As more and more retailers shutter their doors in today’s competitive environment, is the future all doom and gloom? How can we compete with the exploding power of internet sales eating up increasing market share? I recently sat down with good friend David Craig Rotenberg of David Craig Jewelers in prestigious Bucks County, PA who offered a fresh take on today’s market from his unique perspective.
David was awarded the certification of Emeritus Certified Gemologist Appraiser from the American Gem Society (AGS) this year at their Conclave in Hollywood. This highest echelon of recognition is a lifetime achievement award reflecting his over 50 years of service in the industry and awarded to only a select few. David’s a master appraiser, frequently consulted by federal agencies such as the FBI and serving as an expert witness in court. He’s been featured on numerous broadcast news programs, including Diane Sawyer’s Prime Time Live.
“I was very excited,” David shared. “The morning of the awards luncheon, AGS’s Alethea Inns approached and congratulated me (notification to awards recipients are kept confidential beforehand). They wanted to be sure I would be attending the luncheon!”
“The jewelry industry today’s in transition.” David’s perspective on the industry spans decades. “But transitions are always happening. Competition for retailers is not something new. Today it’s in the form of internet online sales. In the 1980s the challenge was large catalog showrooms such as Service Merchandise (which eventually folded). You have to learn to cope.”
What can retail jewelers offer that online giants such as Amazon and Blue Nile can’t? “It’s not enough any longer to be a store owner proprietor, even if you’re skilled at bench work. You can’t go it alone. By being a member of a prestigious society such as AGS, the retailer certifies to clients that he represents the highest level of knowledge, ethics and conduct not necessarily available from online retail giants. It’s up to the retailer to communicate what their level of expertise is to the public and why this is important to them.”
A customer making a major purchase (think: engagement ring) for the first time may not know what the potential pitfalls are. A novice can easily make very costly errors. “By joining AGS, getting GIA credentials, you’re certifying that you’re the gold standard in the industry. Deal with an AGS certified gemologist and you’re dealing with the best in the business. This is what we can offer that internet retailers can’t. It’s up to us to educate the public and make this message clear.”
Robert Shipley founded GIA in 1933 just for this reason - to bring consumers trust in the jewelry trade by training certified jewelers exemplifying the highest standards. In 1934, he founded AGS to unify these certified jewelers in a national guild, “like the physician, the architect and the engineer,” Shipley explained.
What about online retailers who offer diamond grading reports, such as GIA lab reports, with diamond sales? “It’s like a lab report you get after a health screening,” David explains. “You need an expert, like the physician, to interpret the results. Each diamond presents itself differently. Even with the same color, clarity and cut grading, other factors, such as crystallization or clouding, may be present which may not affect the grade, but may affect the value. The expert gemologist can interpret the report for the client and guide them.”
At the 2018 AGS Conclave in Nashville, David will be hosting sessions on how to become a certified appraiser. One session will focus on forensic appraisals including courtroom behavior. “Any time you write an appraisal you have to be prepared to go to court to defend it. We’d like to invite all interested retailers to attend and experience what having this level of expertise and certification offers to help you stand out above the crowd.”
It’s a no-brainer. We have to fully appreciate our own level of expertise, like any top professional, and communicate clearly to the public why utilizing this level of knowledge and ethical standards is so important to them when making their significant jewelry decisions. We’re our own best hedge against the challenges of today’s market.
Mia Katrin is an award-winning jewelry designer featured in over 100 top stores nationally. She is available for lectures and seminars. To add her Collections or book a lecture: www.jeweljewel.com, 877-539-3569, facebook.com/MiaKatrinforJEWELCOUTURELLC, subscribe to her YouTube channel www.youtube.com/channel/UC2B-53XBuB_HD5-bofc5jAA