Last updateTue, 24 Apr 2018 8pm

24 Karat Corner: So long 2015!

There wasn’t exactly a lot of things to be thankful for this past year. Precious metal prices languished throughout the year, meaning the pieces you bought earlier in the year cost way more than the current replacement cost. The already razor thin margins on diamonds have gotten even skinnier, and in some cases have gone negative as some dealers and retailers have been selling below cost to generate cash flow (do that often enough, and there is a name for you - bankrupt!). Store traffic was lackluster. Many of the brands that drove sales in previous years have grown tired and stale. Financial markets and housing prices were flat generating none of the “wealth effect” needed to generate consumer enthusiasm for jewelry. All in all, good riddance to you, 2015.

Unfortunately, as individuals, there is little we can do about these negative macro trends. And, there is nothing to point to that makes you think things are going to turn around any time soon. So, what, if anything, can a poor jeweler do about these events that are clearly beyond his control? The simple answer is nothing. But, there is a solution, and that is jewelers have to make themselves more valuable.

The days of automatic yearly raises just because you made it to another January are long gone. Today, employers want to know what extra value you provided in order to justify a salary increase. New skills get rewarded and promoted, productivity gets recognized, lethargy gets left behind.

Store owners have bosses too. They are called customers. As things get more difficult and more competitive, if you aren’t offering a greater variety of unique new products and services, you’ll get left behind. And, as consumers gain more and more access to information, they expect their jewelers to have more expertise than ever before. When the customers are walking in the door asking to see only the “triple Ex” stones, you better be able to take the conversation to the next level with confidence and authority.

So, whether you work at the bench, behind the counter, or sign the checks, The 24 Karat Club stands ready to help you up your game with scholarship offers to improve your skill set and make you more valuable to your boss, no matter whether he’s the shop foreman, the sales manager, or the couple shopping for their engagement ring. Ask your favorite 24 Karat Club member if you or someone you know might be eligible for scholarship funds to make this a better year, regardless of what the world throws at you.

Let’s all agree that the one New Year’s resolution we keep this year will be to get that next level certification, take some classes, or at least get to a few seminars. It will make us more valuable to our bosses, and more interesting to our friends.

Howard Kelrick is President of Finger Mate and a board member of The 24 Karat Club, SEUS. Finger Mate manufactures and installs expandable ring shanks and sells to retail jewelers throughout North America. Contact Howard at 954-458-2700 or e-mail This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it.