HH Gold, Inc., has expanded its concept of using its customers’ melee to create diamonds-by-the-inch necklaces – the company is now offering a variety of pieces made with the small, repurposed diamonds.
The idea of reusing melee began as a solution to retailers’ newfound stocks of diamonds following the 2008 recession, when they’d pop out the diamonds from pieces they bought over the counter from clients. Although the economy recovered in ensuing years, the concept stuck and is more popular now than ever. HH Gold has even started offering matching sets of melee-based earrings, pendants and rings.
HH Gold was launched in 1985 by Howard Horowitz as a manufacturing and wholesale business selling unique and rare coins and coin jewelry in Canoga Park, Calif., a suburb of Los Angeles. “We originally started with coin jewelry and added diamond station necklaces a few years later,” Howard says. “We’ve been doing these for about 15 years now, and they’re still doing well.”
With melee, he says, “Jewelers send us their diamonds, and it’s a perfect fit because most jewelers have a lot of melee in their safes that they don’t know what to do with. The choices are: don’t do anything, sell to a diamond buyer who won’t pay much, or put the diamonds into made-to-order pieces. That way, they can optimize the value of the diamonds and also have new, high-quality jewelry pieces.
“We’ve done a lot of those in every possible configuration. Now we’re doing custom-made earrings, rings and pendants, all incorporating the diamonds, such as a cluster. We group them together. A retailer may have an idea of what he wants, and other times they let us come up with an idea.” The company’s website features more than 120 pieces that can give retailers a good idea of what’s possible.
“One retailer sent us hundreds of stones,” Howard says. “The challenge is that no two stones are the same dimensions, which makes it more difficult, but it always results in something nice and unique, and everybody’s happy.”
HH Gold once created a 60-inch necklace with 200 diamonds worth more than $200,000, although most pieces typically incorporate five to 11 diamonds and cost the jeweler $400 to $600, excluding the jeweler’s diamonds. HH Gold’s artisans create the diamond pieces with 14-karat and 18-karat gold in white, yellow and rose gold, as well as platinum. All pieces are custom made to order, with an average 10-day turnaround.
Howard says his typical customer is the better quality independent retailer. Although his company usually creates diamond jewelry, colored stones are occasionally used. “Heat is involved in the manufacturing process, and some semi-precious stones may not hold up to it,” he says. “Sapphires and rubies can hold up to heat, but amethyst and topaz cannot. But even those can be used in station necklaces with a prong setting instead of bezel set.
“A lot of our work is custom, so we create a lot of special, unique pieces not part of our regular line. We did a few melee pieces before 2008, but that’s when the volume started. Nowadays, business is good and a lot of the jobs we’re getting involve repurposing other jewelry. A customer may walk in with a cocktail ring inherited from her grandmother. She wouldn’t wear that, but she would wear a diamond station necklace created from it. And we’ll make it.”
Howard adds that a lot of retailers are not traveling now because of COVID-19. “They used to go to shows to buy for the holiday season. Now, they’re not leaving the store, so they’re looking for ways to have fresh merchandise available. They already have the diamonds, so they can use those to make new pieces.”
Sales are good now, Howard says, “so much so that we may have to move our Christmas cut-off date earlier this year. The cut-off date is the day in which any diamonds received for us to create pieces can’t be guaranteed for delivery before Christmas, although we try our best. To ensure quality, no orders are farmed out. During COVID, March, April and May were slow because most of our customers closed their stores, but as soon as stores reopened, business picked way up.”
Coin jewelry remains a good part of Howard’s business. “I’m still selling a lot of it – trends always change, but the ancient Roman and Greek coins in jewelry are selling well, and so are the Spanish pieces of eight treasure coins.
“I come up with many of the designs and concepts, and I have a CAD expert to finalize the design,” says Howard, whose 40 years of experience in the industry started when he worked part-time in college, where he studied business administration and finance. He’s been working full-time at his business since 1985.
HH Gold has always specialized in serving independent retailers. “The problem with most chain stores is that quality is not as high on their priority list,” Howard says. “We try to have better quality in whatever we do. It’s a different model. A lot of what we do is unique, and that suits the independents. Independents have a higher level of quality and customer service, and they do more special orders.
“We’re proud of all of the pieces we do. We’re constantly posting pictures on our website. Every week, there are new, unique pieces on the website. It gives jewelers a lot of ideas they wouldn’t have thought of on their own.”