There are literally thousands of jewelry designers worldwide. Designers and artisans who do tremendous and beautiful work. Designers who pay attention to every detail producing a jewelry item that is truly a work of art. Designers who spend weeks or months making just one spectacular piece of jewelry, many times for the wealthiest people on the planet. Other designers, not so much.
Then there are designers that achieve a level of fame with the masses like Tacori, David Yurman, Pandora, Judith Ripka to name a few. Are these designers on a par with Bvlgari, Piaget or Harry Winston? And then, where do I (or someone like me) fit into this crowd?
Obviously marketing and advertising account for fame and notoriety. In my opinion, the former are more advertising fluff than jewelry quality. These are mass producers of admittedly reasonably attractive jewelry items (even if in some cases not the best quality or workmanship). Just as MacDonalds doesn’t serve gourmet hamburgers, these manufacturers do not produce world class, “one off” designs. Their items are produced in factories either here or overseas (many times by people who can not afford to own even the most meager of items they are producing). Their jewelry is produced by the thousands. Many times the workmanship is not at a level I would produce. For example pieces might be either glued or lead soldered together, stones glued or unevenly set with insufficient prong strength. Perhaps, just as with the rest of our possessions, it’s disposable jewelry. These companies need to be continuously selling to repeat customers as well as new ones. And yet they have a following.
The latter designers however, produce individual, single pieces of jewelry. Many times their items are specifically designed for a particular person and not marketed to the masses. The latter are also more selective in any advertising they might consider. They do not target the masses. It seems more of their advertising dollars are spent in trade publications than mass media. I have occasionally seen an ad for Bvlgari in an upscale magazine like Town and Country or New Yorker. It’s usually a photo of a single piece of jewelry, sometimes worn by an attractive model occupying a full page. Only the word Bvlgari is prominently displayed as if the reader needs no further description or information. This style of marketing speaks to the exclusivity of the brand. In other words, customer satisfaction comes from owning one special item as apposed to standing in line for hours to purchase mass produced beads to slide on a bracelet like a million other people.
Then lastly there are the designers who do not really advertise at all. They may occasionally run a localized campaign on one of the popular social media sites or have sporadically placed ads in selective news letters. But mostly these designers rely solely on reputation, word of mouth, and referrals to promote their businesses. Many achieve deserved local notoriety because they spend their time producing beautiful, well made jewelry as apposed running ad campaigns. This is the category that I find myself in and the reason is simple. I am a “one man operation” so there is a physical limit to the amount of time I have to sit at the bench. Of course I have a secretary, and a part times sales person, both hard workers but I am the only one who is responsible for actual jewelry work. Besides the normal bookkeeping and office duties, there is the servicing of my wholesale clientele, repairs for my retail customers, spending time with gem dealers, purchasing scrap metal, appraising jewelry and such. That leaves precious little time actually designing spectacular items to display in my cases.
While I would love to promote myself (and who wouldn’t) into a world class designer popular with the masses selling hundreds of items instead of a handful, would it be possible to accomplish this without jeopardizing quality? I do not know, but this past week I have given in to the urge and set up a Face Book page for my business under John Fritze Jr., Jeweler. The challenge is for you to prove to me that social media works. While the actual listing cost nothing, advertising on FB is very expensive. Maybe eventually there will be a line of hundreds of people standing outside my door for hours waiting to purchase something I had made overseas…..but I doubt it.