From basic tweezers to high-tech electronics, the instruments you use in the store demonstrate your professionalism. They can also help you sell more gemstones. Following is a review of the most common tools and how to use them to sell.
Color wheel Begin by determining what gemstone your client is interested in seeing. Basic color wheels showing primary, secondary, and tertiary colors work well and can be purchased in any arts supply store. Complementary colors are positioned opposite each other on the wheel, and analogous colors are side by side. Combinations found in nature provide visual harmony. Suppliers such as Stuller, Lafayette, La., and Columbia Gem House, Vancouver, Wash., also can provide color charts, along with corresponding lists of gems. The American Gem Trade Association has counter cards to help make choosing colors easier.
Counter pad Once the color has been determined, set the stage with a new, clean counter pad. The counter pad performs two services: It provides a clean protective platform on which to present your selection of beautiful, rare, and expensive gems, and it blocks the potentially distracting view of gems and jewelry in the case below.
Stone papers You’ve set the stage; now it’s time to present the stone. Old stone boxes, old stone papers, and old cleaning cloths tell the customer you don’t care about them or the gems you’re about to present. Clean, crisp, new stone papers are essential. But you must know how to unfold and refold them properly.
The easiest way to remember how a stone paper is folded is to think of the purpose of each flap. The top flap has an extra fold that creates a small flap on which is written the name of the stone, carat weight, cost, and any other pertinent notes. Unfold that extra flap and then open the paper. Now you’re confronted by side flaps folded in to keep the stone from sliding out the ends. (The top flap holds the side flaps down when the paper is completely closed.) Unfold the side flaps, and then unfold the bottom flap to reveal the stone inside. Reverse the process to secure your stone: Fold up the bottom flap to hide the stone, fold side flaps in to secure the stone, and fold top flap down and over again to reveal the writing.
Plastic gemstone holders If you’re thinking of using plastic gemstone holders for display purposes, don’t. They make terrible displays, either in the showcase or for presentation. They’re nice to have in the back room for taking quick inventory, but they won’t help sell gems. They destroy mystique and reduce color saturation, brilliance, fire, and dispersion—the visual elements of a gem’s beauty.
Gem Clipper Take your gems out of their plastic holders and get them into an open display, like the Gem Clipper from Black Star Trading, Flagstaff, Ariz., or back into new, crisp stone papers. (Remind your staff to check old stone papers before they get tossed. Make certain they’ve transferred the stone to the new paper first!)
Gem cloth A clean gem cloth is an element of showmanship. Are your gems so dirty that you need to rub and scrape the dirt off? No. On occasion you’ll need to wipe fingerprints or hand lotion from a stone, but using the cloth is a subtle aspect of the demonstration rather than an actual cleaning effort. So why use a cloth? To keep the gem hidden just a bit longer, providing that extra mystique. Use the cloth to caress the stone, not scrub it.
Tweezers A pair of tweezers is an important tool in presenting loose gemstones, since the way you handle them can make or break your client’s appreciation for your expertise. There are different sizes, so stay away from melee tweezers—they’re too sharp and skinny—and get some fairly wide, possibly coated, tweezers for a steady grip.
Becoming comfortable with tweezers is a bit more difficult than with stone papers, but it’s a more important skill. Practice without a stone, rotating the tweezers clockwise and counterclockwise. Once comfortable with that, place a diamond table down on a cleaning cloth, and grasp the diamond firmly (but not too tightly), girdle to girdle. Too tight a grip may create what’s known in the lab as a stone cannon—and you don’t want to flip or shoot a stone too far when demonstrating how wonderful it appears. You will flip a stone on occasion. It happens, so get used to the idea. Never panic.
Locking tweezers There are locking tweezers, but using them shows the customer you’re not professional. And never hand tweezers to a customer, who might feel uncomfortable. Besides, the sense of ownership comes from touching the stone, not holding it at arm’s length or in tweezers.
Spring rings and spring pens These allow you to hand the stone to your client, but again, because there is no contact with the stone, it’s doubtful that doing so will inspire any attachment to it.
Note: Handing jewelry or gemstones to clients is always a security concern. Letting customers hold and wear the jewelry they’re considering is the best way to encourage a feeling of ownership, but it can also give thieves an opportunity to bolt from the store with the merchandise. Always follow store policy and insurance company protocols when showing gems and jewelry.
Loupe Everyone wants to use a loupe, so here’s the basic rule. A 10-power loupe requires that the eye and the gemstone be 1 inch away from the lens. Anchor your loupe hand against your face—your loupe-hand thumb will press against your cheekbone, just below your eye—and anchor your tweezers hand against the pinkie of your loupe hand. That gives you the greatest control and best possible viewing capability. Keep the loupe and lenses clean.
Microscope It’s easiest to view a gemstone through the microscope. But while using a scope is easier than using a loupe, it can create awkwardness for the customer, who has to focus and adjust the eyepieces. Instead, hook up a video camera to your ocular and let the client see his or her stone on a monitor. Comfort and ease are key.
GemEWizard GemEWizard computer software is the heavyweight contender for the No. 1 high-tech colored-stone selling tool. It’s a color communication system for gemstones that’s in accordance with the Gemological Institute of America’s color-grading system. It has 1,146 hues, 72,000 color/shape combinations, and WYSIWYG (what you see is what you get) technology that’s easy to use.
The user chooses any color in the database, and the system lists what is appropriate in gems. It can be linked to your inventory, so you can help a client choose from your stock. GemEWizard will soon be able to scan designed material and match it with a gem.
Howard Rubin’s Gem Dialogue, and GIA’s GemSet are helpful in choosing possible gemstone colors, but they’re not as useful in helping determine what gemstones are available in those particular colors.
Diamond-evaluation instruments In the past two years, several new instruments have been developed that you can use at the counter to show how well a diamond is proportioned. They reveal how symmetrically facets are aligned and how well a stone performs—how well it returns light and produces fire, brilliance, and sparkle. Unlike the simple tools above, these take some getting used to. It’s best to have several of these rather than just one.
The ISee2 and BrillianceScope both claim to measure the actual light performance of a stone. The Sarin and OGI computer programs measure a stone and then place those measurements into formulas that simulate what the program believes the stone can do. A number of devices show a stone’s optical symmetry, including the American Gem Society’s ASET (angular spectrum evaluation tool), the FireScope, the IdealScope, and the Hearts and Arrows viewer. You can make assumptions about light performance based on the images these devices produce.