Sylvie featured on

A Profit Is Forever

by Romy Ribitzky Apr 29 2011

There’s nothing quite like a Royal Wedding, a model’s nuptials, or a celebrity’s union to boost a jewelry business. But how can an enterprising gemologist keep making a profit long after the big day has come and gone?

Jewelry designer Sylvie Levine of Sylvie Collection.

Image: Courtesy of Sylvie Collection

Jeweler Sylvie Levine was thrilled when Prince William used his mother’s sapphire ring to propose to longtime love Kate Middleton. “His proposing with Diana’s ring made it acceptable to wear a stone that’s not just a diamond,” she says. When singer Jessica Simpson accepted a ruby engagement ring from her fiancé just weeks later, it cemented the growing trend, and a new avenue of profits was designed for jewelers.

“Sometimes it takes a few people who are in the public eye to give their seal of approval to an unconventional choice,” says Levine, a Belgian-born entrepreneur whose business is based in Dallas, Texas.

Levine, whose designs start at $900 without center stones, counts resetting stones and rings as a major part of her $15 million business. She explains that since the economic crunch hit, many clients have opted to redesign gemstones as center stones because it’s a cost-effective way of giving new life to a treasure that’s often just sitting in a drawer somewhere. And since gemstones are often much less expensive than flawless diamonds, wearers can get more of a look for their buck.

Having the so-called celebrity endorsement is just a bonus. “Celebrity events like the Royal wedding, Kate Moss’ upcoming wedding, and Jessica Simpson’s engagement just enhance what those of us in the industry already do.”

As the Royal couple exchanges vows in Westminster Abbey today, some wonder how the business boon that the wedding has created—from jewelry to china, from dresses to flowers, from souvenirs to etiquette manuals—can last. The Royal engagement saw thousands of jewelers offer look-alike rings, earrings, necklaces, and pins in a rush to cash in on the trend. Even electronic and multichannel retailers like ShopNBC, which reaches 73 million homes in the United States, has seen the business potential and has teamed up with designer Chuck Clemency to offer a “value-priced” sapphire quartz “Royal Dreams” ring at $79. The company, owned by Minneapolis, Minnesota-based ValueVision Media, generated $562 million in revenues in 2010.

So how does a smaller, independent jeweler set herself apart amid one of the biggest media frenzies to hit in recent times and compete with industry behemoths like Zales, Kmart, and others? One tactic is to look beyond the trend, because while a Royal wedding lasts one day, the need to make a profit is forever.

While the big guys have the buying power to source thousands of stones to create looks on demand that may or may not sell, independents like Levine have the luxury to create individual looks that are exactly what the client ordered. Instead of prebuying looks and hoping that they move, she designs current and fashion-forward baubles, posts them on her Facebook page, interacts with her roster of returning buyers to see what they’re into at any given time, and regularly checks in with the more than 150 stores that carry her brand to get real-time feedback on what’s moving and what is not.

And in an industry in which trends are seasonal—or can change as quickly as one celebrity becomes popular and another falls from favor—just riding the wave isn’t enough. An attention to detail and a commitment to flexibility go a long way. “I recognized long ago that even though the margins on resetting a stone or a ring are much lower than selling a ready piece, the ability to create something completely new from an older look can be priceless as far as the client is concerned,” Levine says. “My advice to jewelers is to always say yes, especially to brides. They know exactly what they want, and an entrepreneur’s ability to modify according to a client’s needs is what’s going to keep people coming back and referring others.”

Levine and other jewelers also advocate using social media to promote their businesses, especially to younger buyers who are much more visually inclined and tend to do their research online before ever setting foot in a store—and many times opt to shop virtually. “Buying a piece of jewelry is a deeply personal experience, and many people need to see what their jewelry will look like before they commit,” says Levine. “You can’t just tell a woman ‘Why don’t you do this with your inherited sapphire?’ You have to show her because she wants to feel like a princess too. And if you put a photo of it on your Facebook page and get some fans because of it, it’s great for the business.”
Read more:

Previous post
Next post