When Dana Friedman decided to host a Jude Frances trunk show in the last week of August, she was convinced she’d sell more silver than gold. She was wrong.
“We sold two and a half times more gold jewelry than we did the year before,” says the former buyer for G. Thrapp Jewelers in Indianapolis and the current owner of Petite G Jewelers, which opened in the same location in the spring. (G. Thrapp picked up Jude Frances in the summer of 2015, and Friedman’s new venture retained the line in the new store.)
Friedman is in good company. Designer Gaia Repossi opened a store for her gold jewelry in Paris in August while Spanish gold jewelry brand Tous set its sights on the U.S. market earlier this year. Plus, there’s the seemingly never-ending parade of newer gold jewelry designers at major trade shows. Fueling these efforts are a love of jewelry and an industry that knows that karat gold will move for sellers who have the confidence to buy or make modern styles and wear them to promote sales.
“Gold has value—that’s why it’s doing so well now,” observes Annette Ferdinandsen, a jewelry designer who has seen many of her onetime silver-buying retailers now request her pieces in 14k gold.
Bill Hermsen reopened the doors to August, a jewelry boutique in Los Angeles, nearly three years ago. While a business partner had changed, his inventory had not. “I relaunched with many of the same collections—about 90 percent of which are karat gold,” Hermsen says. “We opened with e-commerce and are now selling internationally in South Korea, Australia, and in Europe, and it’s all gold.”
Delicate Moroccan Long Stone bangle in 18k gold with 4 cts. t.w. turquoise and 0.22 ct. t.w. diamonds; $4,970; Small Moroccan Tips ring in 18k gold with 6.9 cts. t.w. moonstone and 0.23 ct. t.w. diamonds; $2,560; Jude Frances, Irvine, Calif.; 949-533-8860; judefrances.com
Styles That Sell
When Friedman took over her former employer’s space, she replaced a David Yurman in-store boutique with newer gold lines that are “more hip and edgy.” Think Liven Co. and Katherine & Josephine—lines with minimalist 14k gold diamond-studded pieces with universally appealing motifs like stars and pyramids.
For designer Imogen Belfield, who showed at her fourth consecutive Couture show in Las Vegas earlier this year, her most successful gold strategy has focused on offering one-of-a-kind jewels. “We are looking at a growth of at least 50 percent in the first six months of 2016,” Belfield says. “Many of these sales are a result of bespoke designs created as one-off pieces for individual clients.” To wit, for her first trunk show this fall with Reinhold Jewelers in San Juan, Puerto Rico, she’ll bring made-to-order pieces and ready-made signature styles.
Karat-gold custom designs also played a huge role in making 2016 the best sales year ever in 34 years for Paula Dawkins, co-owner of Jewels That Dance in Asheville, N.C. In 2008, Dawkins replaced a large amount of vendor-supplied inventory with one-of-a-kind gemstone and gold pieces at the urging of a consultant. “We’ve branded ourselves and made custom about 40 percent of business,” she explains.
Bracelets sell particularly well in Friedman’s store because she and her associates stack them and wear them in multiples. In fact, her most successful gold sale to date was a $4,250 two-tone gold and silver cuff from John Apel. In five years, the recently minted shop owner but longtime jewelry buyer has sold 50 of them simply by wearing it—prompting Apel to christen the cuff “The Dana.”
“I sell what I wear,” she says.
Icon Mini Bear necklace in 18k yellow gold; $495; Icon Mesh Heritage choker in stainless steel mesh and 18k yellow gold; $485; Tous, Aventura, Fla.; 877-463-8140; tous.com
From $500 to $5,000
Many retailers agree that offering accessible price points in gold helps fuel future (and bigger) sales. Los Angeles–based Voiage sells best in the $2,000–$5,000 range, including pieces from Ileana Makri and Tura Sugden, though founder Julie Schroeder says she also stocks pricier designs by Brooke Gregson.
For Friedman, offering a wider price range of 14k gold styles starting at $700 retail is most effective.
Meanwhile, Ferdinandsen confirms that an entry retail price south of $1,000 is most popular among her clients. “Small earrings under $1,000 are a no-brainer,” she says. “And sales in the $1,000-to-$2,000 range are not a challenge.”
Belfield’s fine line, too, starts at $735, with plenty of stacking rings featuring colored stones or small diamonds that inspire quick sales.
Other gold jewelers, however, suggest going even lower on price. Tous’ focus is on 18k gold jewels that cost less than $500 retail. “Affordable, cute, and simple…the small gold pieces are an important line for us,” says Ralphy Bensadon, president and CEO of U.S. distribution.
Dawkins, too, has a sweet spot that starts at $500 and tops out at $1,000 retail for wedding bands (look to Gabriel & Co. for examples). Meanwhile gold earrings—of her own handiwork and from designers such as Alex Sepkus—are available for under $1,500.
Ray of Sunshine earrings in 14k gold with 0.96 ct. t.w. diamonds; $2,698; Liven, Los Angeles; 213-293-6088; livenco.com
Smart Selling Strategies
Aside from knowing what your customers want and giving it to them at the right price points, it’s important to update your tactics—not to mention your space. If your store looks the way it did 20 years ago, it’s high time for a refresh.
Generate traffic to your store, be it a brick-and-mortar shop or an online destination, by taking advantage of free and powerful social media tools such as Instagram. Drive interest simply by letting people know that your jewelry is available. The trick is “finding a way to let people know how to find us,” Belfield says. “Our customers range from 18 to 70, so we have a varied range from which our traction originates, whether through social media or readers of print magazines.”
At Voiage, Schroeder’s busy calendar includes gentlemen’s events with whiskey and men’s gold jewelry from Eli Halili as well as trunk shows featuring Jamie Joseph’s newest works with 10 percent of sales earmarked for an animal charity in Los Angeles. “We mix jewelry into community events,” she says.
Having endured her own business transformation, Dawkins at Jewels That Dance understands the challenge facing retailers who have yet to implement their own. She encountered one such store over the summer in an upscale beach community in Rhode Island. In what should have been a bustling location, outdated cases with mismatched jewelry pads, missing trays, crooked props and pieces, and decades-old displays were driving away fashion-forward shoppers.
“I was like, ‘Are you kidding me?’?” Dawkins says. “They should have been raking it in in that town. That’s what happens when you’re stuck in your world.”
Last but not least: Love what you sell, and don’t forget to wear it. Hermsen, who likes to email images of pieces to clients as soon as items of interest become available, says he recently sold a $4,500 18k gold and red tourmaline ring by Lola Brooks because a sales associate was wearing it.
“It helps to see pieces on—the enthusiasm carries through,” he says.
The same goes for Friedman. “If you advertise it and wear it, then clients come in, see it, and ask for it,” she says. “It’s an easy sell.”
Top: photograph by Greg Sorensen, styling by Catherine Peridis
Market editor: Jennifer Heebner. Makeup by Alexis Williams for the brooks agency. Hair by Gusléne Bubak. Manicure by Angela Marinescu. Top by Lulus.
Climber earrings in 14k yellow gold with diamonds, $1,295, Ron Hami, Los Angeles, 213-327-0998, ronhami.com; L pendant necklace in 14k yellow gold, $435, Judi Powers Jewelry, Brooklyn, N.Y., 718-571-9049, judipowersjewelry.com; Star dog tag icon necklace in 14 yellow gold with a diamond accent, $165, Jane Basch Jewelry Designs, Hollywood, Fla., 800-558-1144, janebasch.com; drop earrings in 18k yellow gold with diamonds, $6,200, bangle bracelet in 18k yellow gold with diamonds, $5,640, pyramid fringe necklace in 18k yellow gold with diamonds, $10,522, Doves by Doron Paloma, Great Neck, N.Y., 888-663-6837, dovesjewelry.com; kite necklace in 14k gold with diamonds, $800, Carrie Hoffman Jewelry, Los Angeles, 323-459-6532, carriehoffmanjewelry.com; Domain duet ring in 18k yellow gold, $650, Domain signet ring in 18k yellow gold, $1,800, Realm, Philadelphia, 215-852-0798, explorerealm.com; Chevron and Autumn bands in 18k yellow gold with diamonds, $2,800–$10,000, Erica Courtney, Los Angeles, 323-938-2373, ericacourtney.com; band in 14k yellow gold with diamonds, $1,553, Effy, NYC, 212-944-0020, effyjewelry.com; rings and bracelets in 18k yellow gold with diamonds, $1,095–$1,650, Alor, San Diego, 800-872-2567, alor.com
Inset: Arrow stacker rings in 18k rose and yellow gold with heat-treated onyx, 0.15 ct. t.w. icy diamonds, pink tourmaline, amethyst, and emerald; $3,895 for three; Imogen Belfield, London; 44-78-5011-8037; imogenbelfield.com