N.J. Jeweler Has Big Dreams for Operation Bling

Operation Bling, a nonprofit that gives free jewelry to cancer patients, is looking to

Bill Ferdinand, owner of Ferdinand
Jewelers in New Providence, N.J., and his wife, Christine, started the organization three years ago. Since then, Bling has raised more than
$250,000 and has given 7,000-plus pieces of free jewelry to
cancer patients in 13 different hospitals in New Jersey, Pennsylvania, and New York. Ferdinand wants to expand to hospitals in Virginia and, ultimately,

Several years ago, Ferdinand discovered
a longtime client named Barbara had ovarian cancer. “She always came into our store asking us to
clean her diamonds for her,” Ferdinand tells JCK. “We went to visit her in the hospital and she said she missed
her ‘bling’,” Ferdinand says.

The retailers couldn’t bring flowers
to Barbara on the oncology floor, so they returned with jewelry. Ferdinand
says her eyes lit up. “Our goal is to give men, woman, and children a
Cinderella moment while they are going through their cancer treatments,” he

Patients receive an assortment of
sterling silver and cubic zirconia rings, earrings, pendants, bracelets, and brooches,
as well as watches and chrome-finished yo-yos for children. Patients receive
the jewelry from “bling angels”—i.e., social workers, nurses, and the
Ferdinands themselves. “It’s incredible when you watch their
faces. You see a whole different person. It’s really amazing,” he says. The charity accepts personal
donations, hosts bling home parties, and sells pieces for $45 to raise money to
purchase the donated jewelry.

Operation Bling is also working with
autistic schools in the area. “The autistic children do the packaging
and the labels for us. It serves as a learning tool for the
kids,” he says.

Ferdinand estimates that he spends at least
30 hours a week working on Operation Bling, in addition to running his store.

“Being in the jewelry industry you
can’t please your customers all the time,” he says. “But this is one
place you know you are pleasing people every day.”

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