In a recent Facebook discussion, jewelers weighed in on a delicate situation: What to do when a customer brings in a diamond bought off the Internet? Store owners from the East Coast and Midwest grumbled about the trend, calling it “tacky,” among other things.
But Jennifer Kroeger, owner of Relic Charm in St. Paul, Minn., reminded everyone why the practice is thriving. Three years ago, when she was a sales associate at Jared the Galleria of Jewelry in Maplewood, Minn., she opted to buy a loose diamond online: “The diamond was a third of the price, even with my discount working at a jewelry store. I would recommend it to anyone!”
Her reaction may account for the uncommon but pragmatic policy of Gallery of Jewels, a San Francisco mainstay with locations on Union Square, 24th Street, and Fillmore Street. Employees greet shoppers who come in toting loose “discount” diamonds with: “That’s exciting! Let’s take a look around to see what designers’ settings you’re interested in.”
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“If a customer wants a G-H color, VS clarity stone that you can get almost anywhere, we show them sites like BlueNile.com and Stuller.com, where they can buy stones at extremely reasonable prices,” says owner Bill Hoover, adding that Gallery sells special stones like colored diamonds that can’t as easily be found online. His inventory is priced at just a 10 percent markup on many loose diamonds, but margins are much “stronger on the mounting,” he says of his 120 designers including Anne Sportun and Megan Thorne.
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“We would love to work with customers from the beginning on stone purchases—to show different options in person—but some customers would rather plug in their criteria to BlueNile.com and order a stone based on price,” says Melissa Segura, manager and buyer at the Union Square shop. So when that happens, the lemons-to-lemonade instinct kicks in, and Gallery of Jewels uses that as an opportunity to make something pretty and profitable.
With that positive experience under their belts, customers are likely to come back for wedding bands and future gifts. A recent case in point is a woman who brought in a 1 ct. round brilliant stone her fiancé purchased—”at a great price,” recalls Segura—from a friend who sold diamonds. Segura helped her create a custom Megan Thorne 18k gold setting, even selling her two additional fashion pieces—a strong sign that the client is likely to return to buy wedding bands and more.