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Recycling jewellery could save your business

Retailers are naturally inclined to sell their newest stock but GEORGIA WESTGARTH investigates whether recommending older pieces of jewellery could be a more profitable prospect.

Whenever a new product shipment arrives in store, owners and staff are always eager to unpack, examine and display. The fresh jewellery pieces create a buzz on the sales floor and there’s a sense of enthusiasm that is likely to extend as customers enter the door ready to buy; however, the selling of new products is just one revenue stream open to retailers and, as any astute business analyst will agree, one revenue stream isn’t always enough.

Remodelling jewellery typically involves turning a customer’s outdated, underutilised but still sentimental jewellery into a shiny, new item. This modernisation of materials not only allows consumers to breathe new life into their jewellery items but can also help retailers unlock another way to generate sales that can be beneficial for their businesses on a number of fronts.

In addition to laying down the foundations for a long, trusting customer relationship, selling the idea of a remake means promoting a jeweller’s design, skill and name – an advantageous prospect when competing with online markets. It also helps to keep business ticking over during tough economic climates when caution governs the discretionary spending of consumers.

Michelle Dickerson, an in-house jeweller at McGlades Jewellers in Canberra, says remodelling is a crucial part of the store’s trade, making up close to half of total sales.

Dickerson particularly enjoys modernising family heirlooms and old engagement rings. She explains that offering remakes gives McGlades a chance to improve business by standing out amongst the store’s many competitors, particularly those selling mass-manufactured jewellery. The whole concept of a remake, she adds, is a selling point because it ties together the sentimentality of the original piece with the modernity, durability and wearability of a new item.

“We have a huge amount of return clientele from our remakes because once you establish that connection based on trust, price becomes less of an issue,” Dickerson explains.

According to Melbourne-based jeweller Ian Sharp, a key selling point with consumers is that the price has already been paid where remakes are concerned.

“I say to my clients, ‘Your grandparents are actually paying for this; you just have to pay for the labour.’ They love it,” he says.

Targeting wearability, Sharp says customers are right to remake sentimental jewellery if it’s no longer appealing to them: “There’s no point keeping something that’s sentimental if it’s ugly.”

He adds that remodelled jewellery is a walking advertisement for retailers.

“Remakes are a big part of my business,” he says. “I can spend up to $10,000 on different types of advertising and get no return or I can remake a lady’s old ring and she’ll send two of her friends in.”

Brendan Carroll, area manager at Pascoe Jewellers in Queensland, is another retailer who believes there are huge benefits to be had with remakes.

“For starters, you are not holding any stock; the only thing you are holding is your knowledge and assistance,” Carroll explains, adding, “A lot of the remakes we do are people updating their engagement rings so making what they could afford when they were 20 years old look like what they can afford now in their 50s.”

Carroll believes the beauty of remakes is that half of the legwork has already been done when it comes to selling the idea.

“The difference between selling an item from stock and remodelling is the attachment to the customer,” he says. “They already have that [emotional] attachment with the pieces they want to remodel so they want to get a remake done to a high standard.”

Pascoe Jewellers
Pascoe Jewellers
Ian Sharp Jewellery Craftsmanship
Ian Sharp Jewellery Craftsmanship

Rationalising the job

Sally-Anne Albiston is manager at Melbourne-based Burlington Antiques. She has been dealing in remakes for more than 39 years and explains that rationalising the cost of any remodel against the value of the diamonds and gemstones before proceeding will help build trust and an extra level of confidence in the consumer.

“You need to weigh up with the customer whether remaking the piece is a viable proposition,” Albiston says, adding that jewellers should be honest if any proposed gemstones and metals don’t warrant the cost of the remake.

“Some customers want to go ahead regardless, due to sentiment, and others appreciate you being upfront with them and may end up spending more on new gemstones or even another piece to match,” she explains.

One big misconception Albiston has found is that consumers think remodelling their own jewellery will be cheaper, which is not always the case.

“Generally the new piece has to be handmade, therefore incorporating a higher price compared to a new cast ring that can be purchased from the same store,” she states.

Dickerson also admits that balancing the cost of the remake with the value the customer places on the piece can be a selling hurdle.

“Sometimes a customer has inherited jewellery and they’re just curious; they get shocked by how much it costs,” she says.

Albiston advises that retailers should gently remind customers that it’s almost impossible to regain the retail value of an original piece of jewellery if they choose to resell the piece. Instead, highlight wearability.

“It’s in the customer’s best interest to remodel the item into a new wearable, beautiful piece that can be enjoyed for many years to come and designed to suit their lifestyle,” she emphasises.

Halina Kaufman is an in-house jeweller at For the Love of Gold in Hobart, Tasmania. Kaufman says she has found the workshop to be busier in unstable economic climates as customers buy into the sentiment of a remake more so than the price.

“Quite often when people are worried about spending money they feel more comfortable using pieces they already own,” she states.

“I always explain options to reduce the price such as dropping the size of the centre stone and ensuring that I work within their budget while delivering exactly what they want.”

If done well, Kaufman believes remakes will create return consumers.

“I find customers who have gone through the process of a remake with me always become repeat customers, buy stock from the shelves and bring in other repairs,” she says, “especially after I have informed them about jewellery through the remake experience – the more informed the customer, the more inclined they are to return to a manufacturing jeweller and not purchase online.”

For the Love of Gold
For the Love of Gold
Kim Bartlett Master Jewellers
Kim Bartlett Master Jewellers

Remaking trends

Remodelling jewellery makes up one third of the Hobart-based business, with Kaufman explaining that rings are the most popular remake of choice.

“Sometimes we do bangles but generally it’s remodelling inherited rings and middle-aged women’s wedding and engagement ring sets.”

Dickerson says she is seeing an art-deco revival at her store, which is mirrored in her vintage-inspired remake designs: “About 90 per cent of the remakes we do are rings; a lot are simple gemstone designs. We’re also seeing a big sapphire trend for engagement ring remakes.”

Meanwhile, restoring classic styles, such as remaking “old bits and pieces” into six-claw halo rings, is proving popular in Jay Bartlett’s workroom in Townsville, Queensland.

Bartlett from Kim Bartlett Master Jewellers says remakes are popular in his store all year round.

“There are not a lot of limitations when remodelling jewellery and I’m finding remaking rings and pendants is still very popular,” he comments, adding that a customer’s imagination is often the sales assistant’s biggest contest.

“The starting point of a remake and the customers’ imagination with design ideas and being able to get out of them exactly what they want can be a challenge but once you start sketching ideas you establish a starting point and can work from there with the customer.”

Whether it is price, value for money, the economy or sentiment that entices the customer into a remake, jewellers that promote this service can create business friendships that last long after a customer’s first visit.



David Geller, director of JewelerProfit and author of jewellery-repair and custom design guide Blue Book, suggests it’s best to keep customers in the loop every step of the way when it comes to remakes.

“Send the customer pictures and texts about the process of the make,” Geller says. “For example, ‘Here is James, our jeweller, cutting the wax model. When the ring is cast, we will send another picture to you.’”

Taking advantage of social media is another avenue Geller suggests to help a jeweller’s remodelling business. He says Facebook and Instagram posts are a great way to advertise what has been made in a particular week. He also proposes keeping a computer in store to showcase the remaking process as well as finished pieces.

“Take pictures of the drawing, then one of the jewellers cutting a wax, then the melting, casting and polishing processes, and let the slideshow run in the showroom.”

Geller adds that breaking down the price of a remake can ease the customer in rather than surprising them with one grand total.

“People think it should be the same as a ring in the [display] case so break the price down into parts and labour on a sheet of paper and it won’t look so expensive,” he recommends.


Georgia Westgarth


Having sold jewellery for four years, sales assistant turned journalist, Georgia Westgarth has a strong understanding of the industry and customer needs. She is a freelance contributor for Jeweller with a particular interest in jewellery brands and trends.

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