News and Views from the 24 Karat Club Southeastern U.S.
Like many "old-timers" I was a bit unsettled when so many fine retail jewelers got into the "we buy gold" business. Our industry was built on celebrating life's special occasions such as engagements, anniversaries, and birthdays. To many of us, buying back these treasures for the scrap value of the metal sent the wrong message to the consumers, tarnishing the allure and mystique of what we have been doing for generations.
My younger colleagues were quick to point out that in today's difficult retail jewelry environment, buying gold from the public was too good a profit center to pass up. And, due to today's high metal prices, many retailers are actually buying more in gold from their customers than the amount of gold jewelry they are selling to them!
Yet, I still wasn't convinced that this was a long term trend that would be beneficial for our industry. To further drive home the point that this may be a generational issue on my part, my young friends even invoked a saying from Yogi Berra who would explain the situation as, "You gotta do what you gotta do!".
Recently though, a story by a young South Florida jeweler completely changed my mind on this issue. A little old lady with a thick European accent came into his shop and asked to speak to him in his office. Once seated, she pulled from her bag a lump of blackened metal, about the size of a deck of cards. She explained that her father was a dentist in Austria, and that as the Nazis were coming, he sewed this into her coat, along with a note now long gone saying it was pure gold, and sent her as a little girl off to America. She now wanted to sell the bar. The jeweler looked at the oddly shaped bar, and didn't know what to make of it. His gold tester gave a variety of inconsistent readings. He explained that although he doubted it was "pure" gold, if it was, it would be worth over $25,000. His only idea was to send it up to his refiner for analysis, and if it was pure gold, he'd write her a check for more than $25,000. Since she had known him for years, she trusted him and agreed to let him send the bar off.
A week later the jeweler called the lady back to his office. The report came back from the refiner, the bar was 99% pure gold, and he handed her a check for over $25,000. The lady smiled as she accepted the check, and said, "I knew it would be, and I knew you'd give me the check. And, that is why I brought you six more bars!".
As so many progressive retail jewelers have discovered, their mission is to help their customers with all of their precious metal needs, whether they are buyers or sellers. And, the precious metals we sell today as jewelry will hold both their sentimental and monetary value, and continue to reward their owners for generations.
The 24 Karat Club is also benefiting from younger and more progressive thinking and leadership. No longer a club for older jewelry executives who would meet to swap stories about the old days, today's 24 Karat Club members are younger, more vibrant, and more active than ever before. The club has taken leadership roles in areas such as continuing education, scholarships, and giving back to the community. No doubt that progressive thinking, a willingness to consider new ideas, and flexibility in our own thinking, will serve our customers, and our industry well for generations to come.
Howard Kelrick is President of Finger Mate and a board member of The 24 Karat Club. Finger Mate manufactures and installs expandable ring shanks and sells to retail jewelers throughout North America.