More Like Medium Rare, Editor’s Letter, November 2012

One of a kind. The phrase used to refer to the rarest of jewels: a truly unique piece, usually bespoke, available to only the richest of the rich. But during the past year, I’ve lost track of how many times the term has cropped up on my radar. How has something that is, by definition, difficult to find suddenly become so widely available?

From what I can tell, jewelers are now using “one-of-a-kind” to describe any jewel—no matter how commonplace—provided it includes a gem with a bouquet of pretty and, by the strictest definition, unique inclusions. But is it fair to imply that an offbeat stone possesses the same rarity as an ornate piece of jewelry designed in a limited edition of one? Does playing fast and loose with the term dilute the singular appeal of a jewel that is, without doubt, a pièce unique?

These are questions more of you will have to grapple with as the demand for special pieces soars among consumers of all backgrounds. Big-picture changes in demographics have stoked demand for one-of-a-kind jewels—driven by the ­millennials’ desire to stand out from the crowd—while new technologies such as CAD and even 3-D printing have enabled more jewelers to offer them, at prices within reach of most consumers.

I’m coveting these sterling silver stud earrings from Elizabeth and James Jewelry. Only $325!

Our third annual JCK Retailer Survey (“The Results Are In”) offers a glimpse of just how much the desire for custom-designed jewelry has risen in the past few years. But that’s not all the survey provides. There are tons of juicy tidbits in the 14 pages we’ve devoted to this year’s results, ranging across the five critical categories of retail operations: Store, Stock, Sales, Staff, and Salary.

Senior editor Emili Vesilind’s feature on how to set prices on custom work (“The Tricky Business of Putting a Price on Custom Designs”) is a powerful companion piece to the survey, as is our feature on private-label ventures from regular contributor Martha C. White (“The Lure of Private Label Jewelry Lines”). Both articles underscore the growing importance of a retailer’s own name and brand reputation in the marketplace.

As far as stock goes, the survey has confirmed the obvious: In this economy, silver is a sterling success story. Read senior editor Jennifer Heebner’s report on how successful manufacturers are positioning the white metal (“Running With Silver”), and then peruse the chic styles adorning our cover model and in the ­product section (“The Art of Sterling”).

With the holidays barreling down upon us, silver will be a no-brainer for most of you, as will anything promoted as one-of-a-kind. But if you’re not entirely ­convinced you can tout your merchandise using that phrase, take heart: You can always describe your store as a “singular sensation.” After all, there’s no ­duplicating a terrific shopping experience.

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