A Gemfest for All

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Encouraging sales of loose gems can lead to custom commissions

Nancy Schuring of Devon Fine Jewelry in Wyckoff, New Jersey, is well known in her affluent market for her extensive, 100-plus variety gemstone inventory, as well as for her custom designs. Though she sells diamonds (because that’s what customers initially know about), it’s clear that her passion is for color—and the opportunities colored gemstones bring.

"After a woman has a certain size diamond ring, or earring studs, or a bracelet, where do you go from there? That’s when a whole world of color opens up," says Schuring. "Color can turn clients into permanent collectors of new pieces. And when your competition for diamond jewelry sales is as fierce as it is in my area, color is the ultimate differentiator."

To attract clients and spur sales, Schuring offers gemstone roundtables, where clients can sip wine and eat snacks while suppliers show a variety of loose gems. A good evening sees 20-35 gems sold, totaling $10,000 to $50,000 in sales (For more on roundtables, see "Using Color to Sell Custom," MJSA Custom Jeweler 2.1. Schuring also draws clients in to buy loose color through two other methods:


• Gemborees. Eight different "stations" are set up in the store, each offering a specific game or display to increase customers’ knowledge of, and appreciation for, gemstones. At one, customers may be asked to guess the weight of a large gem or the number of pearls in the bottom of a goldfish bowl (which includes fish!). At another, they may be asked to match the source locales on a globe with different gems (right). The clients move from one station to another in any order, holding "passports" that contain questions about the display, and on which they write their answers. Most of the questions are easy, but some challenge the more serious collectors, says Schuring.

At the end of the evening Schuring gives the answers, with each participant "grading their own passports," she says. Inexpensive prizes such as quartz crystals or fossil ammonites (purchased in bulk at the Tucson gem shows) are freely handed out for correct answers to some of the easier questions. For "guess the weight," the nearest guess wins a gem book, also purchased in quantity (from author Renee Newman). Everyone goes home happily with at least one prize. Some sales do occur, but the event mostly sows seeds for budding collectors. And the fun experience of the event and the Schuring’s position as gem expert are firmly planted.


• Geminars. Schuring invites gem dealers and other gem experts to her store (she herself may present, as well). She sets up a presentation area with rows of chairs to accommodate up to 60 people. New gem finds are introduced along with interesting facts, including care of different varieties, sources around the world, and how to recognize quality. She dubbed the concept "Geminars" 15 years ago, and they’ve been going strong ever since.

Once a loose gemstone sale has been made as a result of one of her events, Schuring knows that the custom creation is next. "The evening when they buy the gem, we usually leave them alone and don’t get into the details of designing a piece for it. We want them to fall in love with the gem, and to make a connection with it," she says. Within two weeks, however, it’s time to start making appointments to set her customers’ new treasures into custom designs.

"When they come in, our showroom of finished designs becomes a living catalog of possibilities," says Schuring. "They walk around with us to show us what designs they like. Then we sit down with paper and pencil to sketch out a piece, often adding additional accent gems." Schuring has trained her staff to aid and abet this process.

Often, clients will reserve a special gem they’ve purchased for an upcoming occasion in their lives, and they’ll wait to create the design for it, says Schuring. The jeweler once hosted Jim Fiebig, the global sales director for the Turkish company that sells Zultanite. Fiebig brought with him an extremely rare 32-carat specimen of the gemstone, the third largest ever cut.

"I had a customer who fell in love with it and had to have it," says Schuring. "When one of her daughters was getting married, we worked together to create a rose gold pendant for the gem, which we accented with cognac diamonds set with black rhodium to intensify the color [right]." The client ended up ordering a pair of Zultanite earrings, too, and, in an unusual reversal, went shopping for a mother-of-the-bride dress to match her jewelry.

When planning for colored-gem custom commissions, you often have to be patient, says Schuring: "Sometimes clients will collect a whole tray full of gems before deciding how they want to set them." But she has a zen attitude about such collectors, who often decide on a whim which ones to set.

"I know that eventually they’ll want to wear them," she says, "and I’m their destination of choice for the custom design."