Years ago I wrote a story about how I could roughly figure a customer’s personality by the kind of wristwatch they might wear. I got many chuckles and also raised a few eyebrows out of joint regardless of the fact it was all in jest, and most of the time I’m fairly accurate.
And you know what? The same can be seen by the jewelry one wears. You have jewelry that personifies sophistication, class or practicality, and let’s not forget ostentatious, crass, ugly or downright over-the-top gaudy.
A woman comes to mind about 10 years ago, her royal heinie entered my humble shop and at first glance I knew this was going to be a memorable encounter. I greeted her with a friendly “Good Morning” and she grunted, “I’m just looking!” It was impossible not to notice she was dripping in what appeared to be diamonds, she wore big stone rings on every available digit and her wrists were layered with more tennis bracelets than I had in the whole store. I could not begin to count the pendants she adorned. A buying customer?
Ok, I know, nowadays it is not politically correct (or is it?) to judge a person by their appearance (or is that a book?). Just remember, I have made my living working with the public for over fifty years and one acquires certain attainable skills and learning curves that would send most folks over a cliff. I retain both important and useless data about the complexities of the now completely out-of-control human race. So excuse me if I find some folks who stumble into my establishment extremely amusing.
Such as the sight of the woman before me wearing the optimum allotment of make-up, a Mary Tyler Moore hairdo and cheap perfume, topped off with a patent leather outfit. (It’s August for Pete’s sake!) She completed the fashion ensemble with a matching knock-off Gucci handbag. It seriously had me wondering if I was being “punked” by my friends, but I didn’t notice any movie cameras.
I finally zoomed in my failing eyesight on the “ice” that dripped off this shrine of a woman. In a microsecond it hit me. Another skill I possess, I can identify cubic zirconia from twenty feet away, a wonderful ice breaker (No pun intended!) at cocktail parties.
She was a genuine walking, talking “Cubic Queen.” A species that is rare on the Florida West Coast, yet they do occasionally migrate from the East Coast. This woman was awash in inexpensive gold plated cubic zirconia – better known as cheap, fake diamonds! After 10 minutes of snickering at my shop’s inventory, she asked me if I carried Cartier. I answered politely “No, but I’m sure the Cartier store in Naples does.” “What about Tiffany?” While you are in Naples, cruising thru Cartier, try the Tiffany store down the street there as well. “Don’t you carry Rolex?” Nope, never have, She mumbled and spewed her disappointment while browsing and asking prices here and there, and saying that everything was “Too expensive!” She was obviously not impressed with my level of merchandise and finally, after what seemed like an eternity of snide questions, she finally went out the door in a disgusted huff. I watched her as she majestically climbed into her four door “chariot,” a beat-up, sunburned red 1995 Hyundai. And she was off, escorted by her flying monkeys. Personally, I doubt that the security at Cartier would let her in the door.
Ok, here’s my professional analysis. This one is easy! She was in the market for Tiffany and Cartier and wanted to see Rolex watches? Are you kidding me? The average Rolex costs around $8,000, and some are over $60K. Besides play acting at being high and mighty and treating me like a Skid Row street vender, she was rude and downright nasty. If she thought that she could impress me, and the world, with fake glitter that isn’t worth a hill of refried beans, she was mistaken. This woman was an honest to goodness walking nugget of “fool’s gold.”
Men don’t escape my fine-tuned calculated assessments either. Men of all ages in the market for personal jewelry are by far the hardest sell in my business. It’s either too big or too small, too wide, too narrow, too heavy or not heavy enough, too flashy, not flashy enough, too expensive or not expensive enough; it goes on and on endlessly.
I could have a thousand gent’s rings, bracelets or chains in stock and not have one thing they are even remotely interested in buying. I’ll deal with women any day of the week.
For example, one afternoon in walks the second coming of Elvis with black hair like fiberglass wearing more 70’s style chunky gold nugget jewelry than I have seen in a lifetime. “What you all got in my style of gold?” Elvis asked.
I’m sorry, but one thing that I refuse to carry is nugget-designed jewelry. I have custom made it in the past – the way back past! I will only rarely create it and reluctantly special order it for collectors. Once in a blue moon a customer will inquire, “Where is the nugget jewelry?” Most of them are usually sporting a cowboy hat, boots and khaki shorts with a belt buckle the size of a hubcap – a true fashion statement here on a tropical island.
I inquire where they hail from, and guess what? It’s always somewhere in Texas, Montana, Arizona, or Sin City…Las Vegas, Nevada! My answer is always “Go West young man!” And while you are out there, you can buy some Native American silver and turquoise jewelry – another jewelry fashion you can’t give away on Marco Island. Native American jewelry, incidentally, is another thing I never carry.
Nugget jewelry wearers are usually the outdoors type, and only like the indoors if it’s a saloon or a gambling casino of some kind. They drive enormous pick-up trucks with gun racks or gigantic Hummers that have their own zip codes. Most own a cabin in the woods and go hunting and fishing on the same day at least five times a week.
The newest, and toughest, customers to pigeon hole when they walk in to the shop are the Millennials; an unpredictable lot they are.
I can’t tell their personality by the watch they wear, because many don’t wear one (Their cell phone tells them the time). Or they wear Apple computer thing-a-ma-jigs on their wrists. Few wear precious metals such as gold or platinum jewelry. Most don’t wear anything at all, and if they do, it’s stainless steel or titanium or some newly discovered metal from another galaxy, far, far away. Some are semi-intelligent about gemstones, diamonds and things that pertain to my job as a goldsmith, because naturally they learned it all online. But for the most part I find them annoying; so many questions about nothing. I’m enlarging your grandma’s ring two sizes, it will be ready next week, the cost is $75. Don’t expect a twenty-four page illustrated dossier on how I’m gonna make it fit you!
All personalities considered, I respect folks out West who actually wear authentic American Indian jewelry. They are true individuals. When visiting my rental condo in Arizona, I truly enjoy the genuinely sincere people there and the Scottsdale lifestyle and nightlife. In Scottsdale EVERYBODY wears Native American jewelry, from Grandma and Grandpa, Mom and Dad, to the toddlers. They especially love huge turquoise belt buckles, and the ladies even wear silver spurs to boot! These people are friendly, outgoing and love animals. Darn near everyone I meet owns a ranch with horses and farm animals!
Oh I almost forgot, nugget jewelry wearers also love animals, only in a gastronomic kind of way.
On another occasion, an elderly gentleman inquired about a stone ring for his new girlfriend that went out of style more than 40 years ago – the then famous Linde star sapphire. You Baby Boomers must remember it – the oval or round man-made blue or red gem with the bright white star in the center that moves with the light.
Believe it or not, I have dozens of loose star sapphires in my safe that I have accumulated over the decades. I offered to put something together for him. “No, No I need it now! Don’t you have any in the case set up?” Sarcastically I said if I did they would be in the same showcase with the gold plated “Mood Rings” and digital analog watches.
No amount of explaining that there is absolutely no demand for such a thing sunk in. It fell on deaf ears. He was, in fact, the first inquiry in over 20 years! Of course, he was wearing a large blue Linde star in white gold on his ring finger!
My analysis: Has this guy been living in a sub-terrain bomb shelter for the past forty years or what? I found out it’s been that long since he’s been in a jewelry store. He reminded me of my grandfather, proud, practical and “no” is never an option. He was also downright mad that I had nothing in stock. Mr. Gottahaveitnow said he would continue looking elsewhere, and out the door he went on a fool’s mission. He would have better luck finding Jimmy Hoffa or an eight-track music tape player.
One male customer boggled my complex analysis. Around his neck was a heavy gold chain and hanging from it was a crucifix, Saint Christopher medal, a Star of David and a Muslim crescent moon! Talk about having all your bases covered when you meet whoever is guarding the Pearly Gates!
The truth is I have learned to love our simple Southwest Florida jewelry styles that invoke our sea life and wildlife themes. I’ll keep making easy to wear contemporary designs mixing diamonds and pastel colored gemstones for my deserving clientele.
Despite the fact that Marco is a melting pot of individual tastes in jewelry, my selection of unique gold and sterling pieces from small American and European companies has worked for me here on the island both now, and for over 25 years.
A simple, single diamond on a gold chain, no matter the size, speaks volumes of looking chic in my opinion.
Now don’t take offense if I seem to psychoanalyze you while you are in my shop, wearing a simple diamond palm tree pendant, standing in sandy flip flops with a beach bag in your hand. You’ll see I’m totally impressed with your personality because of your taste in exquisite simple jewelry. It oozes class and good taste, and it’s also fun to wear!
Don’t forget mom on Mothers’ Day. Guys, bring in the kids to pick out a little something for mom. She will especially love it knowing the kids picked it out
And to all my customers and friends, thanks for a truly busy season and have a safe and enjoyable summer.
(Ahoy, to all you boaters out there! Remember…a little courtesy won’t kill you!)
Richard Alan is a designer /goldsmith and owner of The Harbor Goldsmith at Island Plaza. No names have been used in this column in order to protect the innocent. He welcomes your questions about All That Glitters. Phone 239-394-9275 or email firstname.lastname@example.org, and visit www.harborgoldsmith.com.