Letters

MASTER GOLDSMITH STANDARDS

The American jewelry industry is a vast and amazing field of business and art. Contained within it are pockets of ingenious commerce and fine art fueled by the exceptional creativity of individuals.

Though the industry is large, it is still a neophyte compared to the European standards of goldsmithing, which are hundreds of years in the making.

In European countries – such as Germany, England, Switzerland, France, Denmark and many others – there are Goldsmith Guilds. These guilds have hundreds of years of experience and have set standards for apprenticeship programs, journeyman goldsmiths and master goldsmiths. For example, in Germany there is a test for the master goldsmith certification.

The individual must first submit an original design in a high-quality rendering. This design must be completely handfabricated – meaning it must be done directly in precious metal, no wax, no molds, no casting.

The design must include the making of moving parts, such as hinges and clasps, and gemstone setting techniques. The creation of the design must demonstrate a high degree of difficulty, and it must be executed within a set time period. The finished piece must meet quality standards of an exceptionally well-executed piece of jewelry.

To pass this test takes years of experience and dedication to the art of goldsmithing. Many individuals fail this test in their first attempt, but many return to try again and pass. This sort of passion is what maintains the evolution of goldsmithing.

The master goldsmith certification is but a level of proficiency to be met and then surpassed, and from this process is born the consummate artisan.

It is simply a matter of respect for the goldsmiths that have come before us, and to those who will come after us and set even higher standards, to recognize the qualifications of the master goldsmith.

Zoltan David Austin, Tex.

INSURANCE SNAFU

On Dec. 19, 1996, I closed my store, drove home and was confronted in my garage by a masked gunman.

I was bound with duct tape, robbed of my cash and personal jewelry and forced into the trunk of my car, driven back to my store and compelled to open the safe, whereupon the robber emptied it, including all customer repairs.

This is the horror about which all jewelers have nightmares. However, the nightmare does not end there. I, as I’m sure most jewelers have, spent thousands and thousands of dollars on insurance.

It has been over four months and I still have heard nothing from my insurance carrier, Lloyds of London. My insurance agent didn’t have the decency to call me about the renewal of my policy; he faxed me that I was no longer covered after Jan. 1 of this year. By the way, he had been my agent for 19 years. I’d love to know how much commission he’s made on me over the years.

Consequently, with no insurance, I cannot reinventory my store. Therefore, I am forced to close my doors. The insurance company does not care; my agent does not care. My customers are complaining to me about their losses, my vendors are unable to be paid and we’re all on the short end of the proverbial stick. We are now preparing a lawsuit against Lloyds of London.

So where does that leave me or any other jeweler who suffers a loss? I have lost my livelihood. After 19 years of running a very reputable business and enjoying good standing in the community, I am being forced to seek employment at age 61, when I should be retiring and enjoying life.

I was once told the definition of a banker is “someone who gives you an umbrella when the sun is shining and takes it away when it’s raining.” This also applies to insurance companies. We can’t live without them, but we sure can’t live with them either.

I would strongly urge all my fellow jewelers to call their respective agents, question them at length as to what they would expect in the event of a loss. Will you have to sue them to get what we’re all paying for?

Lou Bader Lou Bader Ltd. Fine Jewelers
St. Petersburg, Fla.

WEB WATCH

Thanks for putting JCK on-line. It’s going to make my transition from Gemological Institute of America student to business owner a lot easier. I look forward to every issue of the monthly magazine. Now I’ve got an even quicker resource for product and industry information. Thanks again, you can be sure at least one person is using your site.

Bill Yates via e-mail

PASSION, ROMANCE SELL DIAMONDS

Far too often as jewelers, we get caught up in the technical aspects of selling diamonds and forget what drives the consumer to buy diamonds – emotions, love and romance. These very special feelings bring the consumer to our stores, and it is our responsibility to balance the provision of technical information while never losing sight of the fact they are making a purchase to celebrate an emotional event. The celebration may be an engagement, the birth of a child, an anniversary, birthday or the celebration of a holiday. These are all events driven by feelings that usually two people share, although it can be a celebration by just one person – in the event of the accomplishment of a milestone or something as important as thinking “I’m worth it!” Different reasons, yet the same – all emotional.

Whereas we need a thorough knowledge of technical information to best serve our customers and represent our industry and business in a professional way, we need to step back and realize and capitalize on the very reason we are even granted the opportunity to see these people. We need to connect with them and become a small part of their emotional celebration.

Until we identify – or for many of us reidentify – our passion for what we are doing, it is very difficult to connect with that customer. And more often than not, we get tied up in the financial, marketing and training parts of our business. When it takes concentration to maintain the passion that is so important to the success of selling diamonds, it’s probably time to renew our passion. Many of us are most effective if passion flows naturally.

Recognizing that we need to recharge our energy and passion for diamonds, we are drawn to Antwerp, Belgium, two times annually. Some people call Antwerp the diamond cutting capital of the world – and it is. Some say jewelers can buy diamonds better here than anywhere else, and sometimes that is true. Others boast of the vast selection of diamonds available, and that certainly is correct.

For me, it is all of these things from which we build very successful promotions, but most importantly, I recharge my passion for diamonds. For a week or two biannually, I take the time to think about the rarity of this wonderful “present from earth” as Gabi Tolkowsky terms diamonds. I walk through the diamond district feeling the brisk international flavor of commerce where the common thread is the rare, precious and sought-after diamond. These diamonds have thousands of people bustling around every day, exchanging very large sums of money to acquire these small “presents from earth.” It’s interesting to think about the intensity of trade connected with diamonds. Just being there is exciting!

Sitting in one of the four diamond bourses in Antwerp, looking at diamonds and visiting with diamond cutters and others in different parts of the diamond trade is enlightening.

It seems everyone is interested in sharing information and the selling techniques are soft – not high pressure. Many times a supplier will even share his private collection of rare diamonds.

The education derived from a visit with someone like Ronnie or Roger Wagemans of Diamwag in Antwerp is priceless. There is always industry information that we can bring home and use. Europeans even say the word “diamond” more romantically – it seems to have an added element of respect and reverence appropriate for the “king of gems.”

Evenings are spent with friends in the industry at neat restaurants that have a romantic atmosphere adding to the European flavor. Picture walking down a cobblestone street, then a short walkway of brick and cobblestone in a residential/business area. Look up at the old, well-kept buildings with their small-paned windows, lace curtains, shutters and window boxes overflowing with colorful flowers and ivy. Wrought-iron gates and heavy ornate doors hide quaint small restaurants that by appearance suggest fine food and wine. White table linen and candles with a stained glass window nearby set the stage for an evening of relaxed enjoyment. Belgian cuisine seems to be cooked with French finesse served in portions of German generosity. The ambiance created by evenings like this lend to one of our purposes of being there.

Who said we can’t mix business with pleasure! Business in the diamond capital of the world while enjoying European culture is pleasure.

While in Europe, I also take advantage of the culture that differs from ours. It puts me in a great mood that holds for a long time. The art, architecture and style of Europe broadens our thinking. A side trip to Paris is easy or a trip to view fields of tulips in Holland will exhilarate.

Several organizations orchestrate trips to Antwerp. I’ve found the one organized by the Independent Jewelers Organization is the best, especially in terms of ease – they will actually “hold your hand” as much as needed and will take care of every detail of the trip.

IJO also has a great detailed promotional plan that works, and its suppliers are reliable, friendly and easy to work with. IJO was actually the pioneer of taking retail jewelers to the diamond district in Antwerp. It was through IJO’s initiative that retailers are even welcome in the bourses of Antwerp.

Today, an independent jeweler is welcome in Antwerp. It is best for many reasons to travel with a group like IJO, and there is nothing that will make a diamond salesperson better at selling diamonds than a trip to this exciting, romantic European diamond center.

If your passion and energy for diamonds needs to be renewed, let the excitement and romance of Europe and specifically Antwerp let it take its natural course. Fall in love all over again – with diamonds that is!

Linda K. Brantley, CGA Trein’s Jewelry Inc. Dixon, Ill.

Sound Off: What do you think?

JCK welcomes letters to the editor. Direct them to our editorial offices at One Chilton Way, Radnor, PA 19089, fax (610) 964-4481 or via e-mail to pdonahue@chilton.net. The magazine reserves the right to edit letters for clarity and length.