By Hemdeep Patel
Like many people, I read online blogs and articles on general topics from which I draw inspiration and apply to my business. One in particular—“Are you cheap or are you exceptional? How to price your services”—caught my eye on Copyblogger, a site focusing on marketing and business strategies. The blog post discussed how a business owner can accurately price his or her services without undermining their core business strengths, all the while convincing clients they’re worth what they charge.
I found this an interesting topic for our industry, since the vast majority of us have built our businesses against a constant push toward trimming our profit margins. The result is we’ve had to find other ways to offer value to our clients. Case in point: I’ve written many times in this column over the over last nine years of the hidden value of buying diamonds that are closer to the upper end of the clarity scale (i.e. buying an SI1 stone that is closer to a weak VS2 grade, rather than a good SI2). Or the value found in gemstones where colour zoning is not apparent when the gem is viewed face-up and invisible once placed into a closed-back setting. These are strategies many can use to maximize margins, but also illustrate to consumers an ability to find a stone with great value.
Although most of my articles focus on the product side of the jewellery industry, I believe the services we provide suggest a similar value proposition. Since 1994, my brother and I have offered advanced gemmological and appraisal services in Canada, India, and Thailand. Our principal focus has always been the strength of our gemmological knowledge and dedication to maintaining a high level of customer service. Much like finding value in diamonds and coloured gemstones, the strength of a gemmologist or appraiser can translate into business success for a retailer. Through the addition of a well-trained gemmologist or appraiser, a retailer can have access to a knowledgeable resource that can not only provide a sharp set of eyes to conduct quality control on finished jewellery and repairs, but identify key changes in grading criteria or gemstone and diamond trends that could prove valuable.
Yet, despite the constant drumbeat of our core business values and strengths, there remains a challenge to keep the overall cost of our products and services down for our customers. In speaking with other gemmologists and appraisers, it would appear our struggles are not unique. Many well-established gemmologists and appraisers continue to be forced into running their businesses on the basis of price, rather than the strength of their knowledge and professionalism. This relentless push toward charging less can impact the types of services a gemmologist or appraiser provides to the point where they may focus on the quantity of jewellery items examined, rather than the quality of the information offered to the customer.
To an outside observer, a gemmologist or appraiser is seen as a professional who has been licensed by a governing body and is held to high standards of conduct. They would also be held accountable in a court of law, should they engage in misconduct. Unfortunately, we know this is not entirely the case. I feel the bar for entry as a gemmologist or appraiser is not very high or restricted. It is often said all that is needed to be an appraiser is a computer, a printer, and a stack of certificates. Sadly, in my experience there are jewellers who view gemmologists and appraisers in the same light.