At the start of 2020, after 17 years as manager of K.Jons Jewelry Co., a fine jewelry retailer in Atascadero, Calif., Angela Cisneros (pictured) decided to pivot: She founded her own jewelry concierge business, a move prompted by the impending retirement of the store’s longtime owners.
“I was thinking of buying the store, but then it hit me—that’s kind of a lot,” Cisneros, who joined K.Jons in 1997, tells JCK. “This is what I’ve been doing for 20-something years. I wanted to change it up a bit. I was tired of traditional retail. When you’re open six days a week, only a small percentage of that time you’re actually helping people—the rest is spent on things like repairs or HR.”
Cisneros moved into a 600-square-foot studio space with plenty of natural light in Atascadero (the city is located in central California, roughly equidistant from San Francisco and Los Angeles), and opened her doors in March…just as the World Health Organization declared the coronavirus a pandemic.
“On one hand, I thought, starting a new business is tough no matter what, and I’m starting a new business in a pandemic,” she says. “I didn’t know any different.”
As the only private jeweler serving the San Luis Obispo County region, Cisneros began to grow her name organically on social media—by commenting, boosting posts, and featuring images of beautiful jewelry on her social channels. “At end of 2021, I did a spreadsheet of clients with notes on how they had heard of me,” she says. “I found that my top way of getting clients was either I knew them, whether as personal or professional acquaintances, or they came through social media.”
That first year, bridal clients were slow in coming. But things turned around in 2021, when her business began to attract men looking for engagement rings for their significant others.
“Men are often intimated in a jewelry store—they’re really afraid they’ll be taken advantage of,” Cisneros says. “In a private setting, no one else is going to hear their ‘stupid questions.’ As I’m helping them build their ring, I communicate with them over text and email. They love that personal attention.”
We spoke to Cisneros about where she gets her inventory, the engagement ring trends she’s seeing, and why, when it comes to shopping for a ring, too much choice is never a good thing. The interview has been lightly edited for length and clarity.
How do you source the rings you build for your private clients?
One of the designers I work with is Kim out of Texas; they have a whole sterling silver and CZ set of samples. What I found at K.Jons is that they had a million dollars–plus worth of inventory and customers would look around and say, “What else do you have?” They didn’t know how to ask for what they wanted and ended up walking because they didn’t really know what they were looking for. They had decision fatigue. Or they’d find something they loved, but then say, “I want it in an oval and I want the diamonds to be on this part of the shank, not on that part.” They’d want to customize it.
So I decided to get a sample line—easy peasy. At Kim, they have most of what my clients are asking about for bridal. I also started working with Marc Schneider and Vdora (Vik Jain from Fana started his own company).
I found that what my bridal guys are wanting is simple solitaires. They’re tweaked a little bit. But I’ve been able to use Vdora. I can have the ring itself within three weeks. And the quality is phenomenal.
What kind of research are your clients doing before they come to you?
In bridal, mainly it’s been just the guys coming to me. I’m surprised that they want to surprise their partner. Every single one of them comes to me saying, “Here’s what I saw on her Pinterest.”
I had one guy and he’d looked at a couple different places but he saw me on Instagram, originally from a boosted post, and called me. We had a Zoom session, we talked about what he wanted, I gave him some thoughts and ideas, and he felt comfortable.
Is that a fairly typical description of how people want to work with you? It starts on Zoom and then they come into the studio?
Even in 2020, I thought I’d do a lot of Zoom appointments, but people were perfectly happy to come in because it was just me. Mainly, they’ll contact me about making an appointment, they’ll come in, we’ll talk, and from there I generally get some ring ideas to give them. Part of the key—I’ve been able to close almost every single one—is that I’m giving them three to four options and they’re able to make a decision.
Even when I have my samples out, about 20 of them, when they start narrowing their selection down, I take away the other options and help them focus.
My experience from doing sales at K.Jons, especially with women, was that they’d point at something and say, “This is what I want, but what else do you have?” And then by the end, they’d talked themselves out of it.
Decision fatigue is real! All right, moving on, are you noticing any other trends in engagement rings, beyond solitaires?
I don’t know if it’s that my area is late to the style game, but I still feel that white gold is No. 1. Rounds are still super important, but my clients are also liking cushions. Last year, I had a lot more inquiries for pears and marquises, but this year it’s still rounds and cushions.
How would you describe your clients’ budgets? Are they comfortable spending on diamonds?
I haven’t had an issue. I’ll tell them a carat is going to be about $7,000–$8,000, and a ring will be this much, and most of the time, they say, “OK, that’s what I was thinking.” I started offering financing through Synchrony, but I’ve never had somebody even apply. I’ve told people about it but haven’t had anybody want to go that route.
Are you seeing any interest in lab-grown diamonds?
People definitely ask about it, and I give them the pros and cons. I had one guy, I gave him the pros and cons of natural versus lab-grown and he decided to go with lab-grown. Not a problem! I definitely tell people that prices will probably come down on lab-grown—I want to be up front with them. Most people who’ve inquired, they choose natural because I think to them it sounds exclusive.
Any final thoughts on what engagement ring shoppers want right now?
I think they just want to be taken care of, and they don’t want to be overwhelmed. My goal is, No. 1 that they love their jewelry and they walk away saying, “This is such a better way to shop for jewelry.” There’s this harried-ness—especially the guys when they come in, you can feel the tension in their voice and see it in their body language.
Once a decision is made, and we have the diamonds, they’re done and you can feel their relief. I keep in contact with them, or if I get an update, I check in with them. I like to reach out to them so they don’t have to wonder.
So, all in all, the shift to being a private jeweler has been good?
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