,‘ Troy Vinson Jewelers, Fort Worth, TX

Todd Vinson
Vinson at his bench.
Vinson at a laser welder.
Vinson uses the laser welder to seamlessly join these three 18 karat white and yellow gold cast bands prior to finishing.
An in-store display of finished projects by bench jewelers.

© 2002 Jewelers of America

Copyright © 2002 by Bond Communications