What Are We Selling?

Two seemingly unrelated events illustrate a contradiction in the conduct of the jewelry business at retail and wholesale. One was the pronouncement by Nicky Oppenheimer that the diamond business fared reasonably well during the holiday selling season, despite the nervousness. The second event involved a customer in a jewelry store inquiring about the repair of a diamond wedding ring that had belonged to her mother.

In his Christmas message to the trade, Oppenheimer again referred to diamonds as a “luxury product,” stating that the diamond trade had fared well compared with other luxury products during the last eight weeks of the year. The notion that the industry sells luxury products seems obvious at first. After all, the products for the most part are relatively small and relatively expensive. As a result, we assume that they are of luxury status. But this focus on luxury status may override the perhaps more important emotional nature of buying jewelry, as the following example illustrates.

Whether it is a self-purchase or a gift purchase, the emotional part of buying jewelry receives some passing attention at training sessions, at sales seminars, and in books that discuss the psychology of selling. At the point of sale, however, the practical part of our human nature can take control unless we’re careful. We buy for rational—as well as emotional—reasons. Too often, however, we lose sight of the emotional motivation and often use first the logical reasoning process.

Case in point: A jeweler had just finished listening to a customer explain that her diamond wedding ring had originally belonged to her mother. The customer regularly had the ring checked to assure the security of the diamonds. The jeweler informed the woman that the ring needed substantial repairs because the prongs were worn, and he went on to explain that it would be more economical to simply buy a new ring.

The customer was more than a little surprised that the jeweler did not comprehend the significance of the fact that the ring had been her mother’s and was one of the treasured possessions she’d received after her mother’s death. The jeweler disregarded the emotional significance of this wedding ring. His focus was purely on the rational, economical solution to the problem at hand.

Some look at jewelry as a business of providing luxury products that can be traded in and upgraded as you might trade in an automobile. Others look at jewelry as unique, emotionally connected, and treasured possessions that span and link generations.

As we move forward into the new year and possibly uncertain times, it would be wise for all involved in the jewelry industry to remember that we sell products connected with significant moments in people’s lives. The true beauty of jewelry lies in its emotional value—which is far greater than the intrinsic value of the carat weight of diamonds and the gram weight of gold, or the notion that jewelry is a luxury product.

fdallahan@reedbusiness.com