Tools of the Trade: Your Silent Sales Partners

At the sales counter, the “big four” important tools to have are the counter pad, a clean cloth, a presentation ring stick, and clean hands and fingernails. But these are just a few of the many tools available to help jewelers sell. We’ve grouped the rest into four categories: display, presentation, education, and “what else.”

Gem display tools. “Most retail buyers are unaware that they can go into a jewelry store and pick out a colored gem and have it mounted in a piece of jewelry of their choice,” says Bob Sirratt of File-a-Gem, Baxter Springs, Kan. “We know it, but they don’t.” That’s because many jewelers don’t keep unmounted gems in the showcase. File-a-Gem specializes in products that allow jewelers to display gemstones. Other display products include cushioned pedestals of wood or Lucite.

Be aware, however, that bringing a gem out of a showcase, or putting it back, can be awkward. Gems can tumble into the showcase or onto the countertop. Even when perfectly executed, once out and above the counter, gems are often nonchalantly dumped onto a padded tray, which may alarm a first-time gem buyer.

Presentation tools. Presentation—making the jewelry look important—is essential to the sale. A display product should aid you in treating the item with respect, which will help convince the customer that it has value.

One mainstay is the counter pad. “It provides a cushion and creates a stage,” says Performance Concepts’ Janice Mack. Sales trainer Leonard Zell advises bringing it out before opening the showcase and poses a question: “Are your counter pads dirty or branded with Rolex or some other name? You just spent 15 grand on what’s inside the case. Replace the counter pad.”

A clean gem cloth is another must, says Mack, who recommends ditching the well-used selvyt that looks “like a used hanky.” Zell likes the selvyt—when it’s clean. In either case, you’re not using the cloth to “clean” the jewelry; you’re wiping off dust or lint. The key is how you do it. “Jewelry has to be handled with respect, even if it’s a little $75 princess ring,” says Zell. “Handle it like it’s worth $3 million, and not like a ham sandwich.”

For handling loose gems, Mack suggests using a plunger-type holder, which, when the top is pressed, extends four prongs to grip the gem. “Customers are afraid of tweezers, but with these they’ll accept a gem and then turn and twirl it as they’re looking,” she says.

Another option is the spring/tension ring, which holds a loose gem in what looks like a traditional four-prong mounting. That gets the gem on the customer’s hand.

The Gem Clipper, a loose-stone holder that highlights a gemstone in the showcase, also can be used to get the stone into the hands of a client, and it makes a nice stand for the customer while using a loupe. The jeweler doesn’t have to worry about fumbling to get a stone out of the case and into another holder or a stone popping out of tweezers or someone getting fingerprints on the gem.

For presenting rings, especially a woman’s ring to a man or a man’s ring to a woman, “the ring stick is perfect,” says Zell. The ring stick is not a steel sizing stick, but an ultrasuede or leather presentation stick. For showing women’s rings to men, “a well-manicured hand is better,” says Mack.

To scope or not to scope? Nothing says “I’m an expert” better than the silent, reassuring presence of a microscope. It’s essential for any transaction involving an appraisal, repair, or gem identification. But should it be a visible part of your décor or part of your sales presentation? Zell says no. “If you really want to kill a customer’s emotions, bring that thing out,” he says. “Hide it, because it looks like hell—like it should be in a medical lab, like you have a disease!”

Mack suggests using the scope “with diamond customers, but only if they ask.” She also recommends using it “as much with cut as with clarity.”

Holding loose gems in push-tweezer pens is a good way to show the inscriptions on the girdles of diamonds, says Mack, especially in combination with a 10x loupe. “It’s much easier to find and see the inscription this way than to try to set it up in the scope in those spring-loaded tweezers!”

Gem education tools. The Diamond Council of America (DCA) includes a booklet counter tool with its new colored-stones course. The Compendium provides comprehensive information about commercially available colored gemstones and allows the sales staff to answer any gem questions a client has.

Jewelers of America provides similar counter tools: gemstone cards and “What You Should Know” leaflets. Fred Michmershuizen, JA’s director of marketing and communications, notes that the leaflets are designed to make consumers feel more knowledgeable and comfortable when making a colored gemstone purchase. Consumers can pick up a leaflet while shopping, or they can be slipped into the bag at the close of a sale so customers can take advantage of the care and cleaning tips included in each leaflet.

For the tech-minded, look to the GemEx BrillianceScope, which shows diamond clients how their stone compares to other diamonds in white light, color light, and scintillation. The I-See 2 is a similar device that examines only brilliance.

A less technical, more hands-on loose diamond tool is the hearts-and-arrows reader, which shows customers how symmetrically a diamond has been cut. But salespeople must know what the patterns mean and convey that information to the customer.

For color, there’s a new colored-gem locator computer program from Stuller called GemeWizard (see “Stuller Offers GemeWizard Color Software,” JCK, April 2003, p. 34), which allows customers to pick their gemstone color and shape. Salespeople who are confident enough to use a computer at the counter can find an appropriate stone and order it from the supplier with the click of a mouse.

Don’t forget that professional laboratory diamond or colored gemstone grading or identification reports not only help convince customers of the quality and authenticity of the gems but also reflect the honesty and integrity of the jeweler. The Gemological Institute of America’s Gem Trade Lab, the American Gem Trade Association’s Gem Testing Center, and other national and international laboratories offer such services. One lab, the American Assay & Gemological Office in New York, has the distinction of being one of the newest labs in the United States and one of the oldest in Great Britain: It dates back to 1773.

What else? Video presentations on gemstones and jewelry are available through GIA’s bookstore and from natural history museums, and wholesale merchants can provide information about their products. Elaborate coffee-table books about gems and jewelry abound as well, and if you have a place in your store where customers can relax with a cup of coffee, they make excellent reading material as well as provide ambience. You can also keep the daily newspaper and a selection of current magazines behind the counter for waiting spouses and friends who aren’t interested in the jewelry books.

Special thanks to Janice Mack, Performance Concepts and Performance Plus, Olympia, Wash.,www.performanceconcepts.net, and Leonard Zell, “Don’t Sell It, Zell It,” Portland, Ore.,www.Zellit.com.