Every Thursday during the pandemic, we’re checking in on members of the jewelry trade in an attempt to glean shareable tips and tricks for doing business—and reentering our “normal” lives, both professionally and personally—during the COVID-19 crisis.
Today we hear from Niveet Nagpal, owner and designer of Omi Privé, a luxury fine jeweler specializing in gemstones and based in California.
JCK: Where are you located? And who do you live with/who have you been spending quarantine with?
Niveet Nagpal: We are in L.A., the office specifically in West Covina. I live with my wife and two kids—a 9-year-old son and a 5-year-old daughter. My parents are just a few minutes away. We also had a small quarantine pod of a couple of other families that we spent most of our time with.
Your business is indeed luxury, and it’s a sector we’ve been hearing has done fairly well throughout the pandemic—would you agree?
We were completely locked down and actually had negative sales in March and April last year due to a return! Then we slowly started to pick up. It was a scary time, but we started hearing from our retailers that business had picked up and that gave us some hope. We were fortunate to be in a very safe area and building that allowed us to get back to the office, which is large enough that we could all have our own rooms and space to work. I believed in our team, our industry, and that spending would come back to the luxury sector. We stayed quite aggressive acquiring new gemstones and producing jewelry as rapidly as possible, as production faced the many challenges of shutdowns and regulations. The strategy has paid off well, as we are seeing very strong sales this year.
What gemstones have been your biggest sellers as of late?
We are selling a lot of different pieces from classic ruby and sapphire to paraiba and alexandrite. We can’t keep our moonstone pieces in stock! Our average sale has also increased significantly.
Does it feel as if things are returning to normal in any way?
We moved to the suburbs several years ago so Omi [the company’s namesake and founder] could still come to the office and I could be closer to my kids instead of commuting hours in L.A. traffic every day. It was a great quality-of-life decision, and so much more evident the past year. Especially since June 15, things feel as close to normal as it may be again. I’m writing this to you on the way to a trunk show, this weekend I am taking the family on a small vacation, then next week another trunk show. Not only back to normal, but a lot of time to make up!
How has the year impacted the gemstones you opt to work with, if at all? How has the pandemic changed the gemstone business?
Sourcing gemstones has been very challenging, but also there have been some great opportunities. We have purchased quite a bit of new material, but we don’t know what or when anything will be available. Many countries are still struggling with the pandemic, so we try to support the suppliers that have supported us for years, even generations. It’s a close-knit community.
Which elements of quarantine do you think will have a lasting impact on the industry—and which ones do you want to keep going even as things return to “normal”?
I think our industry as a whole has been slow to embrace technology, though that pace has accelerated quite rapidly in the past year. It’s exciting to see. When we launched our brand in 2012, we focused on photography and storytelling to promote the quality and rarity of our gemstones and jewelry. Now that is not only important but vital for all companies from all parts of our industry.
How do you predict JCK Las Vegas will be different this year from years past? What are you looking forward to most?
I can’t wait! It will be so good to be back “home.” Our industry is truly built on people and relationships, and I think we will spend more time catching up than doing business, and that’s just perfect. I also never realized until its absence how much we plan the first half of our year around JCK, and how the second half of the year depends on the conversations and momentum gained at JCK as well.
What have you been doing personally to keep things going this year? How are you doing?
It has been a challenging time for most people. Personally, it was great to spend more time with family and explore new things. I hiked, practiced yoga, and meditated a lot more than I ever have. I think I ate more charcuterie and drank more wine than ever—I also learned how to make a mean old-fashioned! We had a lot of Zoom happy hours and get-togethers with family and friends all over the country and world. One of the most enjoyable virtual drinks was with John Carter and Michael Richards to celebrate the passing of the American Gem Society presidency from John to Michael.
Did you pick up any new hobbies or interests in quarantine?
I really enjoyed hanging out with the kids and learning new things. My son learned how to shoot a basketball and play tennis. He learned how to play the piano, and learned to love music, from Queen to Eminem. My daughter is quite the artist and likes to draw gemstones—she is a few years away from becoming the creative head of our company!
I think the most important thing I learned is how important it is to take time for yourself to fill back up. When you are always on the go, giving everything to your family, your business, and people around you, sometimes you forget about giving to yourself and just living in the moment.
I learned how to make “pancrepes” by messing up pancakes. I can now make a thin pancake (that usually contains chocolate chips) that can be eaten as is or rolled up and filled with nutella, bananas, or strawberries.
All through quarantine, especially through the struggles, I kept thinking how I will look back on this time. How will the future me, five years from now, look back at what we did and the decisions I made? I tried to keep that perspective throughout, and I am excited to look back on this time five years from now and realize what a challenging but rewarding time this was.
Top: Niveet Nagpal and his daughter, Aveeya (all photos courtesy of Niveet Nagpal)
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