Sunday, April 11, 2021

Same as it ever was?




Richard Alan

The jewelry business will never be the same; it’s a simple fact. I guess I will always remember the good old days. Funny thing is it was not that long ago.

In the good old days, like only four years PAST, I rarely missed a trade or buying show both here and abroad. My wife and I loved traveling through Europe hunting for the unusual and what would be the rage in the months to come. Year after year, we were successful in our search for innovative styles of jewelry and gifts that would be on display in our Marco shops months before any of my COMPETITORS knew they existed. It was fun and exciting to see the reactions from my customers. Not everyone who entered my stores loved our choices. Some things I admit were really off the wall, but nevertheless, I brought them back anyway. Just for the WOW effect. You can’t always buy what you like and think the world will love it, that is the spice of life. In the good years I found the crazier the piece of jewelry was, the faster it sold. That won’t hold true today.

Sometimes the jewelry I bought would bomb, other times it would be the bomb and I should have bought three times the amount I did, and other times I couldn’t give it away! Live and learn now costs four times what it did then, and that’s a shame. Today businesses cannot absorb such buying mistakes.

But that was then. I’m in Amalfi, Italy as I write this article. Besides being one of the most picturesque places in the world, it is also where I used to buy the most beautiful porcelains in the world and ship them back to Marco. Today I intend to purchase some pieces but they will be to decorate my home not my shops. The key word here is ….decorate.

Nothing would make me happier than to ship back a ton of this exquisite porcelain and fill my shops with it. But present buying trends are still pretty dismal and it would be a financial disaster for me if I did make a large purchase. The porcelain could become store decorations and not stock that will sell easily. The delicate pieces are expensive and few appreciate that fact.

I can hear it now “let me know when the Italian porcelains go on sale!” It’s not gonna happen on my watch.

Five years ago I had the finest collection of Murano glassware on the island, now I have to sell the less expensive Czech Republic glass or pieces made in Hong Kong due to the current premium prices for Murano glass.

The trend is the same with fine jewelry. I just left Florence, a huge jewelry manufacturing area in Italy. The new styles are stunning, and so are the prices. It would be foolhardy of me to spend this kind of money and try to re-sell the pieces I admire and it kills me to leave the city empty handed, but present gold prices make buying in bulk unattainable.

But my stubbornness paid off. Buona fortuna (good luck befell me!) in the alleys and side streets where there were a few silver lined dark clouds in spite of the dark and I will bring some interesting things home from this trip.

Being in business, especially my business requires me to constantly re-calibrate both the store’s interior and the merchandise contained therein. It’s no easy task trying to figure out just what people will pay for things of attainable beauty. I sit here with my lap top and wine glass in hand, on the cliffs of Amalfi overlooking the Mediterranean, pondering the possibilities …what will work in the present environment and how will I avoid what would fail miserably …work, work, work, wish I could make a living doing this right here!

Back to reality, I honestly feel people still want to possess beautiful things but most folks, including me, have had to hold back for fear of what the future may bring.

Until I see for myself that the economy is getting better I have to be prudent in what I buy to sell, and strive to maintain a quality I am known for. I intend to do more manufacturing of my own jewelry based on the designs I have seen here in Italy and in Paris. Only for now, I will make them in Marco.

My talented staff will be up to the challenge, and will dedicate themselves to creating wonderful pieces in both gold and silver and combinations of both, beautiful wearable pieces for all ages at reasonable price points….. a daunting task but achievable.

Enjoy the summer… Arrivederci, a presto! 

Richard Alan is a designer/goldsmith with over 40 years of “on the bench experience” and is owner of The Harbor Goldsmith. He welcomes your questions about All That Glitters. 239-394-9275 or 

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