California Jeweler Debbie Fox Offers Free Jewelry to the Needy

For years, Debbie Fox of Fox Fine Jewelry in Ventura, Calif., has been a witness to the healing power of jewelry. In 2009, struck by the effects of a national recession—lost jobs, lost homes, new worries—she decided that jewelry might be just the thing to raise the spirits of those dealing with a struggling economy, and that Fox’s could do just that by offering free jewelry to community members in need.

The promotion, which gave free silver necklaces to those unemployed or dealing with a home foreclosure, struck a chord with the Ventura community as well as the nation. “It became this symbol of hope,” Fox says—a symbol which spurred an entire network of jewelry stores to pledge to give to the unemployed.

This Valentine’s Day, Fox continued its tradition with another promotion, “Valentine’s Pearls”—this time with a new twist. Silver and pearl necklaces, which retailed at $80, were set aside for purchase at either $20, for free, or for at whatever price community members felt they could pay.

“I only had 30 necklaces to start, and I was stunned with the response,” she says. “We ran out immediately and reordered three times, until we had a supply of 330. We gave or sold 300 of those.”

“People want jewelry,” Fox says, “It’s just that most people don’t want it for free. So many people [have] said something like, ‘I was too embarrassed,’ or ‘I still have a job,’ or something else that insinuated that ‘free’ was for other people. They had pride. So it struck me that I could offer an unbelievable deal, but still keep the option for free.”

Fox says that one of the biggest rewards of a program is the goodwill of customers who come back to the store: “A few touching moments occurred, like this one: ‘I would have had $20, but I had to get gas,’ said [a woman] as she pulled out her last three dollars.”