Where does this stuff come from?
The other day we needed a small piece of green gold (yes, it comes in green now) and a custom-cut fancy shaped diamond to finish a job for a customer. Two phone calls and three days later we had both, completed the job, and shipped the ring off to the customer. It was so fast and effortless for us to get two of the world’s most precious items (to say nothing of the special ways in which we needed them) that sometimes I forget how truly rare and difficult it is to find and produce the items we trade in every day.
Mother Nature, in her wisdom, put most of the world’s gold, silver, and platinum in faraway places that are difficult to get to, in countries that are often politically unstable, usually hostile to Americans, and dangerous to travel in, even during the day! The locations for diamonds and precious stones are often even more remote and precarious.
And yet, today, because it is so easy for us to source all the gold and diamonds we need, we forget to convey to consumers the whole story, and they now treat our products like any other commodity.
Last week I was in a friend’s store, and he had a customer at the counter. The customer was comparing three certificates side by side. He wasn’t even looking at the diamonds! Clearly, we may have lost our way! Our story should be about how rare and beautiful our products are, how difficult they are to find, how they’ve traveled around the world to get here, why we call them “precious” metals and stones, and why they’ve been the enduring symbol of love for centuries.
Bob Costas, the NBC sportscaster claims to carry a Mickey Mantle rookie baseball card in his wallet. A couple of years ago, I wound up sitting next to him on a flight, and I called him on it. Sure enough, he pulls it out and shows me the card. “I never want to forget what that period in time felt like,” he said.
I left Bob alone for the rest of the flight. What could he possibly do or say that could top a Mickey Mantle rookie card in his wallet? But, it left me wondering, what is it in my life that I should feel so connected to that I would want to always carry a reminder in my wallet. Sure, I carry pictures of Kiki and the kids, but there has to be something else…
By the time I got off the flight, I had the answer. I called Kiki and said, “We need to go to Africa to see where this stuff comes from!” Less than a year later we grabbed our backpacks and found ourselves crossing the border into Zimbabwe.
No group does more to keep the history and romance alive in our industry than my beloved 24 Karat Club. The combination of long-time members who have a deep passion for what they do along with the younger members who bring an excitement to every aspect of our business creates an atmosphere where our traditions and stories are kept alive and fresh.
We deal in precious stones and metals, and this idea is never far from the minds of our members. To assure that future generations of jewelers learn about, and come to appreciate where all this stuff comes from, The 24 Karat Club makes a variety of scholarships available to those currently working in the trade to attend classes related to the jewelry business. To learn more about these scholarships, and how you may qualify, ask one of your 24 Karat Club member vendors for details.
So that I never forget where all this stuff comes from, and how precious it truly is, I now carry in my wallet a ten million dollar Zimbabwe bill (its only worth about five US dollars). If I ever run into Bob Costas again, I’ll be proud to show it to him and thank him for the idea. Ask me to show it to you the next time we are together.
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 Howard@FingerMate.com.