What Jewelers Should Know About Selling Platinum

New figures from Platinum Guild International-USA underscore platinum’s importance to retail sales. Since 1992, when PGI first began to promote platinum jewelry, sales of the metal have risen by 1,000%. PGI estimates that 12 million American women plan to purchase platinum jewelry this year.

Any retailer planning to introduce platinum will find free advice and practical help from PGI-USA in California. Jewelers of America also offers first-rate support (see p. 110).

Start with bridal. Introducing platinum in your bridal section is wise, because platinum is most sought after in the bridal sector. Laurie Hudson, president of PGI-USA, says that any retailer considering a move into platinum should have at least five to 10 pieces, including all-platinum wedding bands, some combination jewelry, and one or two bands in men’s sizes.

If you’re already selling platinum bridal jewelry, it’s important to expand your range to include non-bridal platinum items. A bride who’s bought platinum wedding jewelry may be inclined to purchase additional platinum jewelry.

It’s important to display your platinum jewelry as a group. Create a platinum department separate from white gold items.

Be sure your sales staff is trained. Platinum is unlike any other metal and requires specific knowledge. Consumers want to know how it differs from silver and white gold. Training videos and other materials are available from PGI in Newport Beach, Calif., at (949) 760-8279. The organization also can provide consumer brochures and display signage. Most of its materials are free to retailers, says Frank Proctor, director of marketing.

The platinum consumer. In assessing platinum jewelry consumers, psychographics—the study of attitudes and tastes—is more important than demographics. For instance, a wealthy person living in an exclusive area may spend less on jewelry than somebody of lesser means.

Platinum consumers generally fall into two main categories: Generation X and Baby Boomers. Generation X consumers range in age from the late 20s to early 30s. They are likely to be married for the first time and may be inclined toward self-purchase of jewelry. Baby Boomers range in age from their late 30s to early 50s and typically have more money than members of Generation X. They are likely to have children of school age. A Baby Boomer probably owns gold jewelry but is open to converting to platinum. Boomers are also more inclined to upgrade the quality of the jewelry they buy.

Another way to spot a potential platinum consumer is to find out how much jewelry she already owns. PGI surveys show that women who have 10 or more pieces of fine jewelry are twice as likely to purchase platinum jewelry as any other consumer. Fortunately, there are 21 million such women in the United States alone!

Looking to the future. Platinum pendants and bracelets are beginning to carve a niche in the jewelry market, and these items are available in both light and heavy weights. It’s also a good idea to carry important necklaces in platinum. Getting the right supply shouldn’t be difficult, since more companies in the United States, Europe, and India are making platinum jewelry every year.

Finally, jewelers can take advantage of a number of resources to enhance their knowledge of platinum. PGI, for example, has a full-time platinum expert on hand to answer retailers’ technical queries. He’s Jurgen Maerz, director of technical education. You can reach him at (949) 760-8882. You can also find answers to technical questions at www.PGI-Platinum-Tech.com.

According to Laurie Hudson, for retailers contemplating a move into platinum, “There has never been a better time.” It looks as if platinum is here to stay.

Nessa Keogh, a journalist specializing in the jewelry industry, works for Johnson Matthey in London.

Resources from Jewelers of America

Jewelers of America, which represents more than 10,000 retailers in 15,000 stores, recognizes platinum as a relatively new, but potentially large, growth area. According to Caroline Stanley, JA’s director of marketing and communications, “Platinum jewelry is still a new product category, given that it didn’t really begin to have an impact on the market until 10 years ago. There are some areas, especially in the middle of the country, only getting into platinum now.”

JA offers excellent training courses for retailers wishing to enhance their platinum knowledge and skills. JA, for example, has collaborated with Platinum Guild International and the Gemological Institute of America to offer a platinum program for retailers called “Focus on Platinum.” The two-hour seminar teaches the basics of what makes platinum different from other jewelry metals. PGI supplies information as well as take-home materials.

JA is also focusing on helping retailers work with platinum at the bench level through its Platinum Technical Series, cosponsored with PGI. For 2000, the series has two parts—“Developing Platinum Expertise: Turning Peril into Profits,” and “Transferring Your Skills into Platinum.”

“Developing Platinum Expertise” is a 90-minute seminar that gives store managers or owners all the information they need to have their bench jewelers begin working with platinum. Topics include equipment needs, jeweler competency levels, how to create the right bench environment, new platinum alloys, and repair pricing.

“Transferring Your Skills to Platinum” is also a 90-minute seminar but is designed to teach competent bench jewelers to translate their gold-based skills to the platinum workbench. Using detailed video and text materials, this seminar explores platinum sizing, repair, soldering, welding, buffing, polishing, and prong retipping. It also covers working with platinum jewelry in combination with 18k gold, diamonds, and colored stones. Information on equipment and new technology, such as alloys and solders, is provided.