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Sunday, September 29, 2013

On Hernias, Gemstone Shopping and Carved Drusy Moon Faces

white drusy with carved moon face on one side
Carved drusy moon face
I'm at home today (it's a Saturday) because I just had a hernia repaired yesterday so I figured I would catch up on some of my blog writing.  But be forewarned there might be a few ows! scattered around this article.

One of my favorite things to do is to buy gemstones. By now, my regular readers should know that I love to because I have such a love for colored stones.  Plus I love to spend money and I can do this guilt free because, after all, it's for business!

I have been in the business for so long now that I have focused down to some very trusted suppliers.  This is in part because they are excellent sources for the quality of goods I believe in selling.  It's also because with all of the new gemstone treatments out there I like to know who I'm actually working with so I know that the goods I get are exactly what I am told they are.  Because of this I don't often buy from new sources but when a gem dealer does stop in, I will always take a look because you just never know what someone might have.

Invariably I start out every conversation with a new dealer telling them that I'm not buying now.  Sometimes it's because I really am not buying at the time.  But it also makes them work a little harder to sell me something! And I can often cut through the chafe a little quicker.  Instead of showing me all the junk first, they'll usually pull out the better stuff.

So this past Tuesday I had a woman come in pulling her wheeled bag and she pulled out her card and introduced herself to me.  She was a family member of a 100 year old firm operating in Idar-Oberstein in Germany. Idar-Oberstein is actually one of the oldest (if not THE oldest continuously operating) gemstone cutting capitals in the world.  It has been a center for gem cutting for hundreds of years.  When I first started out on my own making jewelry I had one primary gemstone supplier and everything they sold came from Idar-Oberstein. They liked the material from there because when they bought a 7 mm x 5 mm stone, it measured 7 mm x 5 mm not 7 ish  x 5 ish.   The quality of the material (this was mostly agates, amethysts and other less expensive materials) was also always the best of the type out there.  Also for those of you who have some of my pieces with carved spectrolite, labradorite and moonstone faces, you know that they were all carved in Germany.  The Germans, if nothing else, are always precise and, like most Europeans (and Asians too--it seems only here in America that the dominant issue is price), tend to appreciate quality over any other factors.

So I was perfectly happy to look at her goods for awhile (even if my CEO---that would be my wife who pays the bills---has been clamping down on my spending lately) even though I didn't think I would buy anything.  And then, you know how it goes from here.....she had some things I simply had to have.  They had a lot of drusy quartz, including some largish round ones with moon faces carved into them. There was one white one with black spots that was just beautiful that had to stay with me (picture is above).  They also had some very unusual carved bead like pieces and I had to have a pair of the grey moonstone ones.  And then they had a stunning parcel of smallish (3.5 mm) fancy colored sapphires that I cherry picked all of the orange and orangey-red stones from.   Some of you may be familiar with my untreated smaller orange sapphires, which tend to be muted in color somewhat.  The oranges I got from this dealer are heated stones but they are incredibly intense, fiery, true oranges.

So all in all, I had a fun time working with this dealer and got a few nice things to boot.  Now I'd like to be able to say that the drusy carved moonstone face will be out in the cases soon but the second customer to look at it (I had shown it to one person a few days ago and Kady pulled it out to show someone today) bought it.   Sometimes I do just kind of know when the piece is the right one! But now that I have this new source I'm hoping to be able to get some more similar material in the future.

Oh and by the way,  ow, ow, ow.

Wednesday, September 18, 2013

New Store Hours

Rectangular 18k gold earrings with triangular garnets at the top
18k yellow gold and garnet earrings
I have talked about my new summer hours a couple of times already but now I want to announce new permanent hours.  But first, a little background:

When I decided to make my Thursday evening hours by appointment only it was actually for two reasons.  The first, of course, was because it was the summer and I felt like I deserved to get out of here a little earlier to enjoy the extra daylight and warmth.  The second reason, however, was because for the three months prior to the summer no one seemed to be coming in during my late hours on Thursdays.  I felt kind of ridiculous staying here late all the time when no one seemed to come in.  After all, I was doing it for my customer's convenience, not because I like to work late (not that I don't do that a lot anyway).  So I changed my hours to make 6-8 pm on Thursdays by appointment only.  And a funny thing happened.  Suddenly people were calling up every week to make appointments for Thursday night.  I have actually only managed to close at 6 pm on a Thursday two times since I started this.  Apparently people like to make appointments to see me.  Or they just don't really want me to go home early ever.  But for whatever reason, it actually seems to be working better for me. At least this way if I have to stay late it's for a reason. 

Consequently, effective immediately, my new permanent store hours will be as follows:

Tuesday, Wednesday, Thursday, Friday   11-6
Thursday evenings from 6-8 by appointment only
Saturday 11-5

The new earrings above have some nice rhodolite garnets in them. 

Tuesday, September 10, 2013

Retailing in America

18k gold green boulder opal and green garnet earrings
18k and 22k gold earrings with boulder opals and green garnets
Imagine you walk into a jewelry store on a Saturday looking for a pair of earrings as a gift.  You see a nice pair you like and they are priced at $1000.  You want to spend a couple of days thinking about it so you leave and come back the following Wednesday.  There are the same earrings only they are priced at $500.  Okay so the price of gold has not dropped 50% in those five days.  Actually it's gone up a little.  Not wanting to forgo the deal you pay for them right away, but don't take them home that day because you don't want them in the house until you're ready to give them as a gift so your wife is really surprised.  You come back on Friday to pick them up.  While they are bringing out your pair from the back, you see another pair just like them (no one said they were one of a kind so you're not surprised).  And there on the price tag is $450.  You don't know what to say, but you figure that maybe it's an error so you take your earrings home and give them to your wife.  The next day (Saturday) your wife goes into the jewelry store for a slight adjustment and she sees the exact same pair of earrings and they are marked at $1000.  She's impressed by your largesse and comes home to tell you how much she's impressed.  Surprised by this you run back down to the store and sure enough they are priced at $1000 again.

Okay now imagine another scenario (as usual I'm working my way up to a point so bear with me here).  You walk into a jewelry store and you see a lovely ring you want to give to your wife.  You ask how much it is and the clerk says $1200.  You say, okay that seems fair, but you point out to the clerk that the ring doesn't have a final polish on it.  The clerk looks at you and says, yes.  A final polish is $50 extra.  Well you can't buy the ring without a final polish so you say okay.  When the clerk comes back with the now polished ring, she asks if you'd like a box for it.  You say, of course I want a box for it.  The clerk brings out three boxes and says okay, you can have this cheap paper box for an extra $25, you can have this nice cardboard box for $50 or you can have the super duper wood box for $100.  You hem and haw.  After all the $1200 ring is now at least $1275 and possibly $1350, but you go for the midrange box.  Then the clerk looks at you and asks if you'd like gift wrapping on it and comes out with another range of wraps at assorted prices.  The same thing goes for a bag to put it all in.  By the time you come out of the store the $1200 ring has become a $1450 ring.

These things sound really pretty stupid don't they?  I mean why should the same pair of earrings cost more or less on a daily basis unless gold is really wildly fluctuating?  And why should you have to pay for a bunch of extras that really should be included in the total price to begin with?  Would you shop at a jewelry store that did these kinds of things?

My wife and I are trying to plan our upcoming trip to California in January (it will be our 25th wedding anniversary trip!) and we've started looking at airfares (I see a few of you have suddenly caught on to my scenarios here).  Late last week, on the same airline, we could have paid TWICE what we could get the tickets for yesterday (Monday).  That's double the price!  Nothing changed but the day.  Nothing.  Oil prices didn't go up or down. The world was no more nor less in a crisis mode than it was last week (or ever it seems).

But of course then we had to also go down the list of "extras" as well.  Did we want extra legroom (in my book that's an absolute necessity these days)?  Did we want early boarding?  Did we want to bring luggage with us?  Bring in carry on bags?  Were we aware of the surcharges for assorted things? So even that half the price figure we were looking at wasn't quite accurate (although it was still half the price of the higher ticket with the same extras). 

Why is it Americans are so willing to put up with this nonsense?  You wouldn't tolerate it in a jewelry store.  As a matter of fact you would be fuming.  You wouldn't tolerate it in a toy store.  But for some reason, in certain businesses, we happily go along with this madness.  I can't imagine putting my customers through that.  What ever happened to establishing a fair price for the value and sticking with it?  An occasional sale is fine.  Even, in the case of airlines, lowering the fares slightly on less desirable flights (the ones at 6 am that you need to get up at 3 am to get to on time), but basically charging the same until market conditions change in general (rising costs for aviation fuel, labor, etc.).  Just imagine a world like that where you might actually be able to budget things with some idea of realistic costs.

Unfortunately Americans are so into the "deal" and have become so fixated on always finding the lowest possible cost on everything that they feed this insanity all the time.  Regrettably this works in a negative way as it forces companies to find ways to reduce all their costs to the point that jobs go overseas, our money goes overseas and suddenly everyone is wondering why their pay is shrinking and they can't even afford those "bargain" airfares.  Perhaps it's time to just stop and look at what we do to ourselves with this kind of nonsense.  And demand more accountability and more sane pricing from the companies we buy from.  Okay that's my soapbox speech for the day.

At the top are some new earrings I just made up with boulder opals and tsavorite garnets.  Kady got a really good picture of the colors in the opals and yes they look just that beautiful! And trust me. No matter what day you come in to my shop to see them, they'll be the same price.