Twenty-five years ago, then-jewelry and watch salesman Bill Roberts had an idea that hometown jewelers could “buy smarter and make more money together than by themselves.” So he launched the Independent Jewelers Organization.

This February, some 1,000 people representing 335 retail jewelers, about a third of IJO’s membership, met at the New Orleans Hyatt Regency Hotel to celebrate the buying group’s successful adherence to those goals. While there, they heard about some new services – including IJO’s own Internet site and an employee-leasing program – to help them “buy smarter and get richer.”

Trends: The choice of Michael D. Roman as keynote speaker was one sign of how important IJO has become to its members and the industry. Roman recently retired as chairman of Jewelers of America, the largest U.S. retail jewelry group and IJO’s biggest rival in catering to jewelers’ business needs. This was Roman’s first chance to see IJO in action. He was, he said later, “tremendously impressed [with IJO’s] cafeteria of education, information, services and networking opportunities that a professional jeweler requires for success and profitability.”

In his speech, Roman listed five major trends affecting jewelers’ profit margins and businesses:

  • Value-driven consumers are “trained to shop around for bargains and discounts.” To deal with them, “margins must be less than keystone, increase in turnover is paramount, overhead expenses must be trimmed and monitored, and communicating [your store’s] value, selection, quality and service to customers is very important.”

  • Use of high technology is “a must if jewelers want to compete in today’s tough business environment.” At the least, “an in-store computer system enables you to do better training of personnel, better business planning and better inventory control.” Among the technologies affecting retailing are EDI software, which links jewelers to suppliers who automatically replenish inventory, often daily; UPC/barcodes; point-of-sale cash registers, which capture sales information and update inventory; and the Internet, which has “quickly become a marketing vehicle forŠgoods and services.”

  • Globalization increasingly impacts the jewelry industry, along with retailing in general, through expansion, acquisitions and cheaper labor costs.

  • Walmart became the “$100 billion gorilla”Šby “ruthlessly” driving down operating costs and cutting margins to gain market share and gross profit dollars. It already sells “literally tons of inexpensive gold and pearl jewelry,” and plans to increase sales and turnover by having Jan Bell run its jewelry departments, catering to middle class shoppers, upgrading appearance and adding some higher-end jewelry. “They can and will be a strong competitor.”

  • Re-engineering one’s business, which many major retailers do, is a must in today’s changing retail environment, said Roman. The starting point is a store audit, “a good hard look at all aspects of your business [and] current and potential customers’ opinions.” It can be done by the jeweler and staff; the local business school or business class of a local college; or a hired consultant. Or invite several IJO friends and staff to visit and evaluate the store. “If you don’t adapt,” warned Roman, “the moving parade will pass you by.”

Private network: IJO debuted some new technology of its own. The “IJO Master Jeweler Network” is its private Internet site, developed by Polygon. The new service, open to all IJO members, was due to start April 1. Features include a “chat” channel for dialogue and trading between members, information on IJO services, Polygon’s jewelry industry data resources and e-mail.

But Jack Gredinger, IJO president, said the most important feature is the photo database of finished jewelry, loose diamonds and gems. IJO jewelers will be able to show customers merchandise available from IJO suppliers which they don’t normally stock (i.e., 50 or 60 style of fashion chain). “Jewelers will be able to build retail sales volume and profitability without having to spend the cash on the inventory,” said Gredinger.

At least a fourth of IJO’s membership signed up for the service, which is free to IJO members. (IJO pays Polygon’s $25 annual fee; the jeweler pays an Internet access fee and any phone charges that apply.)

Leasing: IJO introduced an employee leasing program offered by Payroll Transfers Inc. of Tampa, Fla. Participants in the program transfer all administrative and payroll functions – such as insurance, payroll taxes and benefits – for their employees and themselves to the Florida firm which “leases” the workers back to the store for a fee. The owner and staff choose from a menu of benefits offered by the leasing firm, such as pension, medical coverage, disability insurance, etc., which the store might not otherwise be able to afford. The store owner still controls who he hires or fires and how much he pays.

“This enables small-town entrepreneurs like our members to compete with Fortune 500 companies in hiring and keeping good people while reducing employee expenses,” said Gredinger. “The jeweler simply writes one check to the leasing firm for cost of payroll and taxes and a 2% to 3% fee, and has more time for selling, management and running the store more effectively.”

The event also featured the Gemological Institute of America’s new traveling appraisal course and one-week diamond lab, as well as IJO’s new all-season catalog for members, usable January to November.

Social highlights included an evening cruise and deluxe buffet on the “Belle of Washington” riverboat and an “Antwerp reception,” sponsored by Diamwag and Overseas Diamonds.

IJO’s summer show and 25th anniversary bash will be held July 13-18 at the Toronto Westin Hotel in Toronto, Ontario, Canada. Keynote speaker will be Tom Tivol, president of Tivol Jewelers, Kansas City, Mo.


Lynn Ramsey, president and chief executive officer of the Jewelry Information Center, appeared on NBC’s “Today” show Feb. 6 to discuss diamond jewelry.

Ramsey showed engagement rings from two prestigious traditional jewelers – Harry Winston and Van Cleef & Arpels – and contemporary designs by Whitney Boin (post ring), Steven Kretchmer (platinum tension-set ring), Etienne Perret (tulip-setting) and Suberi Bros. (Royal Cut).

“Getting on one of the national morning shows has been a goal of mine since I joined the JIC last February and refocused our efforts on national publicity as opposed to local,” says Ramsey. “The ‘Today’ show reaches an average audience of 11.4 million people and is the No. 1 morning program.

“And Jane Pauley and Bryant Gumbel could not have been nicer.”


Benjamin Kaiser, chairman of David G. Steven Inc., New York City, is the new president of the Jewelers Vigilance Committee. He succeeds Bob Green of Lux, Bond and Green, West Hartford, Conn.

Other JVC officers are Michael Barlerin of the World Gold Council, New York City, first vice president; Harold Tivol of Tivol Jewels, Kansas City, Mo., second vice president; and Stanley Schecter of Honora Ltd., New York City, treasurer.

JVC plans to move its summer meeting from its traditional time and location during the JA International Jewelry Show in New York City to a new location and date near or during the JCK International Jewelry Show in Las Vegas. The exact date and location will be announced later.


Computer users visited the Jewelers of America home page on the Internet 43,000 times in its first three months.

“We launched the site in November to coincide with the beginning of the holiday shopping season,” says Eileen Farrell, JA’s director of communications. “Judging from the number of visits we received, I’d say we are definitely providing a great service to consumers wanting to make informed jewelry-buying decisions and to our members as well.”

JA’s site on the Internet’s World Wide Web contains a search mechanism that allows consumers to locate a JA member jeweler by geographic locale. It also includes the entire catalog of JA’s What You Should Know brochures offering tips on diamonds, gold, platinum, pearls, watches, colored stones and caring for fine jewelry. In addition, the site includes information about JA, its education programs and promotional programs. The universal resource locator is


The California Jewelers Association will sponsor a tour of Traditional Jewelers in Newport Beach, Cal., April 17. The tour, which begins with cocktails at 6:30 p.m., is open to members and non-members.

Marion Halfacre, owner of Traditional Jewelers, will speak on “Marketing to the California Consumer.” Jewelers also will have a chance to preview Robbery: Anytime, Anywhere, a film produced by Jewelers Mutual Insurance Co. “The film tells jewelers how to protect themselves, their employees and their customers during a robbery and how to minimize their risks. “This is a must for everyone who owns, manages or works in a jewelry store,” says CJA President Lenny Friedman.

Traditional Jewelers is in Newport Beach’s Fashion Island, 203 Newport Center. California Jewelers Association, 911 Wilshire Blvd., Suite 1740, Los Angeles, Cal. 90017-3446; (213) 623-5722, fax (213) 623-05742.


Bart J. “Terry” D’Elia III, president of B. D’Elia & Son Inc., New York City, was recently elected president of the Twenty-Four Karat Club of the City of New York. He succeeds James Lazarus of L&R Manufacturing Co., Kearny, N.J.

Serving with D’Elia are Marvin Markman of Suberi Bros., New York City, vice president; Roger H. Gesswein Jr. of Gesswein Co., Bridgeport, Conn., treasurer; and James B. White, president emeritus of the Jewelers’ Security Alliance, secretary.


Susan Cullum has been named administrative director of the Plumb Club.

Cullum received a degree in buying and merchandising at the Fashion Institute of Technology in New York City and then worked for six years as residential sales manager for Procida Construction Corp. in the Bronx, N.Y.

She succeeds Carol Dunay, who retired from the position after 14 years of service to The Plumb Club. “Those of us who have had the pleasure and privilege of working with Carol recognize the effort she has put forth these many years on behalf of our membership,” the organization said in a prepared statement. The Plumb Club will formally honor Dunay in July.

Jose Hess of Jose Hess Inc., New York City, is the new president of the Plumb Club. Other officers for 1996 are Bruce Rubin of Astoria Jewelry Manufacturing Co., Long Island City, N.Y., vice president; Raymond Mastoloni of Frank Mastoloni & Sons Inc., New York City, treasurer; and Robert Wueste of Samuel Aaron Inc., Long Island City, N.Y., secretary.

Directors are Banice Bazar, Imperial Pearl Syndicate, East Providence, R.I.; Phyllis Bergman, Mercury Ring Corp., Englewood, N.J.; Nancy Brewer, Nancy B & Co., Culver City, Cal.; Michael Kaplan, Rocket Jewelry Box Inc., Bronx, N.Y.; Marvin Markman, Suberi Bros. Inc., New York City; and Alexander Weindling, London Star Ltd., New York City.

The Plumb Club, 157 Engle St., Englewood, N.J. 07631; (201) 816-8881, fax (201) 816-8882.


The Texas Jewelers Association will hold its 1996 convention April 20-22 at Inn of the Hills in Kerrville. Keynote speaker Leonard Zell will present “How To Create Diamond Sales Out of Thin Air, or No Thanks, I’m Just Looking” 9 a.m. to noon April 21.

As part of the convention, the association will choose the winners of its fifth annual jewelry design contest. The “Best Overall” winner will be entered in the Jewelers of America national design contest.

Texas Jewelers Association, 504 W. 12 St., Austin, Tex. 78701; (800) 299-4872 or (512) 472-7342, fax (512) 474-5011.


The Tahitian Pearl Association has assembled an educational and promotional kit for the dissemination of information on Tahitian natural color cultured pearls. The kit contains a videotape, a book (available in English and French), an eight-page pamphlet and a laminated chart.

Send $40 and shipping ($3 in the U.S., $8.50 elsewhere) to the Tahitian Pearl Association Inc., 580 Fifth Ave., 21 Fl., New York, N.Y. 10036; (212) 719-1675, fax (212) 719-1781.


Eight major jewelry manufacturers have joined a new United Kingdom branch of EMAGOLD, a European association devoted to the promotion of gold jewelry of high quality and karatage.

EMAGOLD UK was launched during the International Spring Fair in Birmingham, Britain’s largest jewelry and gift show. “This initiative provides a unique opportunity for British jewelry manufacturers and offers them the chance to become an integral part of the progressive European jewelry industry,” says Patrick Fuller, president of EMAGOLD UK and managing director of Domino UK, a casting specialist. “EMAGOLD will help us to market the best of British jewelry more effectively.”

The other UK companies to form the new chapter are Charles Green of England, Cookson Precious Metal Ltd., Hean Studio Ltd., Payton Pepper Ltd., Saunders and Shepherd & Co., Solar and Soude.


The Massachusetts Rhode Island Jewelers Association will hold its fourth annual golf tournament June 17 at Stow Acres Country Club, Stow, Mass. Proceeds will benefit MARIJA scholarship and education programs. The presentation of awards and dinner will follow the tournament.

MARIJA, 321 Old Billerica Rd., Bedford, Mass. 01730-1236; (617) 275-1620.


Jewelers of America won 1995 Communicator Awards for two of its videotapes.

The JA 100 Club, produced by Rainbow Video Inc., won the top Crystal award in the documentary category. The 10-minute video salutes JA members who have been in business 100 years or more.

The Jewelry Buyers Guide, made in conjunction with Broadcast News Associates, won a second-place honor in the infomercial category. The video was made available to all JA members for broadcast on TV and in their stores.

The Communicator Award is a national awards organization that acknowledges outstanding work in the visual communications field.

Jewelers of America, 1185 Ave. of the Americas, 30 Fl., New York, N.Y. 10036; (800) 223-0673 or (212) 768-8777.


The Society of American Silversmiths now answers questions on silver restoration and conservation, offers tips on silver care and lists schools with degreed silversmithing programs through its site on the World Wide Web of the Internet.

Browsers can locate a silversmith for any type of commission, access the society’s exhibition schedule and read about membership benefits. The society is found at; e-mail address

The society was founded in 1989 for the preservation and promotion of contemporary silversmithing. In addition to nurturing student silversmiths, the society educates the public through free consulting services, a quarterly newsletter and exhibitions. Society of American Silversmiths, P.O. Box 3599, Cranston, R.I. 02910; (401) 461-3156, fax (401) 461-3196.


Michael D. Roman, long-time chairman of Jewelers of America, warned independent jewelers at IJO’s 1996 spring show that they can’t beat mass merchants at their own game (“They’re too big, too rich, too tough”). But they can succeed and thrive, he said, if they:

  • “Take the higher road and sell fine quality jewelry, not costume jewelry and accessories.”

  • Use “everyday fair pricing, which communicates constant value and strengthens consumer trust.”

  • “Offer convenience, selection, product knowledge, and personal customer service.”

  • “Differentiate products you offer from those of mass merchants. Be more diverse and interesting in your merchandise, since you don’t have to buy in large quantities like they do.”

  • Occupy a specific market niche. “One store can’t offer inventory to suit all tastes. Look for products with specific selling features.”

  • Develop a strong employee/customer relationship. “Update and educate your personnel on how to handle more sophisticated customers.”

  • “Plan creative and innovative in-store events that add excitement.”

  • “Allocate ad dollars to one medium and make a statement, rather than diminish impact by spreading money thinly over many media.”

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