By George Holmes, Editor in chief

Since becoming editor in chief of JCK in September 1974, I’ve written 264 editorial columns. Some annoyed you. A few startled you. I’m sure quite a few bored you. Hopefully, some made you think about some issues with more focus or greater intensity. And now this is the last one. By the time you read it (or skip it ), I will have retired.

For this final column I want to give some very personal comments on a couple of industry issues and I want to thank many people (I wish I could name them all) who over the years have offered such help and good advice when I’ve called on them.

A few special names come to mind right away: Bob Bridge, Andy Johnson, Pat O’Rourke, Georgie Gleim, Willis Cowlishaw, John Michaels, Mark Moeller, Joel Windman, Phil Minsky, John Kennedy, Bill Underwood, Mike Roman.

If the list seems over-weighted with members of the American Gem Society, that’s no accident. When you edit a publication, you have to have a clear idea of who your prime reader is. For us that prime reader is the forward-thinking, ethical, imaginative and dedicated independent jeweler, the person who may run just one store or may run as many as nine or ten. The AGS has many such individuals among its members and the best of them set a standard of business behavior that can serve as an example of which all jewelers can be proud.

This isn’t to say, for a moment, that the AGS has any monopoly on good business practice or on high ethics. Many who choose not to join are outstanding jewelers. But forgive a personal soft spot for AGS people; the ones I know well are just a fine bunch of people.

I owe another great debt to the many jewelers who, over the years, have agreed to be members of the JCK Retail Panel. In my early years with the magazine, I read their replies to our monthly questionnaires so regularly and became so familiar with the jewelers’ handwriting that I didn’t have to check the store name. I learned a huge amount from these panelists about the interests, concerns and plans of the independent jeweler. To give you an idea of these panelists’ loyalty and willingness to share their experiences with others, just consider that since he started with the panel in 1962, B. M. Siegel of Siegel Jewelers in Grand Rapids, Mich., has replied to more than 350 of these monthly questionnaires. Bernie Fields of Middletown, Conn., two different owners at Carroll’s Jewelers in Coral Gables, Fla., Charles Billmeier of Billmeier Jewelers in Saginaw, Mich., and Paul Stein of Bensons Jewelers in Washington, D.C., all have gone over the 200 mark. Some record!

Today the jewelry business is greatly changed from the mid-1970s. We all know that. It’s more competitive, it’s more complex, it’s more international and for everyone involved it’s more demanding. But it continues to be entrancing, addictive and challenging. What better elements could you ask for in any job? Very few, you might say. Yet it concerns me that with such great opportunities to grow and to seek new ideas, too many in the industry still waste far too much time in squabbling over turf battles, in needless bickering and finger-pointing and in knocking the competition instead of going out to overcome it.

It bothers me, too, that the industry continues to be so fragmented. It’s good to have enough differing opinions to encourage diversity and debate. But it’s bad to so over-indulge in doing things your own way that ego takes over from good sense, or from normal civility. That sort of behavior inhibits real industry leaders from emerging. Who wants to be a leader when all you can expect are brickbats, not support?

And we do need more leaders. People who can speak out in the industry and for the industry. There are men and women of great potential at work today. I hope very much that one or more will move up to fill what is now, to my mind, an empty seat.

With that thought, I leave you. I leave with very heartfelt thanks to the many, many people who have helped make my job so fulfilling — even to those who from time to time made it hell! I also want to say thanks to the past and present editors and staff I’ve had the pleasure and privilege of working with — especially Charlie Bond, my boss, and Debbie Holmes, my managing editor and wife, who leaves with me.