As each of us start the year anew, you have probably found yourself reflecting on a great many things. Amazingly, I have reflected on how I have changed over the last couple of years as well as how other jewelers and our industry as a whole has changed.
Over the course of 2011 while traveling and speaking at jewelry trade shows and conventions, and consulting with other jewelers, one thing keeps coming up and hitting me in the face... and that is how jewelers (myself included) means of conducting business has changed. Just as the caterpillar morphs into a butterfly, many independent jewelers, either by desire or necessity, are changing into a new breed. This new breed of jeweler is what I am going to nickname “The Hybrid Jeweler.”
Webster’s Dictionary (a definite authority in my life) defines a “Hybrid” as: a person whose background is a blend of two diverse cultures or traditions. It goes on to say that a “Hybrid” is also something that has two different types of components performing essentially the same function.
Perhaps at this point you are asking yourself, “What does this have to do with the independent jeweler and, more importantly, me?” Ok, I’ll oblige and try to offer some answers, but more importantly, I offer my direct observations of at least 100 or more independent jewelers that I’ve had the privilege of speaking to or working with:
- Many “Independent Jewelers” are now changing into “Hybrid Jewelers.”
- “Hybrids” combine the traditional mom & pop operation with techniques borrowed from industries other than our own.
- They learn to market their stores aggressively and bring a point of differentiation between their store and their competitors’.
Want more proof? How many of us are now buying scrap gold and silver and have turned it into a major profit center for our stores? Let me take it another step.... How many of you are now buying more diamonds off the street at a great price and setting them in new mountings yourself for enhanced profits? You better believe I am!
Here is another technique borrowed from the pawn industry that I’ve noticed many jewelers doing and that is, when you purchase old scrap gold, you remove the diamonds and sell the melee to diamond suppliers/buyers. Yes, many “Hybrid Jewelers” have already found out that they can have a nice side check of several thousand dollars coming their way each week from the sale of these diamonds. Some, like myself, save some of these diamonds to use in the manufacture of new jewelry for their store.
By the way, a couple of great resources that I use to sell melee diamonds to are Adam Schauper at Namano Diamonds and Paul Reiser of Paul Reiser & Associates. Interestingly enough, many jewelers have adopted several techniques from our distant cousins in the Pawn Industry... more on this at a later date.
Much of the scrap gold you buy can also be cast at a very reasonable cost into new jewelry that you and your clients will love! My friends at Larry Paul Castings have certainly helped me on many occasions turn old gold into something delightful that neither my competitor’s carry, nor can compete with on price because of the distinct advantage of buying your own gold and diamonds to cast with!!
Amazingly, technology has also brought many jewelers into the “Hybrid Jeweler” realm because of CAD/CAM technology. Yes, we are even borrowing from the computer industry... talk about change!
Gone are the days when jewelers are simply limited to what they can find in a suppliers catalog or what is seen at a trade show. In my store, our CAD/CAM software has allowed us to make the jewelry that prior to its advent, would have taken much time and expense to sketch/draw, carve a wax and finally, cast a custom design. Shockingly, the only limits I now have are the limits of my imagination!
In closing, let me say this - for a great many jewelers, its my opinion that these changes have been positive. We have needed this change to stay competitive and more importantly, to keep our edge! Yes, I’m proud to say that I have left the ranks of the “Independent Jeweler” and have now enabled myself to chart a different path... a more profitable, less crowded path... that of the “Hybrid Jeweler!”