12042016Sun
Last updateThu, 01 Dec 2016 10am

Columnists

Armena Refinery - Enjoying the ride

There's nothing quite like a really good roller coaster. Combine speed with hills and loops and hairpin turns, and you are in for a terrific ride. The same cannot be said when your company adopts the same characteristics. What is exciting and invigorating at an amusement park can be frightening and distressing when it occurs in the foundation of your business. And this has been the plight of Armena Refinery in recent months, as the prices of precious metals have fluctuated. Armena has contended with volatile markets as they continue to serve their customers.

Selling wholesale may not be wholesome

It has become commonplace to buy in bulk here in America.  Wholesale clubs like Sam's Club and Costco are popping up all over the landscape and consumers are readily stuffing over-sized boxes of Cheerios and 5-gallon drums of mayonnaise into their massive buggies all in search of bargain prices.

I Love My Job! The REAL question

It was a stunning view, we were on a bluff that over looked the city, the stars had all come out for the event, and even the moon was in full display. The city lights below shone like a bed of gemstones atop a lit table. I turned to look at him and he was not towering over me at his 6'4" height - he was kneeling. He took my hand and softly spoke my name and from that moment on I cannot exactly remember what was said. I do recall pulling him up, by his shirt, from his knee and hugging him with all my might. I knew there was a ring on my finger, but I had no clue what it looked like. All I knew was that at some point he said, "Will you marry me?" and I said, "Yes." As proposals go - it may not have been the best; however it could not have been bad - after all I said, "Yes" and we have been married for 23 years.

Now some twenty+ years later, I get a glimpse into my husband's preparation for that unforgettable night. I am the retail jeweler that plays a part in that night by assisting in the selection of the "symbol" of that request, commitment and promise.

I must admit that as each hopeful groom passes through my door I get more and more confused and at a loss to understand this next generation. I recently had a client come in to purchase an engagement ring. He came through the door saying that she wanted a 1+ carat round brilliant diamond with a good color, ideal cut and good clarity. After spending 3 hours with him, attempting the impossible (made impossible by his $2K budget), I sent him out the door to rethink things. He could not give her what she wanted and spend what he wanted. I told him, "Welcome to the world of marriage - marriage is about compromise and one of you has to bend." I explained that I would love to help him in his quest however his quest had to be reasonable.

As he left I wondered what her proposal would look like. Would they stand on a bluff in the beauty of the night, with him on one knee? Would she pull him to his feet by his shirt and proclaim, "YES" or would she say, "Well, I do not know. Let me run back to the car to view the ring in the light." Would she say, "I will give you my answer in the morning when I can see the ring"?

Yesterday I met with a client that was looking for a "certified" diamond. It had to have papers. I have no issue with that, but I will admit that his insistence had caught me a bit off guard. I dealt with my "off balance" feelings by chalking it up to him being one of those people that will have a registered breed dog, authentic Waterford Crystal and is suspicious of everything. I did have some fun with him because I think I caught him a little off guard when instead of pulling out diamonds to show him I pulled out nothing but certificates.

As he left the office, with papers and diamond in hand, I could not help but play out his proposal. I could picture it. He stands before her reading the certification, then hands it over to her along with the ring. In turn she hands over a copy of her birth certificate, family pedigree and health records - and they are now officially engaged.

I understand that I am a bit out of touch with things. I am always the last to hear about a plane crash or the latest lottery winner. My time is consumed by my business and by my family so I am sure I missed something. I would really like someone to help me understand... When did the RING stop being a SYMBOL of the commitment and become the focus of a marriage? Would she really say NO if she did not get her one carat? When did the focus of a proposal shift from the commitment and union of two lives to the type of ring he proposes with?

Silly me, as a retail jeweler, I thought it was my job to assist in finding the perfect ring that matched the uniqueness of their relationship and love. I thought that with a GIA diploma and years of experience I was well prepared to perform my job - and I was - until someone changed my job description. Now my job description states that I am a go-for. I am dictated to by clients that know nothing about diamonds. I am told, "Go find me a (alphabet soup) diamond and put it in this ring (showing me a print out of a picture she e-mailed him) and do it for (blank) amount of money." I am forced to work under the implied impression that if I cannot perform the dictated task she will not be happy and I will be a failure.

Perhaps I could be more successful in my job if someone could help me understand - when did the real question of "Will you marry me?" become "Will you accept this ring?" On second thought, with divorce rates at 50+%, bankruptcy at an all time high, and staggering foreclosure rates - I am not sure I want to understand how the focus became the ring instead of the commitment.

 


Tammy L. Williams, Graduate Gemologist of GIA, also prizes her membership in AGTA. She is President of J D Jewelers, a salon private jewelry business located in Suwanee, Georgia and the Southeastern Rep for Global Diamonds. Tammy is very active as a speaker and authority on Gemstones and Diamonds. Whether in her laboratory at J D Jewelers, on the lecture circuit or writing about her experiences in business, her love and passion for gemstones becomes contagious. If you'd like to contact Tammy, please e-mail her at This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it..

I Love My Job!: Think net when selling memo

I waved good-bye, closed the door and paused to give a quick "Thank you" to the powers that be. I then turned and performed the Tammy version of the Michael Jackson, Thriller dance all the way back to the showroom. Upon arriving at the center of the room my dance changed as I began to sing, "I'm in the Money." I had just sold a 2 carat in a stunning diamond semi-mount for just under $15K.

It was late, so I tucked everything away, went home and shared the news. I spent most of the night dreaming about how I would spend the money. Breathing room, I thought. I will pay the mortgage ahead a month or two, pay off a large chunk of my loan, pay the utilities ahead, and replace the ultrasonic that requires you to talk very nicely to it while wiggling the power cord and tapping it on its side, before it decides to work.

I got to the office early because I not only had more clients to see, but now I had the added pleasure of paying bills. I set the cases, turned on the lights and sat down in my office. This time with great excitement I pulled out the binder I keep my coupons for my mortgage and other addresses and account numbers in. I arranged everything on my desk and turned to pick up the phone. I hit the speed dial button and promptly announced - "I sold it. You will not be getting your 2 carat back - you will be getting a check." After lavishing myself with a few more minutes of victory talk with my diamond wholesaler, I hung up and turned to my paperwork.

I very proudly wrote in my big sale (yes, I still do the old fashioned paper ledger, calculator and pencil thing). I grabbed the memo paper and wrote a check for the diamond. I grabbed the coupon book and tore out three coupons and wrote a check to cover 3 mortgage payments. I wrote a check for each of the utility companies for $500, and a nice big check for my business loan. After writing all the checks that would give me the much wanted breathing room, I picked up the calculator and began to find my balance.

Two minutes later there was NO balance to be found. My head was spinning around, swimming, and I was confused. Something was terribly wrong. I rechecked my figures, and rechecked them again. My balance was negative. How could this be? I started at the beginning - I bought the diamond at 38% back of Rapp (a fair value). I sold the diamond for $300. MORE than the internet diamond I was competing against, by telling them my services were worth that. I collected sales tax and moved it to the account to await payment to the government, I owned the semi-mount. HOW COULD I BE NEGATIVE?

The error that I had made was in my thinking. I danced around thinking that I had just made a $15K sale. I planned to pay off debt using that $15K. What I did not think about was that I DID NOT OWN THE DIAMOND. In the back of my mind I knew I had to pay for it - but it did not enter into my calculations as I devised the plan to find my breathing room. Suddenly the pride and excitement of making that $15K sale was gone and the reality of it only actually being a $3K+ sale sunk in. Needless to say I was not happy having to tear up all the checks and reduce the breathing room to a mere gasp.

Later that night when I drug myself home, my husband did not need to ask how I was. His bright smile turned to concern as he asked, "What happened?" My embarrassment did not help me form the words to tell him how stupid I had been - but I did eventually tell him. In his desperate attempt to cheer me up he said, "Well, guess what was in the news... This professional football player is filing for bankruptcy. He signed two years ago on an 18 million dollar contract that would pay out over 4 years. He bought a 12 million dollar house and all that goes with it. Apparently as he danced around his kitchen two years ago singing, ‘I'm in the Money' - 18 million to be exact - he did not realize that his agent would take 20% and the government would take about 38% percent." He continued, "Honey, at least you did not mail the checks."

As embarrassing as it is to admit I made such a stupid mistake; I have to think that others have made it as well. What I would like to believe, is that I set myself apart from others by learning a lesson from each of my mistakes. The lesson for me in this experience is that I will now think - NET. I acknowledge that it made me feel really good to boast about a $15K sale, however the NET of it was no better than the $8K sale I made, a week before, from my inventory. Thinking NET will never win me the award of "Salesperson of the Year," but it will keep me REAL and sticking closer to my budget. It will prevent me from overspending, and short changing my vendors.

I realize I could have pocketed the $15K and executed my plan to get breathing room. I could have held the diamond on a 30 or even 60 day memo - then told the vendor I sold it and asked for terms. I could have delayed paying him for about 6-8 months. I could have leveraged the, "without me selling your diamonds - where would you be?" attitude. Instead, I try to be real. The reality is... the vendor did me a favor. He loaned me a diamond that I needed in an effort to make a sale and to promote my business. I choose to repay that favor by paying him FIRST for that favor. It may be old fashioned, but I believe in fair and equitable business that flows BOTH directions. Not only do I offer fair and equitable business to my customers, I offer it to my vendors as well.

From now on I will think "net" and buy more inventory. Selling "memo" diamonds is great, but selling diamonds you own makes a HUGE difference in the bottom line.

 


Tammy L. Williams, Graduate Gemologist of GIA, also prizes her membership in AGTA. She is President of J D Jewelers, a salon private jewelry business located in Suwanee, Georgia and the Southeastern Rep for Global Diamonds. Tammy is very active as a speaker and authority on Gemstones and Diamonds. Whether in her laboratory at J D Jewelers, on the lecture circuit or writing about her experiences in business, her love and passion for gemstones becomes contagious. If you'd like to contact Tammy, please e-mail her at This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it..

 

I Love My Job! Forget the soup - I want romance

Wow, 2008 is a year I would rather forget. Besides buying/paying customers, the year seemed to be missing something. Something was just not right and I could not put my finger on it. As I closed up the shop Christmas Eve, for a much needed break, I came home with the intent of NOT thinking about work, jewelry, or the industry. To distract myself I decided to spend my time updating my bedroom.

As we began to dismantle the room so that we could reach the walls for new paint, our challenge was not the bed but a cedar chest that has stood at the foot of our bed since our first Christmas together some 23 years ago. As my son and husband carried the chest from one room to the next my husband grunted, "What is in this thing?" I replied, "Us." Interested he opened the lid and found boxes of letters among other things. As he randomly pulled out a letter and began to read it, we both turned bright red and got a giggle out of the profession of true love that I had written to him 20 years ago.

Needless to say the rest of the day was spent flipping through little notes, cards and long letters. It was delightful walking back into a time when our biggest problem was not seeing each other for 5 whole hours. It was embarrassing to read how you would just die if you could not get a kiss soon. It was refreshing to read about emotions and feelings so freely and privately expressed.

As our now grown children came and went through the kitchen that day, it was my son that figured out that the more worn letters were the most "juicy" letters. Obviously, they were the best as they had been carried the longest and read the most. He also noted that reading Mom's letters were not much different than reading his sister's. My daughter read a few and in so many words had to admit that maybe I, kind of, sort of, did know how she felt when it came to her boyfriends or a lack thereof.

As I rolled colors of paint on the walls, I began to reflect on the event and I came to realize that this generation will never have that. They will never discover a hidden note in the pocket of their jeans that says, "I love you because..." They will never sit in the kitchen sipping coffee and giggle over a box of long forgotten love letters. They will never open up their day-planner and find a note that says, "Have a great day, then meet me at home for dinner and ..." Today, everything is electronic - e-mail, instant messenger, and 5, 10, or even 20 years from now will be lost, obsolete - never to be read again.

I must confess that as I painted the walls seemed to get bigger and my mind did wander back to the industry. I thought about my most recent diamond buying customers and how such an awesome, sacred, loving experience has been reduced to a conversation of alphabet soup. Potential brides send the hopeful groom in with demands - "1 carat or better." Expectant grooms are reduced to feeling cheap and overwhelmed by the science and grading system of diamonds. I reflected on the volume of paperwork, the dangers of undisclosed treatments, insurance and certificates and became discouraged and angry. How could we as an industry make something so natural and beautiful so difficult?

With this question in mind, and a well rested body (acquired from my now beautiful bedroom), I marched off to the office. I had accepted the fact that I was old fashioned and crazy, so there was no second guessing my plan. I missed the surprise of a letter in the mailbox. I missed the feeling of being impressed that someone ACTUALLY took the time to gather the paper or pencil, write the letter, place it in an envelope, address the envelope, buy a stamp and send it off. What an ordeal it was, but it was so worth it. I miss the romance of being surprised by the expression of his heart. It made me feel special. It is what separated me from all the other ladies in my husband's life.

This year we have one mission - put the romance back into life. Alphabet soup will be the LAST thing I mention in my sales pitch on diamonds. I want to hear about her, his love for her and their dreams. I will sell diamonds - not papers. I want to celebrate love - not the fact that getting the ring is one more thing he can scratch off of his list. I want to go back to a time when the real question was, "Will you marry me?" not, "Do you like the ring and will you accept it?" I will encourage my hopeful grooms to express their heart through words they took the time to think of - not read off of an e-card. I will assist in this adventure by not only helping them find the right diamond, but by giving to them a few blank cards. I will encourage them to write by reminding them that spelling and grammar never count against them when they simply take the time to LOVE someone.

Tammy L. Williams, Graduate Gemologist of GIA, also prizes her membership in AGTA. She is President of J D Jewelers, a salon private jewelry business located in Suwanee, Georgia and the Southeastern Rep for Global Diamonds. Tammy is very active as a speaker and authority on Gemstones and Diamonds. Whether in her laboratory at J D Jewelers, on the lecture circuit or writing about her experiences in business, her love and passion for gemstones becomes contagious. If you'd like to contact Tammy, please e-mail her at This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it..

I Love My Job! Pass it on

Things are slow - painfully slow. And to borrow a phrase from Dolly Parton in the movie "Steel Magnolias," "I am so confused about what to do - I do not know whether to scratch my watch or wind my butt." The economy is terrible and people are scared. As I sit here wondering what to do to prepare for the Holidays, I cannot think of a year when so many people just dreaded the thought of the Holidays. With all this time on my hands I began to wonder - I know this can be dangerous, but I think I am on to something.

  • Newsletter

  • Latest Post

  • Most Read

Columnist


×