FUQ: Frequently Unasked Questions

Before we dive headfirst into retail hell the holiday season and my fun-o-meter stops registering, I’d like to ask you — the consumer — a few questions. Since you’re certainly welcome to ask me anything**, I assume you wouldn’t mind returning the favor just this once.

Some of these questions might be new to you, and that’s okay. Just ask me to wait a moment while you go get someone else who can help me. Offering me a beverage while I wait is recommended, but not required.

Anyway, back to me and my questions. The first one is this: why are your price expectations so low? I mean, you love to ask me why my prices are so high, so I think it’s only fair that you give me a solid, well-composed response to just why you think my prices are so out of line with every other retailer you’ve ever been to (and some you haven’t).

Where did you get that unique scarf/bag/hat/coat? I’m obviously asking because I’m a genuinely interested person who loves fashion and accessories and I know my mother-in-law would love one just like it.

Next question: what’s in that little shopping bag from Competitor Jeweler around the corner? And as a follow-up, wouldn’t it make more sense to attempt a comparison shop before making a purchase?

While I sip this complimentary lukewarm beverage you brought me, could you please explain why you’re surprised that a 2-millimeter micropave diamond eternity band in 18 karat gold has lost a diamond or two, following your rock climbing expedition at Yosemite? I can certainly fix it for you, but my goldsmith is overloaded and we’re now at a 3-plus-week turnaround. Please understand that we want the repair done right, not fast.

This one’s for the romantically-inclined: why, why did you wait until now to design an engagement ring that you absolutely must present on the family vacation in nine days? I’m not saying we can’t handle that request, but you (and we) would feel ever so much less stressed if you had come to us, say, last month. Or even last week. Why do you add so much pressure to an already important event? This is a wonderful time in your life, and we hope you make the most of it!

Finally, please do me the honor of telling me what lucky person in your life you’ve decided to gift with a beautiful, timeless piece of jewelry. I want to hear about her favorite color, his love of working with his hands, and the special celebration dinner you have planned. These are the details that make my job worth doing, and I cherish every story you choose to share.

Oh, and one more thing… will that be cash, or charge?

(Just kidding). (Kinda).

**It’s that time of year again, folks: send me your burning, long-held jewelry questions. I’ll be collecting them for some upcoming Q&A posts. Think how many other people you can help by voicing your questions and finally getting some answers!

Try This One Weird Trick

Clickbait: modern internet users love to hate it. So why do absurd claims and questionable tactics persist? The answer lies in consumer (read: human) habits. Though we vehemently deny it, a tiny piece of us still wants to find that too-good-to-be-true panacea for our perceived woes, and we never really stop searching for it.

Well, I’m sorry to say I can’t offer you a cure-all — I’m in the jewelry business, not snake oil. What I can give you are some neat little tips (definitely not tricks) to help solve some common jewelry woes.

Woe #1: Help! My previous jewelry gets all tangled up whenever I travel. I’ve tried everything!
Woe-away: Meet your new best friend, the drinking straw. Depending on the style and length of your necklace, you can either (a) drop one end of the chain through the straw and re-clasp it, which will keep it from tangling; or (b) cut a small notch in the top & bottom of the straw, drop the whole necklace through, gently tug the chain down each notch, and lay a small piece of tape to keep them in place. Stack multiples together and secure with a rubber band, and off you go. No more tangles!

Woe #2: I’m on vacation and really don’t want a sunburn, so I’m wearing lots of lotions all the time and getting very sandy. But now my diamond rings look disgusting! What do I do?
Woe-away: You have options galore on this one. In order of most to least effective, they are:

  1. Leave your diamonds at home next time, and just wear a pretty but non-gemstone band. Easier to clean, and no risk!
  2. Purchase a portable cleaning stick with brush attached. Use it to gently remove all the build up, rinse, and pat dry.
  3. If applying lotions in a safe place (hotel room), simply remove all jewelry first and allow lotion to dry/set before putting them back on. Be mindful of where you place your jewels during this process (ring holder or jewelry case good, edge of sink bad).
  4. Rinse hands thoroughly with soap and water, taking extra care with rings to rinse well. A very soft, old toothbrush used to brush gently will help dislodge some of the gunk.

Woe #3: My ring is doing loop-the-loops around my finger in the cold weather, but it usually fits fine in the heat. What do I do?
Woe-away: While it’s best to bring this sort of problem straight to a trusted jeweler, there’s a good chance that he or she will suggest some version of sizing balls or bars. Think of them as speed bumps on the inside bottom of the ring, as they help to “grip” the finger a little better when it’s loose, but maintain enough breathing room for when the ring feels snug. Keep in mind that someone people find the little nubs uncomfortable at times, but since they’re typically fairly easy to remove, it’s often worth a shot. Useful for arthritic knuckles, too.

I think that’s enough secret-spilling for one day, don’t you? If you have a jewelry woe, feel free to ask in the comments or send a message. The solution might just help you AND someone else!

Is “Favorited” Really a Word?!

Success (n.): the accomplishment of an aim or purpose.

I know I’m not alone in feeling that sometimes success feels more daunting than failure. Failure is so often an end point, but success must lead to further and greater success in order for it to really count. This translates to more work, greater effort, and in the best of cases, potentially higher reward.

As I mentioned in a recent post, I feel like I’ve learned a thing or three from my recent adventures in industry-land. Putting new skills into practice has always been a main tenet of teaching — learn long division, eat it for dinner every night for a week —  and developing my voice and professional relationships will always need doing.

In a concession to my apprentice status, I began speaking up on a small scale, using my least-favorite communication tool to force me to stretch a little: Twitter. A few interactions (tweets? tweet exchanges? does one even “exchange tweets”?) later,  I received some easy and excellent answers to my question from two highly successful known quantities in the industry. I solemnly swear to write posts based on their suggestions, but both deserve some extensive time and thought to pull together.

Anyway, each person’s response was gracious, unique, and thoughtful, which I’ll admit felt somewhat intimidating:
They saw my tweet! They read it, oh god, did I make a typo? No, okay. Someone favorited my tweet! Is that even a word? Why is that a verb now? What the heck is a re-tweet, and what does it mean? What do I say now? Emoticons are unprofessional. Do not use. Wait, did they use one? Does that mean I should, too? I haven’t answered yet. Has it been too long? Do they hate me now?


This brief venture into the unknown caused the old worrier in me to surface, but only briefly. A silly thing, perhaps, to create such mental buzz about a relatively insignificant step, but progress is progress. Finding my voice and raising it to seek out answers to questions, advice and insight, or venture a comment or two is a brick laid in the foundation, and it’s obviously up to me to pursue the personal growth I need to reach my goals.

If I’m going to log this little foray as I success, I have no choice but to follow it up with more — and better — attempts. I’m open to suggestions from reader-experts: how do I build on this experience?

P.S. The former English teacher in me cringes at all this “nouning” and “verbing,” but I think I got the “favorited” thing correct. Right? Right??

Why Not: The Rhetorical Question

Like every other (good) retailer, we aim to please. From goods to services, providing the very best we can to every customer is what keeps us in business.

Go ahead, say it. Duh. Of course that’s what keeps the doors open!

But what happens when we can’t — for whatever reason — satisfy a customer?

It seems to me that in an increasingly instant-gratification-focused consumer world, the inability to meet an immediate demand is an automatic black mark. Regardless of how difficult, unrealistic, or downright impossible the request may be, the potential provider’s perceived lack of ability becomes an issue.

It so happens that occasionally a customer comes in and asks for something we don’t have. We’ve never had it. It’s possible — though unlikely — we’ve never even heard of it. We can probably get it, or our fabulous designer/goldsmith can make it, but none of that is going to happen in the next 10 to 15 seconds. The customer huffs something to the effect of “Everywhere I go, they say the same thing. You don’t have it. Well, why not?”

There’s a brief pause, and a moment of silent mutual understanding arrives: they already know the answer. We know the answer, and they know we know. We don’t have it because the buyer(s) for the store didn’t buy it. The reasoning behind that decision is moot, because it won’t change the status of this customer’s elusive desire.

I was totally bewildered by my first Rhetorical Encounter. Did that customer really just get upset that I couldn’t show those white gold earrings in yellow, rose, and two-tone? Is she seriously asking for a reason why we don’t carry her favorite XYZ designer?

I’ve learned a few things since then, thank goodness. I learned that sometimes a customer has an objection or just wants an easy “out” of the sale or store, and isn’t capable of saying “no, thank you.” I had to learn that a customer insisting on one specific item is well aware that we won’t have it, and they really want some alternatives. I also figured out that some customers take pleasure in name-dropping to employees of stores that aren’t Big Names, either as a test (yes, we’ve heard of that Big Name) or to impress (yes, your Big Name watch is lovely).

I used to feel like a failure when I couldn’t produce, magician-like**, the exact white (gold) rabbit each customer wanted. Thankfully, through careful observation and a deeper understanding of the consumer, I have managed to overcome that feeling and learned to confidently represent the products and capabilities we do have. It’s a necessary skill in an on-demand world, and one I’m happy to say only improves with every Rhetorical Encounter I have.

** Okay, occasionally we’re like real magicians, coming up with brilliant plans with perfect execution for last-minute, do-or-die situations. That’s called… hard work and getting lucky.

Selective Sparkle: Holiday Jewelry Gifting Guide Part 1

As a person who is supposed to be in the know about all things jewelry, friends and relations frequently send their questions my way on everything from druzy to diamonds. I’m always happy to answer queries and offer advice, and that’s even more true during the gift-giving season (it’s also proposal season, FYI).

I’ve put together a little multi-part list of some of the most common questions I receive from people who really want an honest answer — I don’t sugarcoat, upsell, or otherwise spin my responses to turn a profit. Here we go!

What exactly is Tanzanite? And why should I buy it?”

Tanzanite is a form of the mineral zoisite and is found only in one location: the mines in the area very near Mt. Kilimanjaro in Tanzania. Its current deposits are rapidly diminishing, making an already rare gemstone even more difficult to obtain.Tanzanite in its natural form is a rather ugly brownish burgundy — the material originally found at the surface had been heated naturally thanks to its journey through the layers of the earth, but today essentially all Tanzanite has been heat treated. This process is common and permanent, and does not detract at all from the value of the gem.

Tanzanite is a beautiful colored gem that many people love for its vibrancy, range of color within the gem, and beautiful contrast when set with diamonds. It rates a low 6.5 on the hardness scale, which means that daily wear in rings or bracelets will cause the gem to abrade fairly rapidly. As an earring or pendant it tends to look best set in white metal. A strong vivid blue is the most valuable, but many people prefer the purple-blue tones due to their color uniqueness and complexity.

Bottom line: If the color is the true attraction and it simply must be a ring, try a purple sapphire or spinel instead — it’ll hold up better over time. In a pendant or earring, they’re divine. Buy for vibrant and vivid color, or if you a particular affinity for the plains of Tanzania.

Can you show me a 1 carat sapphire?”

Sure I can, but what you probably want is a sapphire (or any other gemstone) that is approximately the same millimeter size as a 1 carat round diamond. Gemstones are cut with very different stands from diamonds so they are almost never comparable in terms of size and weight.

Colored gemstones are cut to enhance their color, which frequently means they have a larger depth measurement and often are not perfectly proportional — at least from underneath. An imperfectly cut gemstone will enhance all the wrong things: you might see a section that’s too dark and/or too light, the color might appear muddy or pale, or it might be so deep or broad that it will only work in a custom made piece of jewelry.

All gemstones, colored or otherwise, are priced based on their carat weight. It is possible to have two rubies of comparable quality and length-to-width ratio be two totally different prices based on their individual weight. Gemstones also posses different densities, so two different gemstone types with the same dimensions may not weigh the same.

Bottom line: dimensions are important, not carat weight. A 1ct round diamond does not equal a 1ct round colored gem. Talk to me about the size and overall look you’re going for.

What’s the difference between precious and semiprecious gemstones?” (Otherwise known as The Gemstones Formerly Known As…)

Oh, how I detest this question, and it’s nobody’s fault but our own. For so many years, jewelers drew a line in the sand between the Big Three — a.k.a. emerald, ruby, and sapphire — and, well, everything else. The Madison Ave. geniuses marketed the hell out of buying “semiprecious” gems as less expensive alternatives to the rest, and the result was an entire population hell-bent on spending pennies on some gems and thousands on others for mostly arbitrary reasons.

There are many stunningly beautiful gemstones that are not card-carrying members of the Big Three that can cost far more than the big guys, but a quick internet search will still yield results labeling them “semiprecious.” The term was once attributable to gems that were simply more widely available than those labeled “precious”, but as mentioned above in the case of Tanzanite, that no longer holds true.

Bottom line: ditch “semiprecious,” try “gem with X color in Y price range.” A good jeweler will work with your budget and color preference, or at least be honest and explain why we can’t get something.

Now it’s your turn! Have a burning question about jewelry? Want to know more about a particular metal, gem, style, or the industry itself? Ask away in the comments!