The Evolution of an Estate Jewelry Buying-Selling-Trading Event

Just over a year ago, Kate Peterson, president and CEO of Performance Concepts, and Patti Geolat, founder and CEO of Geolat Companies, introduced retail jewelers to a new type of store event. In this Retail Details blog, we’ll take a look at the event and how it has benefited retailers looking to do more in the secondary market while upping the ante in estate jewelry for their customers.

As Peterson and Geolat both have their own businesses independent of the two-part selling and buying events they coordinate, together they typically try to limit their joint efforts to host one event per month (additional events are scheduled based on client needs). Since last November, they’ve hosted 14 such “hybrid” selling and buying events.

“The idea of bringing together a buying and selling event in one has worked remarkably well for us and our clients,” says Peterson. “Many retail customers really like the estate and period jewelry expertise and inventory we bring to each event, with some store owners on their second or third event with us, looking to do more events in 2012.”

Kate Peterson

Kate Peterson, president and CEO of Performance Concepts

Last fall Peterson and Geolat created a two-part event that offers customers the opportunity to sell their old jewelry, and, if they so choose, to apply the money they receive to purchase pieces from the roughly $1.2 to $1.5 million in estate and period jewelry they bring to every store event, or even to items from the store’s own inventory.

What retailers like about this hybrid selling-buying-trading event is that it requires minimal cash to host, store owners pay for and control their advertising and promotion messages, and Peterson and Geolat require a minimum wholesale buy of the host store.

The event is designed to serve all demographics, but in particular women ranging in age from 40 to 60 looking to trade in old jewelry for new, aging Baby Boomers, and even older generations looking to hand down heirlooms to family members or sell outright. In many cases customers from either demographic have no idea what their jewelry is worth. That’s when it’s helpful to have an independent jewelry evaluator like Geolat on hand.

An elderly couple that came to a Bergstrom Jewelers event in early November is a classic example of how this event serves that age group. Geolat spent nearly 90 minutes in an estate jewelry consultation meeting with the couple at the Minneapolis store, only to determine the woman’s diamond ring, set with a poorly fashioned emerald-cut diamond, wasn’t worth what the old couple thought.

“The ring had more sentimental value than monetary value for the couple,” says Geolat. “And the couple needed to hear that, but in a way that allowed them to leave the store with dignity.”  

Patti Geolat

Patti Geolat, founder and CEO of Geolat Companies

This is the kind of straight talk Bergstrom’s owners Bob Zagaros and Cindi Kranz appreciated in hosting their first such event in November. Like many retailers, the business partners know there’s an estate and period piece jewelry market in their area, but they don’t have the expertise or inventory to service it or determine if it’s worth investing in.

“An event like this allows us to test out customer response to estate jewelry,” says Zagaros. “This is a good preholiday event because it’s something new. And considering we moved the store after being in downtown Minneapolis for 87 years, we wanted to let existing and new customers know we’re doing things a little differently.”

Nicole Lasker, vice president of Lasker Jewelers, held two events with Peterson and Geolat in 2011, and plans to host a third next year. Like many jewelers actively buying jewelry from the public, Lasker and her co-workers have become estate jewelry sellers by default, given the volume of gold buying the Eau Claire, Wis., store has been doing.    

“There are a good number of people in our market that are interested in estate and period jewelry,” says Lasker. “When we host these events, Kate and Patti bring their expertise and inventory, an incredible mix of long-established designers people have never seen, such as Harry Winston. In our last sale we sold an Oscar Heyman piece.”

After two events, Lasker noticed that roughly 80 percent of attendees at these events are existing customers while 20 percent are new. “Without these events I never would have had an opportunity to bring these new customers in our store—especially the female self-purchase demographic, which these events attract,” says Lasker.

Candice Milstein, president and owner of Wyatt Austin Jewelers in Schaumburg, Ill., has hosted three events. She likes to shake up her event schedule with a buying and selling event that is a welcome break from traditional trunk shows. And customers enjoy seeing the many pieces brought to each event.

“One time Kate and Patti brought in an old diamond briolette ring,” says Milstein. “You just don’t see that type of ring or that type of quality and craftsmanship any more. People in our market really enjoy the opportunity to see such pieces.” 

In looking back at where Peterson and Geolat were a year ago with their hybrid selling and buying event, the depth and breadth of the estate collections has changed dramatically for the better.

“The first events—we didn’t have the inventory we do now, so we were forced to approach estate jewelry collectors who’d give us groups of jewelry, namely by designers or periods,” says Geolat. “Now that we’ve been able to procure more estate and period jewelry from these and other events, we have much more to offer with a wider range of designers and periods.”  


Cindi Kranz and Bob Zagaros of Bergstrom Jewelers

One of the biggest changes since the first event last fall was honing presentation skills. Peterson and Geolat ask store owners to make 20 feet of display case space available in their store for each event.

“We’ve learned how to better display the estate and period jewelry we bring to these events,” says Peterson. “Presentation is essential, and the trick is to seamlessly present the jewelry in ways that work well with the store owner’s existing merchandising philosophy. We try to display an eclectic range of jewelry items in cohesive way, either by designer or time period.”

Other lessons learned include making sure customers consistently get a solid value for the estate and period pieces purchased at their events. “We price the pieces so people get an excellent value for the money,” says Peterson. “Not being greedy on margins helps us turn inventory, but also encourages multiple purchases. On average people buy two to three items per ticket at these events.” 


Nicole Lasker, vice president of Lasker Jewelers

Most importantly, Peterson and Geolat state that the No. 1 lesson learned since their first event last year is the importance of understanding that when they are in the store they represent the retailer. And that: “Our level of professionalism, and everything we say and do, reflects on that retailer and that we very much appreciate the responsibility that comes with representing the retailer to the customer,” says Peterson. “This has become very valuable to us.”