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Soapbox & Opinions

Snapshot of the modern jeweller

We have all heard the saying, ‘Things aren’t the same as they were 20 years ago.’ That’s largely because of the Internet; not only is there competition between local jewellers, businesses are also competing with the rest of the world. Yet it’s essential for jewellers to embrace the technology available to them or be left behind.

The way people shop for their jewellery has changed. Frequently, customers – especially those in the 20- to 40-year-old bracket – will look online prior to making a purchase. Their online research can prompt them to look for savings by either purchasing online or using their research to request discounts or matched prices from their local jeweller.

While you can’t blame them from trying to save a buck, there are a couple of problems that do arise. The first is quality: purchasing online poses a great gamble to the customer.

When shopping online, they assume because the diamond has certification (sometimes GIA, other times from an obscure laboratory) that it’s a better deal than what is offered locally.

However, often it’s a quality that is easily price-matched from a reputable Australian dealer – or the customer finds it’s a lower-quality diamond than stated.

Customers need to be aware that there’s risk and reward – if you get a great stone online, that’s fantastic, but it’s not a guarantee. In my opinion there tends to be a reason why a stone is being sold online and not by a local wholesaler. This leads into the second problem – jewellers can’t survive on labour alone; they have to ensure a mark up on materials to stay profitable.

That’s not to say the digital marketplace doesn’t have advantages for jewellers.

The Internet has brought the world closer. Australians have been travelling to overseas jewellery fairs for decades and now it’s easier than ever to continue to do business once you’ve made contact. Whether it is email, WhatsApp, or Instagram, it’s a piece of cake to order from different countries and build strong connections across the globe.

"The internet has brought the world closer – whether it is email, Whatsapp, or Instagram, it’s a piece of cake to order from different countries and build strong connections across the globe"

In the modern industry, a jeweller also has to have their finger on the pulse of what the Australian Dollar is doing and how much gems and gold cost that day – particularly if buying offshore and quoting to a customer on the spot.

Social media is another element of the modern jewellery industry. It’s a fantastic tool for gaining and retaining customers. People still want to get caught up in the romance of creating jewellery, and a great way to help them do that is to show the manufacturing process through apps like Instagram.

Customers want to know you and they respond well when jewellers make themselves part of the ‘brand’. They will watch Instagram Stories and read Facebook posts about what a jeweller is doing each day. They are keeping jewellery in the forefront of their mind until the time comes to buy a gift for their loved one or to spoil themselves. The anticipation builds, waiting to see their piece being created online for all to see and share.

However, social media can feel like a full-time job on its own. Remembering to keep updating and posting every few hours or every day, especially in peak times, is one of the challenges of being a modern jeweller. Getting shares and likes and taking high-quality photos and video takes real effort.

It can be exhausting staying relevant with interesting content, particularly if you are not seeing the return on investment of your time.

Another downside is that it is harder to protect original designs. Other jewellers can follow your social media accounts and then reproduce a piece that is identical or at least very similar to yours. It is again a case of risk and reward. Hiding away in the shadows means there’s less chance of copycat designers – but sharing on social media means more customers and more sales. Also, you have thousands of other jewellers to follow and draw inspiration from!

Finally, there’s education. The trade, locally and internationally, has been fragmented and become quite niche over many years. If jewellers want to add value to their customers, continuous education is extremely important.

With the recent closures of organisations such as the Jewellery Institute of Australia there is now a need to look further afield. Online resources, including online networks, mentoring and formalised education and courses, both paid and free, are useful to expand knowledge and learn new techniques. Being a modern jeweller is full of complexities but those in the industry have to invest in themselves.

Name: Brett Low
Business: Deer Honey Jewellery
Position: Owner-operator
Location: Burleigh, Gold Coast
Years in the industry: 15

SAMS Group Australia

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