This Valentine’s Day would be a good time to encourage customers to win hearts with gifts of sterling silver.

Sales of sterling silver jewelry and giftware were expected to exceed a record $2 billion in 1995, says the Silver Information Center. The reason: consumers want some affordable luxuries after several seasons of stocking up on home accessories. SIC offers these suggestions:

  • Place a memorable photo or sentiment in a silver frame.

  • Clasp a cashmere sweater twinset with a chatelaine chain pin.

  • Pin an opulent brooch in a rose, orchid or other flower motif on a jacket lapel or the shoulder of a satin dress.

  • Fill a silver perfume bottle with her favorite perfume.

  • Tuck a silver compact, mirror or makeup brush in a backpack.

  • Present her with a fine silver chain necklace sprinkled with small pearls, crystals or diamonds.

  • Fasten her hair with sterling barrettes.

  • Hide a pair of earrings in a sterling cache box to display on a vanity table.

  • Begin a charm bracelet, adding charms for special occasions.

  • Find an exotic skin belt with a decorative sterling buckle.

  • Wrap a sterling ankle bracelet around a pair of snuggly lambswool socks.


Want to do it all yourself? Know that you’re the only one who really can take care of every little detail? Scared of losing control if you let your staff make decisions?

If you’re this sort of person, chances are you’ll never run much more than one small store. That’s a key message from a four-member panel that recently debated the issue “Minding the Store When the Boss is Away.” The other key message: if you, as boss, want time to deal with the big issues and to help the business grow, learn to delegate.

“You must make a conscious choice to delegate responsibility,” said Diana Bischoff who, with her husband, operates Earth Treasures, a 20-person store in New Jersey. “You can’t do it all if you want to grow.” She said that as her business grew from a two-person store, she learned to hand over responsibilities using two principal guidelines:

  • Start with limited responsibilities and, once they are taken over well, add new ones.

  • Spell out clearly all store policies and procedures in written form so staffers know exactly what has to be done.

“You’re not giving up control by sharing responsibilities,” Bischoff said. “You, as owner, can still make all the critical decisions on buying, pricing and policies.”

Dan Moyer, with a business in Carmel, Ind., echoed the theme “you can’t do it all yourself.” He said his most difficult decisions were finding the right person to take over key decisions and realizing that he had to pay top dollar to get top people. He urged jewelers who want to make a first serious step in delegating to hire a compatible No. 2. “I need delegation so I can have time to grow the business,” Moyer said. “I had to find a way to have someone else take care of that ‘good customer who always bought from me.'” Delegation has paid off. Moyer’s business has grown 500% in the past eight years.

Phil Minsky of Stoughton Jewelers in Massachusetts added a provocative thought on how to hire the best person to take over when the boss is away. He has all job applicants write an answer to the question, “Why do you want to work in this store?” and then sends the sample to a handwriting analyst. He said the analyst, Signature Dynamics of New Jersey, consistently steers him well on hiring decisions.

The fourth panelist, Ron Leitzel, who runs three stores in central Pennsylvania, added this thought: “Don’t delegate just when you’re away; delegate while you’re in the store, too.”

James Porte, president of the Jewelry Marketing Institute in New York City, moderated.


Writing instrument sales rose 5% to an estimated $3.3 billion in 1994, according to a recently released report by the Writing Instrument Manufacturers Association. The number of units shipped from manufacturing plants also rose 5%, so the average per-unit value was unchanged.

(The $3.3 billion total is based on a keystone markup of manufacturer prices, which totaled $1.67 billion.)

Most writing instruments that jewelers carry increased in units (up 7% for mechanical pencils and fountain pens, up 6% for ball point pens). But the number of roller pens shipped in 1994 fell 3%. Interestingly, manufacturers’ average price for roller pens rose (see chart), while their average prices for the other three types fell or were unchanged.

The WIMA report doesn’t distinguish between price points, thus the $3 average price of roller pens masks a price range from under $1 to nearly $2,000 for limited edition executive models.

Writing instruments aren’t popular with all jewelers; in fact nearly half of respondents to a poll of the JCK Retail Jewelers Panel had no plans to buy any writing instruments last year (see “True Signature Style,” JCK, March 1995, p. 76). But fine writing instruments do have several advantages to consider. They help you to differentiate your store, are perfect “for-anyone” gifts, have good add-on potential and attract collectors who might not otherwise come to your store.


Units Shipped (millions) Manufacturer Prices (millions) Change in Average Price from 1993
Fountain pens 17 $48 -3%
Ball point pens 3,250 $710 N.C.
Roller pens 435 $225 +4%
Mechanical pencils 305 $190 -7%
Porous point pens 220 $73 +3%
Markers/highlighters 710 $260 -5%
Coloring markers 480 $107 -8%
Other * $56 *
Total 5,417 $1,669 N.C.

*Unavailable. Source: Writing Instrument Manufacturers Association.


Most jewelry manufacturers and suppliers offered little or no employee wage increases last year, according to the recently released “1995 Wage and Benefit Study” of the Manufacturing Jewelers and Silversmiths of America.

Workers involved in the manufacturing process were most likely to receive a wage increase; those in finance or distribution departments were least likely. In most occupational categories, more than half the 368 member companies that participated in the study offered no wage increases. For those that did, the most common figure cited was 5%. An encouraging note for workers: few companies reduced wages.

(A similar study on the retail segment of the industry by JCK found a wide range of salary changes, from a 14% decline for benchworkers/jewelry repairers to increases of 20% or more for bookkeepers/accountants, general salesmen and vice presidents/treasurers/controllers. That study is reported in JCK, November 1995, pp. 170-173.)

The MJSA study also inquired about hiring patterns. Among all respondents – fashion and precious metal jewelry manufacturers – about 56% said they had the same number of workers as in 1994, 28% had more and 16% had fewer. Considering only precious metal jewelry manufacturers, 58% had the same number of workers, 31% had more and 11% had fewer.

“The study reflects a manufacturing and supplier industry that has gained some strength,” says David L. Rocha, MJSA senior vice president. “But this is not a rebound spread evenly. Even within the same industry segments, we’re seeing some companies growing while others are downsizing. For a lot of companies, hard times continue.”

Copies of the complete “1995 Wage and Benefit Study” are available for $75 from

MJSA, One State St., Sixth Fl., Providence, R.I. 02908-5035; (800) 444-MJSA or (401) 274-3840, fax (401) 274-0265

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