The Real Computer Payoff:: More Profit

The revolution is over: the computer has captured the jewelry store with dramatic effects. Thousands of jewelers have become more efficient, gaining a tighter grasp on operations and sales and – in consequence – becoming more profitable.

“It has improved our lives immensely,” says Allan Herrud of Langdon, S.D., whose watch repair business doubled thanks to computerization. “I don’t think we could get along without it now.”

But while computers help many jewelers as a bookkeeper, merchandiser and analyst, their full potential as a profit-builder – especially with jewelry design and networking – has yet to be realized.

These are some findings of a JCK poll of hundreds of jewelers nationwide. Full results of the poll are detailed in this special report, “The Real Computer Payoff: More Profit.”

The report also looks at how some jewelers use their computers for daily tasks such as inventory control, shows how a jeweler can be successful with a $250 used computer and looks at the quickly growing industry of retailing by computer.

SPECIAL REPORT

The report includes easy-to-use lists of computer networks with services for jewelers and computer software providers, not to mention a look at a new fashion fad: computers chips as jewelry.

Essential: No question about it: the computer has become an essential tool in the daily business life of most U.S. retail jewelers, regardless of size.

Three out of four jewelers in the study (77%) use computers in their business operations, and half of them plan to upgrade or add functions to their systems in the next 12 months.

Computerization is so extensive that virtually everyone polled – including those without a computer themselves – say most of their colleagues use them. In Yakima, Wash., for example, Pat Gilmore of Dunbar Jewelers estimates at least 75% of his peers have computers and “most of us…brainstorm [via computer] on better use” of them.

And many of those who don’t use a computer now soon will: two out of five (42%) say they will add one within the year.

Order or chaos? Jewelers aren’t unanimous in their use or praise of computers, of course. A few are downright disgusted. “The learning curve is tough,” says one New England jeweler who went on-line with a computer last year. “I may write a book called Automation: 10 Easy Steps to Chaos.” A Florida jeweler who added a computer in 1993 agrees, declaring, “hardware is great, software is a disaster.” There are a few holdouts against these modern contraptions, but they are the exceptions. The overwhelming opinion of jewelers polled is that a computer is an effective, work-saving business tool they can’t do without.

This computerized takeover of jewelry store management has occurred in a relatively short time. It began slowly in the 1970s with major chains and then picked up speed in the 1980s with regional chains and large independents. Recently, the trot has turned into a stampede, with many jewelers having gone on-line since 1990.

The biggest influence on many to plug in and turn on wasn’t the wonders of modern technology but the oldest form of data transfer – word of mouth. More than a third say the advice of other retailers led them to buy their first computer. Toss in the counsel of friends, relatives and accountants, and the figure rises to almost half of those polled.

Office manager: Once jewelers install a computer, most of them turn over basic business operations to the electronic marvel. The most common use: inventory management. “[We have] accurate, up-to-date inventory information by department, by vendor and by store,” says Dale Briman of Briman’s Leading Jewelers, Topeka, Kan. Adds Phil Lemon of Lemons Jewelry in Waynesboro, Va., precise sales and stock information from the computer “has improved our inventory control and reduced our inventory levels.”

Also near the top of the list are such routine office tasks as accounts receivable and payable, direct mail, customer and vendor lists, tag printing, sales analysis and various reports.

One in five of the jewelers polled buys software off the shelf. Just over half use software designed for retail jewelers, while a third use software designed specifically for them. Inventory and appraisal functions are the two leading categories of customized software among the jewelers polled.

Dramatic impact: The impact of computerization on business operations has been dramatic. Almost every jeweler polled says computerization has improved his or her efficiency, and two out of three say it has done so “greatly.”

In Southfield, Mich., for instance, jeweler Lew Silver says the computer cut paperwork by 60%. And Pat Gilmore of Dunbar Jewelers adds that the billing process used to take 21Æ2 days, but now, with computers, takes two hours at most.

The resulting freedom from so much paperwork gives jewelers and their employees more time for selling, for displays and for business planning. Many also cite the “timeliness,” “speed” and “convenience” of having instant detailed information – whether it be verifying a customer’s purchase or six-month sales data on quarter-carat diamond rings. As jeweler Harry Levitch of Memphis, Tenn., puts it, “Everything is available at a finger’s touch.”

Even more significant is the “control” – an oft-repeated word in the poll – that computers give users. “We no longer fly by the seat our pants,” says Don Kelsheimer, a jeweler and computer enthusiast in Casey, Ill. “I know where I am financially every day.” Adds Craig Benson, manager of John Rich Jewelers in Mentor, Ohio, “We have a better idea now of how much money is invested in various categories, which departments are more profitable than others and which vendors’ merchandise moves better.”

In short, says jeweler David Coll of Montclair, Cal., “computerization has given me a better picture of how my store is doing.”

In turn, that helps jewelers to plan for the future. “Being able to analyze, compare and generally have concrete data on hand…helps us be smarter and plan better,” says George Robey of Sibbings Jewelry in Dubuque, Iowa.

Profits: The bottom line of all this is – a better bottom line. Four of five jewelers say computerizing their operations has improved their profits at least a little, and many of them say it has “helped greatly.”

Still, most jewelers polled haven’t progressed beyond the management basics to more imaginative, and profitable, uses of their computer. Few of them use their computers for jewelry design or computer imaging (showing and adapting jewelry to customer preferences), two functions that could boost sales. Though imaging technology can be expensive (running into several thousand dollars), design software is affordable for virtually any jeweler who wants to do custom work.

Another untapped business opportunity is the computer network. A network is basically a collection of computers linked through cable or telephone lines. There are literally thousands of networks worldwide (including Internet, the largest global web) and hundreds in the U.S. A number of these are designed specifically for jewelers, including Polygon (which allows trading among jewelers and offers Jewelers’ Security Alliance information), GIA Net (established by the Gemological Institute of America), Diamond Network, The Registry Ltd. (for estate and period jewelry) and RapNet (providing diamond market information).

Only one in four jewelers polled belongs to one or more computer networks. The fact that only 67% have a modem – a device that would connect them to a network – is a factor. But even those with modems don’t always use them fully. One West Coast jeweler, for example, uses his modem only to communicate with his software supplier – about twice a year.

Maybe the revolution isn’t completely over yet. The computer has taken over the office – now jewelers must learn how to use it to fatten their profits.

SELLING ON-LINE: THE ADVENTURE GROWS

Just when you thought you knew all the ways to sell jewelry, along comes another: the home computer.

On-line shopping turns a personal computer into a cyber-mall of retailers connected to a widening web of networks.

“Electronic shopping is going to change the way consumers shop, and retailers will have to adjust the way they do business,” says Daniel Porter, president of RFS North America. RFS services the private-label credit cards of thousands of retailers around the world and is working on “electronic store” technology for them.

Enthusiasts say computer home shopping could rival TV home shopping within a few years. And like any shopping center, this electronic mall has room for smaller retailers, as some jewelers already know.

Ballooning demand: Shopping by computer isn’t new. The CompuServe computer network has been selling merchandise for at least a decade. But on-line shopping has grown substantially in the past 18 months as consumer demand for home computers balloons and computer makers shift focus from business-only to home and entertainment services.

About 7 million personal computers (PCs) were sold in the U.S. last year, and at least that many will be sold this year. In the next decade, say industry experts, the number of U.S. homes with a computer will rise from 33% to 50%.

What makes PCs so popular? They are increasingly “user friendly” (easy to use), offer multimedia features (full-color pictures, sound and video), and have sophisticated telephone modems that connect them to a global web of computer networks and services, including on-line retailing.

The multimedia features make computer selling increasingly attractive, say vendors. Instead of just words describing a product, consumers now see it in full color. “When the color pictures of our inventory jump up on the screen, people [expecting a text-only presentation] seem startled,” says Douglas K. Hucker, president of The Registry Ltd., the estate and antique jewelry division of R.F. Moeller Jeweler in St. Paul, Minn. The Registry launched an on-line service last year and already has more than 100 retail clients.

Some retailers – including Ross Simons, Tiffany and Brendle’s – have even put their catalogs on CD-ROM (computer disc-read only memory). Consumers simply slip the disc into their home computer to see pictures of the merchandise and text describing it.

But while more and more vendors are testing this new marketplace – selling everything from chocolates to cars – shopping by computer is still a tiny drop in the $2 trillion retailing sea. Only 6% of U.S. computer owners now use any on-line service, and total annual sales from on-line shopping is under $200 million, says Matthew Kursh, president of eShop of San Mateo, Cal., which makes technology that enables retailers to sell to computer users, either directly or through a network.

That’s peanuts compared with the $3 billion dollar TV home shopping industry. But analysts expect 25% growth in on-line retailing within five years. “It’s a small business now,” says Kursh. “But consumers are looking for easier, better ways to make purchases and increasingly use computers to do it. We expect electronic shopping will grow rapidly during the rest of this decade.”

Kursh concedes on-line selling won’t replace walk-in retailing or catalogs, but says it will “easily compete with and probably eclipse TV home shopping” in annual sales volume by the end of the ’90s.

Footholds: Not surprisingly, some big retail names, including some in TV shopping, already have deep footholds in this new electronic marketplace. For example:

  • eShop is creating an “electronic marketplace” for AT&T’s PersonaLink on-line service. Other major retail clients – including Lands’ End, Hallmark and Tower Records – are working with eShop on their own on-line “stores.”

  • GE Capital Services’ Retailer Financial Service division recently made a “significant investment” in eShop. RFS is the world’s largest provider of private-label credit cards, servicing some 300 major retailers and thousands of smaller ones worldwide. The company “intends to help [them] become actively involved in electronic home shopping by facilitating the design and launch of electronic shops using eShop technology,” says a spokesperson.

  • The Home Shopping Network, which reaches 60 million U.S. households, recently bought Internet Shopping Network, which offers computer products to Internet’s 25 million users worldwide. ISN has created an on-line “store” on the Prodigy computer network (with 2 million users) called the HSC Outlet Net. HSN plans to “greatly expand” ISN this year and may sell space to other merchants. “[Merging] the TV and the PC is an area [of retailing] that is coming closer and closer,” says HSN Vice President Louise Cleery.

  • QVC, the world’s largest TV home retailer (50 million homes in the U.S., 17 million in Mexico and the United Kingdom) will soon launch “Q-online,” a computer shopping service that will offer more merchandise than its TV service.

  • CompuServe, one of the oldest computer networks, offers its 11 million users “Electronic Mall” (with 120 merchants, including J.C. Penney).

  • America On-Line, another leading network, has “CompuStore,” with a quarter million items from dishes to furniture.

  • Richard C. Marcus of Neiman-Marcus retail fame and developer Kenneth H. Hughes have created Shopping IN, an on-line network in the Dallas area that features upscale merchants.

Jewelry on-line: Jewelry is an important part of this burgeoning industry. It will be a major category on HSN’s expanded ISN and already is in HSN’s Prodigy “store.” In fact, it quickly sold out of its initial stock of jewelry ($20 to several hundred dollars retail) after “opening” in October.

Even retail jewelers themselves are looking at on-line retailing. Sterling Inc., the second largest U.S. jeweler with 880 stores, has been studying the possibility and will likely add it within five years. “Times are changing and so are consumer buying habits,” says Executive Vice President Steve Holden. “People want shopping that is not only easier but less time-consuming.”

(Zale Corp., the largest U.S. jeweler, is rebuilding its market after exiting bankruptcy protection two years ago and won’t give serious attention to on-line selling until the late ’90s, says a spokesperson.)

On-line retailing also attracts smaller retailers who want to reach a larger audience without adding a store or printing a catalog, says Kursh. The Registry Ltd. of St. Paul, Minn., is one example. MarkMoeller of R.F. Moeller Jeweler launched The Registry as a wholesale division in 1982; the on-line service started in 1994. Douglas K. Hucker, president of TheRegistry, describes the computer service as “an on-line catalog with vivid photographs, current news items, education information and a discussion group, available to users at no charge. Though the market is minimal now, says Hucker, “I expect we’ll be selling a mountain of jewelry in five years.”

Moeller plans to put his store on-line through The Registry this spring. “This is the future of retailing,” says Moeller. “It won’t replace holding and touching pieces, but it will pique [consumers’] interest and expand horizons beyond belief.”

In Chicago, meanwhile, Steve Quick Jewelers offers estate and custom-made pieces to potentially millions of network users via ChicagoElectric (see “Jewelry in Cyberspace,” page 185, JCK, January 1995) Quick was “pleasantly surprised” by initial on-line inquiries and made several sales in the first weeks after he went on line in October.

And in Dallas, Tex., Castle Gap Jewelry, a four-store company specializing in American Indian jewelry, joined Shop IN in October, offering items retailing for $18 to $200. Computer users pick Shop IN from a list of services on the computer, choose “Jewelry” from the on-screen menu and then see digitized color images and descriptions. Keyed-in orders are sent to Shop IN, which faxes them to Castle Gap.

During its first four months on-line, says Charlotte Bennett, Castle Gap co-owner and vice president, the company received at least a dozen orders from on-line shoppers. The customers were all new and were the type her company seeks: “sophisticated consumers looking for unique pieces.” While a dozen orders aren’t many, “no one has ever done this before, so we had no idea of what to expect,” says Bennett. “We’re pleased so far, but it will take time to develop this.”

Some problems: On-line shopping isn’t all black ink and roses. Some vendors complain that older computers can’t offer detailed graphics quickly or don’t have sophisticated enough modems to receive improved programming. And it’s taking longer than assumed to get the bugs out of some new computer technology.

There’s also concern about protecting data, including credit-card information, from computer-sophisticated thieves. The Internet – linking some 30 million computers worldwide – has had problems with thieves who know how to circumvent its security systems. Bank of America, Citicorp Bank, Wells Fargo, the First Interstate Bank and operators of on-line retail services are trying to create more sophisticated encryption technology to frustrate such break-ins and thefts. They’re also working on technology to let users make payments directly to stores and banks on their computers.

Quick, Hucker, Moeller, Bennett and Holden are excited about the potential of on-line retailing. “We have a tremendous opportunity to get in on the bottom floor,” says Bennett. “This is the wave of the future.”

PUTTING `CONTROL’ BACK INTO INVENTORY CONTROL

Many jewelers say computers have helped them to put control back in their inventory control.

“With manual records, inventory management was very difficult,” says Rob Panowicz, a jeweler in Olympia, Wash., who computerized in 1989. “We had to track each piece of merchandise through years of paper trails and couldn’t really replace fast-moving items on a regular basis. A salesman would sell us something to replace an item we sold the week before – and we’d forget we had it [in stock] for five years.”

Computerization forced Panowicz into a regimented approach to inventory. “We broke down our merchandise into finer categories,” he says. Wedding bands, for example, are now categorized by plain or carved, color, metal quality and metal width instead of just plain or carved. “This makes it easier for us to compare what’s selling and to compare costs among vendors,” he says.

Panowicz says computerized inventory control offers other benefits, including:

  • Better customer service “because we now have a better chance of having in stock what customers look for.”

  • Lower holding and financing costs and better margins.

  • Higher sales volume and lower inventory costs at the same time. “That’s essential for survival in the ’90s. In fact, without the computer, I’m not sure we would have survived.”

The edge: Dan Danford, a jeweler in Madison, Wis., and a former Zale Corp. vice president, agrees that jewelers need computers for profitable inventory control. “The jewelry business has become so complex that jewelers need an edge,” he says. “Computers can provide it.”

When Danford bought his business from his employer in 1992, the computer wasn’t being used effectively to track price points or turnover. “Strong sales categories weren’t being replenished in a timely manner,” he recalls.

He upgraded the computer system and customized an off-the-shelf inventory program to track such specifics as turnover by price point, vendor and merchandise category “We now take our 15 best lines and track them every two weeks to see how they’re turning, then reorder merchandise,” he says. “We don’t wait for the salesmen.” One example: the computer quickly showed that an initial order from Southwest jewelry manufacturer Kabana turned 80% in 40 days, justifying its addition.

Now Danford is taking electronic inventory control a step further with bar code scanning equipment – including tag printer and handheld scanner. He says the $15,000 system will pay for itself within a year by significantly reducing the time necessary to take inventory and eliminating human error.

The complete upgrade was expensive – about $50,000. But the store’s annual volume jumped from $1 million to $2.4 million in just two years, and Danford attributes much of the gain to the computer.

Danford concedes that computers still “scare” many jewelers who have done business for many years without them. But this 28-year jewelry retailing veteran offers a word of advice: “I’m not a computer whiz. I got one and `played’ with it to see what it could do. Once you start to use it, you feel more comfortable and learn new ways to use it as you go along. I’m proof that you can teach an old dog new tricks.”

SUCCESS WITH A $250 COMPUTER

Many small jewelers assume they must spend thousands of dollars to computerize their business. Nonsense, says jeweler Don Kelsheimer, owner of the Bird’s Nest, which he operates with his wife and a staff of four part-time salespeople in the small farm town of Casey, Ill.

With a used IBM personal computer he bought for $250 at a computer fair and about $200 of off-the-shelf software, Kelsheimer successfully tracks inventory, turnover and repairs; produces appraisal reports, a newsletter and mailing labels; and generally keeps his finger on his store’s financial pulse.

“The idea that computers and software are just too expensive is false,” says Kelsheimer, a self-taught computer buff who paid $1,500 for his first computer in 1990 and now teaches evening classes in computer use at a junior college.

Why would a guy who knows so much about computers not buy a state-of-the-art model to run his business? “Because I’m not wealthy, and because I can do the same things with my [used] IBM PS2 and color monitor,” he says bluntly.

Finding a good used computer is as easy as ABC, says the former high school teacher:

A. Familiarize yourself with computers so you know what you want from one. Go to a newsstand to buy computer magazines that explain what new models can do, rate hardware and software, and offer news about the rapidly changing computer industry.

B. Get advice from a local computer guru, someone who “knows and does things with computers.” It may be a store salesman, teacher, relative or other retailer. Or ask at schools, computer stores or newspaper offices for the name of a local computer user group.

C. Shop around. Check newspaper ads and telephone books for computer or electronic stores that sell used computers and visit computer fairs. “There is a constant market [of good used computers] from people who upgrade to more sophisticated hardware” he says. When buying a used computer, be sure to ask for any manuals or support materials.

Drawback: One drawback with used hardware is it may not be sophisticated enough to use jewelry design or imaging software. “But a small-town jeweler can get along fine with what’s available in basic store-management software,” says Kelsheimer. “I find most mom-and-pop businesses don’t want to do everything at once. They add as they go along, starting with inventory, then on to accounts receivable, mailing lists and then a total accounting package.”

Computerization has had a significant impact on Kelsheimer’s own business. “Before, we flew by the seat of our pants,” he says. “Now I know where I am financially every day. I know who owes me and who I owe. And when someone has a problem with a product, I now where it came from.” A customer once lost the stone in an emerald ring. Kelsheimer returned the ring to the supplier, who said it wasn’t his product. “With my [computer] tracking, I was able to tell him when I purchased it, the invoice number, how much I paid for it and when I delivered it to my customer. With that information, the supplier was willing to admit he had made a mistake in his first assessment of the ring,” Kelsheimer says dryly, “and he replaced the emerald.”

MORE TIME FOR BUSINESS

Computerization has had a significant effect on the watch repair business at Herrud’s Jewelry, a store with a staff of five in Langdon, S.D. (population 2,200). “It not only has made life a lot easier,” says owner Allan Herrud, “but I don’t think we could get along without it now.”

The immediate impact of computerizing Herrud’s watch repair business in 1990 was on recordkeeping. “We do a lot of trade work,” he says. “To handwrite all those records took umpteen hours.” Since computerization, the store has nearly quadrupled its trade accounts (from 10 that accounted for 25% of total revenue to 36 that account for 40%).

In addition, salespeople now have more time to work on sales and displays, he says.

Herrud couldn’t find an off-the-shelf computer watch repair program, so he had a computer-programmer friend design one for him. The cost: a couple of hundred dollars. When someone brings in a watch for repair, the salesperson gives it a “Herrud number” and enters that in the computer along with the account name, number, description and condition at time of take-in, the date in and when it was invoiced out. Information can be retrieved instantly for any reason.

The store also invoices through its computer, an IBM 426.

While many jewelers start their computerization journey with inventory control, Herrud took a more ambitious path with repair tracking, accounts payable and receivable and a newsletter.

Based on the success of the watch repair program, Herrud now plans to expand his computer use by adding a bridal registry and possibly inventory control.

PROFITING FROM LISTS

Customer lists. Every jeweler has one, but not every one gets the most profit out of them. Computers can help by keeping accurate, easily accessible records of what and when customers are likely to buy.

Consider Krista Birchmore, co-owner of Gudmondson & Buyck Jewelers in Columbia, S.C. Birchmore, a former president of the South Carolina Jewelers Association and a computer user since 1988, divides her list into three categories:

  • Group A comprises regular customers who spend more than $1,000 a year in her store.

  • Group B comprises those who spend less than $1,000.

  • Group C has the names of people she would like to have as customers but doesn’t yet.

Under each customer’s name are address, telephone number, place of work, finger size, ZIP code, whether married or single and a place for notes such as likes/dislikes (“likes emeralds”), anniversaries, birthdays and other relevant marketing and sales information.

When she gets new emerald jewelry in the store, for example, she calls up the category “Likes Emeralds” and calls everyone on the list. When a woman shows an interest in something during the year, Birchmore makes a note in her computer then calls the husband at Christmas time to suggest the item as a gift. “I call those notes my `Santa Claus’ list,” she says.

You can do the same manually with index cards. “But that takes a lot more time,” she says. “With a computer, I just pull up what I want whenever I want it.”

A brand-new computer will give Birchmore the capability to personalize letters. “I’ll be able to follow up on past purchases, such as writing a letter to newlyweds on their first anniversary or reminding customers about upcoming anniversaries or birthdays.”

Immediate effect: Birchmore has used a computer in her business since 1988. Edwin Larosa, owner of Ayens Inc. in Clifton, N.J, just bought his last summer, but it has already affected his business. “Before, we didn’t know who our customers were unless we looked into our [manual] files,” he says. “Now we ask the computer for reports on who bought what and for how much. If we have a $5,000 piece, for example, we now send a mailing to all those who the computer says can afford it” based on past purchases. He uses the computer to customize the letter so the customer thinks it was prepared just for him or her.

Early this year, Larosa invited his 60 best customers (those who the computer said spent $5,000 in the past year) to an appointment-only visit at which they could receive discounts. He expected a 20% response but was pleased with the 50% turnout – and everyone who came bought something.

The computer also has cut the time he spent on paperwork, giving him more time to sell. In fact, his sales volume has increased at least 30% since he computerized.

Meanwhile, jeweler Dan Danford of Madison, Wis., uses his computer to target specific markets. “For example, we track ZIP codes of those who make $2,000 purchases or more and then send them circulars on upcoming estate jewelry shows,” he says. “That’s better than having to guess who may or may not be interested.”

The computer also comes in handy in Danford’s effort to expand his market beyond his mostly upscale clientele in the university town. “We want to expand our market to include customers who spend only $200 to $400 annually,” he says. “We concentrate on them when we are looking at a promotion such as a remount event. [This precision targeting] gives us a better return than across the board.”

IN THE CHIPS: COMPUTER BITS AS JEWELRY

Using computers to design and sell jewelry isn’t unusual. But making jewelry from computer parts? It’s one of the latest cybertrends.

Intel Corp. of Santa Clara, Cal., the world’s leading maker of computer chips (tiny pieces of silicon embedded with trillions of tiny circuits that perform computer tasks), used to discard defective chips. Now Intel gives the chips to Silicon Valley Ware Inc., a small promotional products company in Mountain View, Cal., that sets them into jewelry.

Silicon Valley Ware is headed by designer Diane Emerson, who suggested the idea to Intel and who designs the jewelry. In a test project last year, chip jewelry was created for Intel employees and business contacts. The test was so successful that the jewelry is now available to retailers.

Silicon Valley Ware’s Pentium jewelry collection comprises earrings, key chains, cuff links, bracelets and lapel pins that retail for $20-$25. The collection debuted this past fall (including a day-long event at Nordstrom’s) and now is available in several dozen university and museum shops across the U.S. “We’ve had a lot of requests from people who run jewelry stores, art galleries and such who want to [carry the collection],” says Emerson.

Emerson and an Intel spokesperson say they are committed to a permanent retail marketing program to generate consumer awareness of technology.

Meanwhile, Connie Perry, a craftsman-entrepreneur in Somerset, Mass., has created CeeDeez, a line of jewelry made from pieces of recycled compact discs and computer chips. The pins and earrings in the line retail for $5-$15 and debuted at the CD-ROM Expo in Boston during the fall.

Perry, who has been doing this for five years, gets her discarded CDs and chips from friends and business companies, sometimes in a barter exchange for creating corporate art for them.

The line is sold in some art stores and in the Boston Computer Museum.

Why would anyone wear computer chips or CDs as jewelry? Emerson and Perry cite their uniqueness and beauty as one reason. “It’s a conversation piece, and the intricate circuitry and interesting light reflection hold people’s eyes,” says Emerson. Adds Perry, “They’re so lovely look at; it’s like looking at a rainbow.”

NETWORKS WITH JEWELERS IN MIND

Computer networks link users who have common interests or purposes. They offer all sorts of services, from shopping to stock prices to information about the Bible to debates about Star Trek movies.

To connect to a network, you need a personal computer and a modem, a small device that links computers via telephone lines or cable. You’ll pay the regular telephone service charge for each call plus a network subscription fee, if there is one.

Each network usually provides the communications software you’ll need to “log on” and use a particular service.

There are hundreds of computer networks in the U.S. and thousands throughout the world, the largest being the Internet, linking some 30 million computers around the globe. Of special interest to jewelers, though, are networks designed especially for them and for businesspeople in general. Here’s a sampling (keep in mind other networks are being developed all the time):

Appraisal Profession On-Line. This network has been providing appraisal information since mid-1994 to appraisal professionals, government agencies, the banking industry and legal industries and the general public.

The American Society of Appraisers developed the network. ASA members have unlimited free access to ASA directories, course applications, event calendars, special interest forums, bulletin board information and surveys. Other member services include an employment opportunity database, public auction schedule, on-line news, surveys, e-mail (global via Internet), resource bibliography and discipline-specific information.

DOS-based communication software will support graphic imaging. The software and service are free except for pay-for-use features. To obtain a copy of the software call (703) 478-5500 or download it from the services file library. You may use any communication software to connect to the network; the modem connection number is (703) 478-5502. The network is available also through the Internet by dialing apo.com.

Appraisal Profession Online, P.O.Box 17265, Washington, D.C. 20041.

Deep Discount Network. DDN is an electronic marketplace for buying and selling products. It features search, retrieval and communication capabilities in a Windows environment and gives manufacturers, resellers and retailers access to diverse markets and products, enabling them to buy and sell merchandise quickly.

Information requests include brand names, physical condition, quantities available, prices, payment terms and how to get samples. Buyers refer to Offers-to-Sell to find deals or locate specific items and Requests-to-Buy to list their own product needs. Sellers list their own Offers-to-Sell, look at Requests-to-Buy to find items from other companies or look at the general buying and selling interests of other companies.

Members contact each other via DDN’s e-mail or automated fax, search through member profiles, observe buying activity and form groups of buyers or sellers for private dealing. Products can by listed anonymously, and purchase offers can be made privately.

The service costs $50 monthly. Deep Discount Network, 1939 Newark-Granville Rd., Granville, Ohio, 43023; (800) 434-2798.

The Diamond Network. This relatively new network enables jewelers to trade diamonds, colored stones, watches and other merchandise by computer.

Manufacturers and trade services can buy full-screen advertising that appears when users log on. Multiple-location companies may lease private conferencing so employees can communicate with each other and with customers. Software manufacturers can use the service to provide on-line demonstrations for potential users. And trade magazines can provide timely information to subscribers.

Future plans include improved color, sound and full motion video, an industry directory, on-line ordering, live chat between multiple users and access to the Internet (see below).

Users connect to The Diamond Network with any communications software by setting their modem to 8-N-1 and dialing (619) 788-7008. To view on-line graphics, users must have an IBM-compatible 286 or better, VGA monitor and mouse. The communications software is provided free.

The subscription fee is $19.95 monthly. Conference set-ups and full-screen advertising are $199 monthly. Diamond Network, 1530 Main St., Suite #3, Ramona, Cal. 92065; (619) 789-2048.

GIA Net. The Gemological Institute of America launched this computerized education/information center in 1986. It now has more than 2,300 users and is being upgraded with a graphical user interface (a Windows-like environment) and features designed to make it more flexible and user-friendly.

GIA students receive complimentary access so they can chat on-line with their instructors, get information from the library, work on GIA courses and read current news.

An enhanced service is provided to paid subscribers, who can retrieve GIA documentation and current and past trade articles. A GemLink option provides limited access to the Business Discussions and Appraisal channels of Polygon, another industry network.

GIA also uses the network to communicate with its overseas facilities.

GIA Net is a DOS platform, but can be accessed by most other computer systems. GIA provides free communication software to users with IBM-compatible systems. This package can read all information on the network, including graphics. Other operating systems can use generic communication software to access the network, but may not be able to see graphics or some file formats.

The basic service is free to GIAstudents. The extended network is $60 yearly for students and alumni, $75 for anyone else. Gemological Institute of America, 1660 Stewart St., P.O. Box 2110, Santa Monica, Cal. 90407; (800) 421-7250, ext. 292, or (310) 829-2991, ext. 344.

The Internet. This is the world’s largest conglomeration of computer networks and users, including government and university networks and smaller, specialized networks such as the those listed above, all capable of exchanging information. The global service has more than 30,000 networks, with an estimated 1,000 added every month.

The Internet has no governing body or controlling group, though the Internet Society, a non-profit group based in Reston, Va., promotes its usefulness. It started as a U.S. military project in 1969, designed as a decentralized communications network connecting defense researchers with the Pentagon and each other. In 1986, the National Science Foundation spurred non-defense use of the network by creating NSFNet, connecting five supercomputer centers for research use. Universities gained access to this network and provided it to students. With the addition of several large commercial networks and many smaller ones, the network evolved into the Internet.

You gain access to the Internet through access providers who charge a fee to “surf” (or roam) the system. These providers can be private businesses, educational facilities, libraries or government agencies. With the advent of easy-to-use communications software, the Internet is growing rapidly, especially as a commercial selling tool. Users can view images in catalogs, download free software and “talk” to each other via e-mail.

Recently, the Internet has come under attack by thieves who know how to circumvent current security systems. These individuals break into networks and steal information, including credit-card numbers. Until more sophisticated encryption technology is put in-place, networks will be easy prey for this kind of theft.

For a free list of Internet access providers, call InterNIC Information Services at (800) 444-4345.

JewelNet. This network offers members of the jewelry trade a computerized way to buy, sell and trade diamonds and jewelry. Features include diamond, watch and jewelry inventories as well as spot metal prices, buy/sell classifieds and a Jewelers Forum with news of interest to the industry. Subscribers also may conduct business conversations with each other.

The network recently added graphics so dealers and retailers can view items before buying.

JewelNet costs $49 per month. JewelNet, 21 Charles St., Westport, Conn. 06880; (203) 226-3367, fax (203) 226-7633.

Polygon. This network, established in 1983, is a trading and communications network for the jewelry industry. It features channels grouped into four major categories: Jewelry, General Merchandise, Communications and Private Networks. Most channels are used to buy or sell merchandise, including diamonds, colored stones, watches, antiques, coins, electronic and photographic equipment, guns and musical instruments. Others are for business and appraisal discussions, conversation, announcements, security and news.

The Jewelers’ Security Alliance, Jewelers of America and National Jeweler magazine all have independent channels through which all Polygon subscribers can receive their latest information. Polygon and JCK also are studying how they might work together.

Polygon also has private network channels for the American Gem Trade Association, the Women’s Jewelry Association, the Accredited Gemologists Association and the Canadian Jewelers Association. Only members of these organizations can send or receive information on these channels.

One of Polygon’s most popular services is the CertNet database of diamonds. Suppliers list their diamond inventories and retailers search the listings to find the diamonds that suit their customers needs.

Polygon also offers GemLink, which provides limited access to GIA Net, the on-line information/communication system of the Gemological Institute of America.

In a joint venture with National Jeweler, Polygon also offers the ability to send and receive full-color images of items available for sale.

Polygon provides communications software for IBM-compatible and Macintosh computers. Plans are near completion to make Polygon accessible through the Internet.

The fee is $95 monthly or $950 yearly (Polygon offers an introductory year-long subscription of $475). Polygon Network Inc., P.O. Box 4806, Dillon, Colo. 80435; (800) 221-4435, fax (303) 468-1247.

RapNet OnLine. This network links diamond and colored stone traders and offers an outlet for industry news and discussion. It was developed by Martin Rapaport, well-known for his expertise in the diamond market and publisher of the Rapaport Report.

RapNet provides information and buy/sell bulletin boards. Topics include Diamonds (buy/sell), Gems, Estate Jewelry, Rough (buy/sell), Appraisals, News and TalkLine. Messages can be sent and received, sellers can choose to list their stones confidentially, markup can be built-in to the sell listings and sell files can be updated.

An area on Pricing includes the Rapaport Report price indications for diamonds. The latest prices for round and pear-shaped diamonds are updated automatically when a user connects to the network. An available price calculation program shows the price indication and discounts for particular stones.

RapNet requires an IBM-compatible computer running DOS or Windows, a hard disk with 5 megabytes of free space and a modem. The system supports high-speed modems and can transmit up to 38,400 baud rate.

The subscription fee is $300 yearly. Rapaport Diamond Corp., 15 W 47 St., New York, N.Y. 10035-3306; (212) 354-9100.

The Registry Ltd. Estate and antique jewelry are the focus of this network, launched in 1994. It is a free service to the jewelry trade (users pay for the telephone connection, of course) and will soon be available through the Internet.

The Registry Ltd. offers a catalog of windows containing color graphics, descriptions, prices and ordering information to buy and sell estate and antique jewelry. It also provides educational information on industry topics and news items and includes a conference option for user communication.

The Registry runs on IBM-compatible and Macintosh computers and comes with communications software tailored to each system.

The service is free. The Registry Ltd., 2073 Ford Parkway, St. Paul, Minn. 55116; (800) 328-1179, fax (612) 698-0316.

SOFTWARE MANUFACTURERS

Following is a list of software developed for the jewelry industry, including individual features and the name and address of the developer/distributor.

The list is organized alphabetically into five groups – retail management, manufacturing, appraisal, brokerage and miscellaneous – based on the main purpose of the software packages. The list comprises companies that responded to JCK’s requests for information; other companies also offer software designed for jewelers.

Retail management

BUSINESS PARTNER P.O.S. & ACCOUNTING

Company: Abbott Software, P.O. Box 1318, Maggie Valley, N.C. 28751; (704) 926-2892, fax (704) 926-8400.

Cost: $895.

Operating system: IBM (DOS).

Features: Accounting, inventory, sales and customer services.

Additional: The company also sells Tag-It Version 5.0 for $199.95, a tagging program.

Training and support: Unknown.

DMS FOR JEWELERS

Company: Services on Software, 540-506 Exchange St., Geneva, N.Y. 14456; (315) 789-7365, Compuserve 71240,3405.

Cost: $895 for entry level, $1,895 for two-user system, fully integrated, with training.

Operating system: IBM (DOS) and compatibles.

Features: Two levels of security per module, accounts payable/receivable, inventory, sales, bar coding, point of sale, tax tables, import and export capabilities and customer services.

Training and support: Can be used by beginners; technical support on toll-free telephone number for a fee.

FREQUENT BUYER PROGRAM

Company: Abbott Software, P.O. Box 1318, Maggie Valley, N.C. 28751; (704) 926-2892, fax (704) 926-8400.

Cost: $250.

Operating system: IBM (DOS) and Windows.

Features: Marketing.

Additional: The company also sells Tag-It Version 5.0 for $199.95, a tagging program.

Training and support: Unknown.

INSTORE LINK

Company: STR, 6800-A W. Snowville Rd., Cleveland, Ohio 44141; (216) 546-9510, fax (216) 546-9516.

Cost: $50,000.

Operating system: IBM (DOS) and Windows.

Features: Corporate headquarters multistore data link.

Training and support: None needed.

INSTORE PLUS

Company: STR, 6800-A W. Snowville Rd., Cleveland, Ohio 44141; (216) 546-9510, fax (216) 546-9516.

Cost: $3,000.

Operating system: IBM (DOS).

Features: Accounting, inventory, sales and customer services.

Training and support: Unknown.

JCS6000 RETAIL JEWELER’S SOFTWARE

Company: Gemprint Computer Systems, 24 W. 500 Maple Ave., Naperville, Ill. 60540; (800) 621-2002 or (708) 355-1116.

Cost: $1,495+.

Operating system: IBM-compatible.

Features: Accounting, inventory, sales, customer services, repricing of gold, tag printing and ability to track weight, color and clarity of diamonds. Bar coding and imaging are optional. Multiuser and multistore capabilities.

Training and support: Can be used by beginners; one-year support on a toll-free telephone number and updates are included.

JEM RETAILER PLUS SUPER VERSION 8.0

Company: JEM Integrated Technologies, 9460 160 St., Surrey, British Columbia, V4N 2R6 Canada; (604) 582-7639, fax (604) 582-2749.

Cost: $2,995.

Operating system: IBM (DOS).

Features: Accounting, inventory, sales and customer services.

Training and support: Unknown.

JEMS (JEWELRY MERCHANDISING SYSTEM)

Company: BIS Computer Solution, 2428 Foothill Blvd., La Crescenta, Cal. 91214; (213) 245-3691.

Cost: $20,000 to $200,000.

Operating system: IBM (DOS) and compatibles; all UNIX systems.

Features: The system consists of a number of fully integrated applications that provide control of jewelry merchandising, internal operations and accounting. Functions include serialized inventory, bar coding, integrated point of sale with back office, service/work orders, sales analysis, sales ticket processing, credit and collections, accounts payable/receivable, financial statements, appraisals, mailing list, payroll and office automation, including word processing and e-mail.

Training and support: Can be used by beginners; training and support are available.

THE JEWELER

Company: IBIS, 3637 Main St., Stratford, Conn. 06497; (203) 377-7100, fax (203) 261-9665.

Cost: single user, $1,950; multiuser, $2,450.

Operating system: IBM (DOS) and compatibles.

Features: Accounting, inventory, sales and customer services, including point of sale, inventory management, bar coding, repairs, custom manufacturing, appraisals, target marketing, customer profiling, charge accounts, accounts payable/receivable, check writing and general ledger. Professional appraisal documents can be created to include images.

Training and support: Can be used by beginners. Upgrades and modem support are included in the package price and are $250 per year thereafter. A half day of training is provided to customers within a two-hour drive; otherwise, training can be arranged for a fee plus expenses.

JEWELERS INFORMATION MANAGEMENT SYSTEM 5

Company: D.A.T.A. Inc., 303 S. Main St., Lombard, Ill. 60148; (708) 627-DATA, fax (708) 627-3285.

Cost: $2,500; a full accounting program option integrated with JIM V costs an additional $1,000.

Operating system: IBM (DOS) and compatibles.

Features: Accounting, inventory, tag printing, bar coding, video imaging, reports, repairs, sales and customer services.

Training and support: Can be used by beginners. Support and quarterly updates are included for one year; continued support and updates are provided for an annual fee equal to 10% of the license fee. Training is provided at no charge at D.A.T.A. headquarters; fee required for on-site training.

JEWELMAN

Company: Jebco, 6730 E. Alabama Rd., Woodstock, Ga. 30188; (404) 924-3141.

Cost: $195.

Operating system: IBM (DOS) and compatibles; Commodore 64 or 128.

Features: Prices colored stones in various qualities, shapes and sizes. The software prices mounting by wax or metal weight and gold chains in various styles and lengths. Features allow you to account for higher or lower karatage and to estimate weights of colored stones and diamonds.

Training and support: Can be used by beginners; no training or support is available.

THE JEWELRY CONTROLLER

Company: Haggard’s Technical Services Inc., 432 N. Market, Shawnee, Okla. 74801; (800) 352-5240, fax (405) 273-5353.

Cost: $2,495; leasing is available at $131 per month, ($249 for a multistore operation).

Operating system: IBM (DOS) and compatibles.

Features: Point-of-sale invoicing, accounts payable/receivable, perpetual customer history, inventory control, repair tracking, password protection, multiple price levels, user-defined SKU numbers and departments, layaway and assembly tracking, management reports, memo goods tracking, cash drawer support, bar-code scanners, imaging, general ledger, payroll and customization.

Additional: The company also offers data conversion services; inventory, customer and vendor data can be converted and loaded into the program. In addition, the company offers the Digital Image Capture Station, a turnkey system that is used to capture, store and print color images of jewelry. The images can be linked to The Jewelry Controller so images of inventory and memo goods can be viewed at the point of sale or on inventory control screens.

Training and support: Can be used by beginners; training is available on-site or at company headquarters.

THE JEWELRY SHOPKEEPER

Company: Compulink, 3300 Overland Ave., Suite 201, Los Angeles, Cal. 90034; (310) 204-5121.

Cost: $2,295; networking is extra.

Operating system: IBM (DOS) and compatibles.

Features: Accounts payable/receivable, inventory by weight/piece, loose stone tracking, assembly, tag printing, core tracking, custom work and repairs, point-of-sale system, financial statements and customer services.

Training and support: Can be used by beginners; training and support offered by phone or modem.

JEWELSOFT

Company: PC Consult, 2269 S. University Dr. #201, Davie, Fla. 33324; (800) 577-1799.

Cost: $795.

Operating system: IBM (DOS) and compatibles.

Features: Inventory, sales and customer services.

Training and support: Unknown.

JEWELWORKS/MAC

Company: JewelWorks/MAC, P.O. Box 2136, Rancho Santa Fe, Cal. 92067; (619) 756-9911, fax (619) 756-9911.

Cost: $2,500.

Operating system: Macintosh.

Features: Accounting, inventory, sales and customer services.

Training and support: Unknown.

JIMS

Company: Onasco Systems, 4660 S. Inca St., Englewood, Colo. 80110; (303) 781-7926.

Cost: $4,000.

Operating system: IBM (DOS) and compatibles.

Features: Accounting, inventory, sales and customer services.

Training and support: Unknown.

KEEP IT SIMPLE (KIS) SOFTWARE

Company: Keep It Simple Software, 7705 Wadsworth Blvd.. Arvada, Colo. 80003; (303) 425-4849.

Cost: $3,295, multiusers add $595.

Operating system: IBM (DOS) and compatibles.

Features: Accounting, inventory, sales, payroll, appraisals, repairs, set-up options, spreadsheet interface, backup program and customer services.

Training and support: Three day on-site installation and training costs are $995; support and optional updates are $495 annually.

MICA IV ACCOUNTING SOFTWARE

Company: MICA Accounting Software, 2349 Memorial Blvd., Port Arthur, Tex. 77640; (800) 448-6422, fax (409) 983-5106.

Cost: $6,780.

Operating system: IBM (DOS) and compatibles.

Features: Accounting, inventory, sales and customer services.

Training and support: Unknown.

REGISTER-MATE

Company: Register-Mate, 16885 Dallas Pkwy., Suite 300, Dallas, Tex. 75248; (214) 732-0700, fax (214) 732-8060.

Cost: $139.

Operating system: IBM (DOS) and compatibles.

Features: Accounting, inventory, sales and customer services.

Training and support: Unknown.

RETAIL JEWELERS SOFTWARE

Company: Jewelers Software Group, 130 Baker Hill Rd., Second Fl., Great Neck, N.Y. 11023; (516) 829-8182, fax (516) 829-8419.

Cost: $15,000.

Operating system: IBM (DOS) and Windows.

Features: Accounting, inventory, sales and customer services.

Training and support: Unknown.

RETAIL JEWELRY PARTNER

Company: Ultimate Solutions, 7720 Lankershim Blvd., North Hollywood, Cal. 91605; (818) 765-8551, fax (818) 765-5841.

Cost: Single user, $999; multiuser, $1,499.

Operating system: IBM (DOS) and compatibles.

Features: Accounting, inventory, sales, customer services and user-defined fields for inventory, appraisals, ring/gift tag printing, point of sale, commissions (split), imaging and more.

Additional: The company also offers a wholesale/manufacturing software system, a metal manufacturing module named Goldpro, an imaging system called Jeweltrace, a counting instrument called US1 Microlaser Counting Instrument and a PRO Windows/DOS SBT Platform used to customize features of all the programs for users of large systems.

Training and support: Can be used by beginners; training is offered via modem, telephone or on-site.

RETAIL MANAGER

Company: Retail Science Corp., 2882 Cleary Ave., Metairie, La. 70002-6807; (504) 838-6888, fax (504) 887-5291.

Cost: single user, $1,995; two users, $2,995; three or more users, $3,995.

Operating system: IBM (DOS).

Features: Accounting, inventory, sales and customer services, store management, bar coding and imaging.

Training and support: Can be used by beginners; training and support are available.

SOFTGEM

Company: Gemological Research Corp., 60 E. Third Ave., San Mateo, Cal. 94401; (800) 443-6638, fax (415) 579-5710.

Cost: $5,995.

Operating system: IBM (DOS) and com