Friday, September 30, 2011

The Price of Gold: “Everyone said I was a fool spending all my money at Tiffany’s”

 Try Mother of Pearl for beautiful yet affordable earrings

This is a wonderful quote from the 1958 movie Auntie Mame with Rosalind Russel. I thought of it when I read an article that stated that gold is now more expensive than platinum. It begs the question, is jewelry a good investment? A number of years ago I purchased a platinum diamond ring and diamond studs, it was quite expensive because platinum was trending high. While platinum hasn’t tanked, it seems like such a reasonable investment compared to the huge jump in gold prices.

Many people try and “time” the market and the recent unpredictability of gold is a perfect example. Sometimes I feel like I’m just a little shy of a trend. Wouldn’t it be nice if we could predict when some stock would go up and when it would go down? This uncertainty in the precious metal markets has made a lot of consumers rethink purchasing jewelry in this economy. It is certainly not a necessity and with prices high one day and lower the next, people want to make sure they are getting a good deal.

 Matching Mother of Pearl Necklace

Those of us in the jewelry industry are heavily hit when precious metal prices rise. The recent fluctuation has made a lot of consumers skittish. When consumers get edgy they have a tendency to hold onto their money and in recent months, their credit cards. While I would love to tell everyone that gold is now down a bit and you should go out and buy some jewelry, it probably isn’t the correct advice for everyone. People have to gauge what they are willing to spend on jewelry and with gold so high, it’s hard to recommend this metal.

Silver on the other hand has stayed relatively low. While in recent weeks it has lost almost 25% of its value, it never got anywhere near the outrageous prices that gold has been experiencing lately. This makes silver a good buy for jewelry. Today’s silver is used in all jewelry categories and is not reserved for the ubiquitous turquoise and silver pieces of the Southwest. Many silver pieces still have an ethnic flair, but various pieces are designed specifically with silver in mind, gold is now used for an accent. So as the stock market tumbles, don’t feel bad investing in silver jewelry, jewelry maybe the only thing that doesn’t make us crazy.

 Yellow amber glows and the sterling silver makes this pendant affordable

Thursday, September 29, 2011

The Web Store versus The Mall Store

As technology advances there are more stores on the internet, and they are selling everything from jewelry to vacuum cleaner parts. The plethora of stores is a boon for the consumer. They don’t have to leave their homes, they can comparison shop with several different stores, find the best price and have it shipped.

Many jewelers who have on-line stores also have brick and mortar establishments. Some have been in business for generations and others only a short while. Since there are so many website stores it’s hard to determine how long any of them have been in business. When you drive by a store or walk through the mall, you see the store and can figure out for yourself how long they’ve been in a particular spot. This can be helpful but it doesn’t always point to longevity, or even trustworthiness.

I read a story a while back that profiled a jewelry store who was taking jewelry in for repairs and selling pieces in their store. Turns out they were keeping the money and the jewelry to line their own pockets and were not paying the suppliers or having the jewelry repaired, terrible. Many people lost family heirlooms and pieces that had sentimental value. A brick and mortar location did not help these people. So how does someone know they are in an honest store or are visiting a trustworthy on-line store?

While it is impossible to tell one web store from another, it might be wise to take a look at their return policy. If a store does not have a return policy I would probably shy away, and while most stores do have some sort of policy, it’s usually not as liberal as Costco or Zappos. Costco has a return policy whereby they accept a return for any reason, including buyer’s remorse, for 30 days. Zappos also allows a very liberal return policy, 365 days from date of purchase as long as you have all the original packaging material and they pay the shipping, both ways.

Most retailers do not allow unconditional returns, partly because they are small and cannot absorb all of the hidden costs associated with a return. Retailers like Zappos and Costco make up for these costs with sheer volume. It’s always a good idea to check with a jewelry store, on-line or in a mall, to see what return policy they enforce. Do not expect all jewelry stores to return your money, especially if you think you made a mistake and are now experiencing remorse over your purchase. Although some stores will allow at the least, a store credit for just such an occasion as long as the piece has not been altered or was not customized.

Most retailers are willing to work with their clients and this is usually a mark of good customer service. Stores that plan to be around for a long time hope to build good customer relationships e.g. they will try and accommodate their customer’s needs. Don’t be afraid, just do some research and it doesn’t hurt to ask questions. After all, that’s what customer service is all about.

Wednesday, September 28, 2011

A Clothing Chart

 In Style magazine, Katy Perry on the cover

The October issue of In Style magazine has an absolutely fabulous clothing chart of sorts that I just love. The article is titled 28 Day of Amazing Outfits and begins on page 328. I just want to let In Style magazine know, I love these types of articles. Great pictures, simple descriptions, neutral clothing choices and did I mention pictures.

It’s a great picture meets information article that can be quickly scanned for good tips on what to wear. The first two pages open to “key” clothing pieces that will be featured in the outfits shown in the 28 day illustration. These examples include handbags, jewelry and shoes as well as pants, blouses and jackets, etc. The next several pages are devoted to how the “key” pieces are worn over this 28 day period, genius.

These articles are great because with a little bit of imagination you can adapt these outfits to articles of clothing and accessories you may already own. The black pants, flared jeans, white button down shirt and black skirt are probably already in your own closet. I noticed that in my closet I have all the afore mentioned items, but I also have a similar bow tie blouse, chunky cardigan and while I do not have a leather vest, I have a leather jacket that is comparable. 

 A wide banded ring, while silver, is similar to a ring shown in the article

The best part of this article is the jewelry section. Most clothing charts usually leave this information out entirely. I consider this section one of the most vital. In each subsequent photograph of outfits profiled, they show jewelry. The article shows which piece of jewelry looks best with each combination of clothing. This is critical because jewelry is the polish to any outfit. You can have all the right pieces to an outfit, but if you’re not wearing the right jewelry pieces, you may not achieve the look you are seeking.

 Blue topaz adds the right amount of sparkle, similar to the cubic zirconia bangle

This chart makes it easy for someone to find the right piece of jewelry. There are pictures to show each piece. These pictures are not suggesting that you go out and purchase new jewelry, but they do show color and shape, plus scale of the jewelry pieces. Just as before, I found similar pieces in my own jewelry box. You can also mix and match a little in order to achieve the right silhouette. That’s the wonderful thing about today’s jewelry and fashion market, nothing is written in stone and most rules no longer apply. Have fun with your jewelry, experiment, you might just find a new way to wear something, if not; there’s always a jewelry website where you can browse around.

 While not entirely gold (who can afford that?) same shape as bracelet featured in article

Tuesday, September 27, 2011

Drowning in Catalogs

 Sampling of one days worth of catalog delivery
In my daily mail there is an inordinate amount of catalogs. I'm sure my postman hates me. I receive the usual catalogs from companies trying to sell me boxes, packaging material and jewelry store do dads, but I also receive a lot of fashion accessory and clothing catalogs. The shop by catalog method is probably more popular than on-line shopping. Nowadays even E-Bay is advertising on television regarding the ease and store like aspects of their site. These ads are trying to make E-Bay look like an on-line store and less like an auction site. What’s next, a catalog?

I wouldn’t be bringing catalogs up unless I was considering putting one together. My business includes the use of private sales and trunk shows. While a business card or flyer passed out during a trunk show is quite helpful, there is something about taking a catalog with pictures and pricing that is handy. I received a beautiful catalog from David Yurman the other day and I have to admit, it was fabulous. Artful photography, tasteful descriptions and of course, really nice printing and paper, actually it was card stock, very thick. It was a very impressive catalog, one that I will keep, along with my catalogs from Cartier.

 Latest David Yurman catalog

This hoarding of a nice catalog is what we want our customers to do, keep it for later reference. Now this is the hard part. How do you put together a jewelry catalog that a customer will keep? A catalog by its very nature is an announcement of new products or is seasonal. This gives it an inherent disposable quality. Of course one of the pros for this type of catalog is the cost which can be relatively affordable.

Putting together a more expensive and professional catalog can increase the likelihood that the catalog itself will have a long life, but you can increase the cost dramatically. Here in lies my dilemma. Without having any concrete evidence that would suggest I’m making the correct marketing choice by investing in a catalog, will these be well spent advertising dollars? Is having a catalog even necessary when you have a website? The items that are available on my website would probably far exceed the number of items I could put in a catalog. This would lead to picking and choosing which items should be featured. Not necessarily a good thing.

For now I’m going to continue to think about the catalog thing and maybe get a quote or two from some local printers. While a catalog is not essential to my business it certainly would jazz things up a bit.

Monday, September 26, 2011

The White T-Shirt

Even Angelina wears a white t-shirt

Okay, admit it, you have lots of white t-shirts in your wardrobe. Everyone has white t-shirts, it’s the all American staple and they are usually worn with jeans. It’s a classic.

My favorite outfit is a pair of jeans, rolled up and a white t-shirt. I usually wear a navy blazer and either white Keds or leather loafers, depending on my mood. The great thing about a white t-shirt is how it can be worn a multitude of different ways. I’ve seen a white t-shirt worn with black leggings, boots and a leather jacket. Other times I’ve seen a white t-shirt with a black skirt, pumps and a jeans jacket. It can be worn with white jeans, any color sweater and flats. Also seen with black silk pants, strappy high heeled sandals and a really cute tuxedo jacket, a white t-shirt is versatility.

Recently I’ve heard of a white t-shirt being worn with a statement necklace. Granted the white t-shirt has been upgraded a little with finer fabrics, but the cut is still pretty much the same. Most every designer understands the versatility of a white t-shirt and has been making appropriate changes in order to accommodate consumers. It’s easy to pair with just about anything else and it’s comfortable, what’s not to love and now fashion designers are pairing it with jewelry, awesome!
 Gemstone bangles go great with a t-shirt
Some of the best looks for a t-shirt have been the usual jeans and boots, but they also been pairing it with layered chains and necklaces. Some people have been wearing it long and belting it, throwing on a vest and a fedora and their done. When examining this fashion trend, I’ve noticed a 80s vibe, but better. Instead of those neon bracelets and plastic necklaces we’re seeing more alternative metals and even pearls and gold chains. It’s a much more eclectic look and it feels really good.

The necklaces are also getting a bit shorter and chunkier. Really cool beads and chains have been the necklace de jour worn with the popular t-shirt, and even the t-shirt is no longer reserved in white, it now comes in every color of the rainbow. Adding color makes a t-shirt look less like a t-shirt, worth noting if you’re trying to bridge a gap between dressy and casual.

The coolest thing about the t-shirt is the ability to wear jewelry to change the look. A bold statement necklace dresses up those black jeans and t-shirt. A pair of studded hoops makes the black skirt, t-shirt and jeans jacket more feminine. Bold bangles add flair to a t-shirt and sweater jacket combo. Its fun how the fashion industry is showing these new jewelry looks with t-shirts. So try a t-shirt on for size when going out tonight, it’s comfortable and fashionable.
 Earth Gems Pendants make great statement necklaces

Friday, September 23, 2011

Indian Summer

Here in the San Francisco Bay Area we are experiencing a heat wave. According to the local weather people there should be a cooling trend starting today and temperatures will go back to normal. Thank goodness! I was melting in the heat and all the cute sweaters I recently bought have remained where they are, my closet. This got me to thinking, what about that white sweater I bought?

According to some arbitrary fashion maven, white after Labor Day was forbidden eons ago. Do these people know about Indian summer? Regardless of what anyone thinks, summer really begins in late August around here. We actually had a lot of rain and cold weather in June and July. This was the perfect weather for people to don sweaters and scarves.

But now is when the fashion industry is cranking out its new fall and winter lines and beautiful sweaters and coats are starting to show up in stores. I just can’t get into the mood for shopping for these heavy cover-ups when it is so hot outside. I don’t even want to go outside in this kind of heat. I still want to wear those cool white skirts and linen pants, but am I committing a terrible faux pas?

Fashion may have particular dictates, but sometimes I think the weather rules. This hot weather is giving us a little bit more of summer. We should take advantage of this opportunity and keep the sweaters under wraps and continue to wear our summer fare. I for one will continue to flaunt convention and will wear my whites.

Nowadays we can pretty much wear whatever we want. There are no more rules regarding what a proper lady wears. Of course, this doesn’t apply to office attire as most offices have their own rule of attire that each employee must adhere to, and even this is flexible. Most everyone understands the need to wear weather appropriate clothing. After all, no wants to get heat stroke just in order to be seasonably fashionable. But I also know that since this is the SF Bay Area, the weather will be completely different tomorrow.

Thursday, September 22, 2011

Is Atlas Shrugging?

 Hershey Kiss Pendant, good buy or not?
In the book Atlas Shrugged by the author Ayn Rand, the character Henry Rearden makes a speech while on trial. This trial scene in the book is where a judge asks Rearden “if the public deems it necessary to curtail Rearden’s profits, doesn’t the public have that right?” Rearden’s reply is “the public has the right to curtail his profits anytime they wish, by refusing to buy my products.”

Such is the case of the closing of GemClear Laboratories. According to a National Jeweler article GemClear opened four years ago to take advantage of the federal regulations that require irradiated diamonds and gemstones to be tested for radiation emissions. The idea is to protect the public from potentially harmful radiation, a good idea. Unfortunately for GemClear many producers have installed in-house labs to handle the work and thusly, GemClear is now out of business. Of course, GemClear is blaming the government for lack of enforcement, but is this really true? GemClear is claiming that some labs are doing shoddy work and the government is failing to enforce their regulations. Would turning all the work over to GemClear solve this issue? Are ALL the other labs doing shoddy work?

Since when did we need the government to keep a business in business? The jewelry industry can be very mercurial. Not only is it based on general business practices, but fashion trends and the economy have a huge effect on what happens, good or bad. Business owners make their own decisions regarding which direction they want to go. If a jewelry store owner decides to invest heavily in diamonds versus gemstones, or gold versus silver, they are the ones who have to own that decision. What the market and consumers dictate may have an adverse effect as well as a positive effect on their bottom line.
 Green Amethyst Necklace, good buy or not?
If I fail to stock my inventory with jewelry pieces that customers want to buy it’s kind of my fault. While every jewelry store owner should try and keep abreast of all the latest trends, it is almost impossible to predict what will be the hot item of the year. Trends and fads change so quickly who knows what everyone is looking for today.

While my own inventory selections have not been perfect, I know that sometimes it’s just a matter of finding the right customer. I have pieces that do not seem as popular as I thought, which is puzzling, since I actually like some of these pieces best. While other pieces that seemed a little trendy or costly can fly out the door on any given day and other days they languish. The bottom line is I am responsible for what happens to my business. I cannot and should not blame the government for the choices I make about my business. I should let my customers decide if they like my jewelry, which so far they like pretty well.
 10mm Amethyst Stud Earrings, good buy or not?

Wednesday, September 21, 2011

Working with Designers

 Exclusively available through Mark Gregory & Company
The other day I wrote about how exciting it is to get new pieces for my store. How much I love opening the packages and seeing the new jewelry for the first time. It really is exciting, but sometimes it’s because I got a little input in the final design. I received my first exclusive design for Mark Gregory & Company!

About a month ago I received some pictures for new basic designs for earrings from one of my designers. They were beautiful, as usual, but I thought they could use a little tweaking. I noticed the lower portion of the earring had three similar cut gemstones, but in different colors. What caught my eye was the beauty of the one garnet in this earring. It had a wonderful color and the top stone, being a citrine, looked really nice against the garnet. I asked the designer if it was possible to make the entire lower portion in garnet with the top in citrine. He seemed a little unsure, these are his designs I am trying to change, but eventually he relented and placed my order.

These earrings arrived in my shipment. I’m very happy with the way they turned out, but more importantly, I had a little something to do with the finished product. This ability to work with designers to have some say in how the jewelry is designed is important. Many jewelers purchase finished jewelry from a manufacturer. There are fewer and fewer bench jewelers in jewelry stores that can alter or size pieces nowadays. This basically means that jewelry is purchased “as is” and any sizing is done by an outside source.

The ability to slightly change a design to suit a customer would usually require a great deal of time on the jeweler’s part and a lot of money on the customer’s part. Many mall jewelry stores purchase finished jewelry in bulk and while there might be some variation to the design, you have to like what you see. Working with small design houses allows me to work directly with the designer to make changes to the basic piece. Different types of gemstones can be set or various metals maybe chosen. It is up to the customer to make an adaptation they find pleasing or if they desire. It is possible to love a piece of jewelry just the way it is, without changes.

The wonderful thing about the design houses I work with is their ability to customize. They can take a basic idea and adapt it to fit my needs or more importantly, the needs of my customers. It is refreshing to see a group of people who are willing to work with the retailer and their customers. Custom designs are not only for the very rich or well to do. Custom designs can be for anyone.
 Gabrielle Bruni Creations Citrine & Chocolate Diamond Cocktail Ring

Tuesday, September 20, 2011

A Little Kid at Christmas Time

I got a shipment of jewelry the other day. Some of it was replacement pieces for those items that had been sold, other were new pieces that I am adding to the store. I was of course anticipating the arrival of the new pieces with great pleasure. It’s funny how that works.

As a store owner, I am aware that my merchandise is not for me. Purchases should be made with my customers in mind and with the concept that additions in merchandise should have salability. It is important for my bottom line that I do not stock my store with pieces that only appeal to my particular tastes. I should try and cross the bridge and see the shore from the other side and buy according to my customers’ tastes and desires. It’s sometimes hard to do this when we’re talking about jewelry.

As a woman and a small business owner, how do we discern between what we like and what our customers’ like? A business owner should be aware of trends in fashion and jewelry, what’s hot, what’s not, and try and figure out which pieces are going to fit a trend and also leave the store. It’s really hard because I really love jewelry. I’ve never met a piece of jewelry I didn’t like, to paraphrase. When that box came I immediately opened it to check the new pieces. It took about two seconds for me to figure out that I loved them. Now hopefully my customers will agree.

That’s the wonderful thing about jewelry, when you find something you love, it makes you feel good. This maybe something central to a woman’s way of thinking, but I know those guys out there that love their watches. Jewelry makes women feel good. It brings back memories of playing dress up were we could pile on the pretties and it didn’t matter. Those memories of putting on that special dress for a prom or dance and having the accessories just right that makes us feel good. I remember the day I got married. My husband to be had purchased a simple gold necklace with a single pearl that he had sent over to the house the morning we were to be married. Inside was a note that said “For your something new.” This is a memory that will stay with me forever, and it centers around jewelry.

Most of my major memories have something to do with jewelry; this may be why I love it so much. So when I open those packages from my fabulous designers I anticipate it like a little kid on Christmas morning. Even though I can’t keep all these treasures for myself, I get to do something better, share it with others. That’s what’s important, finding something unique and special and sharing it with the world. It feels good when others love the jewelry I’ve carefully picked out.

Monday, September 19, 2011

Silver is the New Gold

I’ve written about the gold buying frenzy and also how the huge increases in gold have created an alternative metals jewelry market. As of the writing of this article, silver was running just over $40 an ounce, a bargain when compared to gold which is selling at over $1800 for an ounce. Silver is the new gold when it comes to jewelry.

I’ve always loved silver and even when I’ve purchased jewelry in gold it’s usually white gold. My upgraded wedding ring and my favorite diamond studs are in platinum due to their durability and of course, silver tone color. Silver is now becoming a staple of the jewelry industry and more and more designs are being turned out in this much more affordable metal. While silver is vastly more affordable than gold, it does have a couple of minor drawbacks.

Silver can change color with time. If anyone has seen old movies, there was always a maid or butler who polished the silver. Silver required regular polishing in order to keep the beautiful silver tone without the usual black tarnish or oxidation that could occur. While this is essentially still true, modern techniques for silver manufacturing and the introduction of new compounds make this less likely to happen. I’ve also noticed that jewelry made from pure silver (.999) is much less likely to tarnish or change color than sterling silver (.925). When at all possible I recommend buying pure silver versus sterling.

Another drawback is the ease in which silver can scratch. Highly polished silver items can be scratch even with a polishing cloth if the cloth is remotely rough. This is not an exclusive feature of silver and I am not trying to say that gold never scratches; it just takes a little longer on a polished surface. The solution to silver scratching is to purchase pieces that have a buffed surface or intricate detailing. Many silver designs are antiqued and filigreed so the purchaser does not have to worry about any tarnish or scratching. The nature of the design is enhanced with age and wear.

While some people may consider these drawbacks too large to purchase silver jewelry, one cannot dispute the huge difference in price. At the current pricing a person would be able to purchase 45 ounces of silver to one ounce of gold, you do the math. The size of the piece or pieces you can purchase made out of silver is quite substantial when given an equal budget as gold. More bang for the buck.

Additionally, innovative and statement pieces that use silver, because of the huge price difference, allow larger designs generally requiring more precious metal. Our herringbone pure silver necklace uses 93.3 grams of silver. If this necklace was made of gold it would cost over $5900 for the material alone, this doesn’t include the labor to produce the piece. As you can see silver is a really good deal in today’s market.

Of course everything I’ve written is based on two figures, $1800 for gold and $40 for silver per ounce, and as everyone knows, the metal markets have been fluctuating wildly. Since there is probably going to be continued volatility with these commodities for some time, purchasing silver jewelry is not a bad investment. Why not invest in a little silver jewelry for yourself?