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Jewelry buyers agent?


#1

A friend of mine came up with an idea for a business for me, I have
to do something to get back to work. Anyway, an attorney friend of
mine were talking yesterday while our kids were playing. He ask me
when I would finish my GIA GG course and be a full fledged GG. I said
I hope to be done and have the parchment on my wall by early next
year.

Then he ask a question that about 10 other people have ask me over
the last 3 years. Would you mind going with me when I go to purchase
a piece of jewelry?

I use to say I probably don’t know enough about it to really do much
good at this time, but they still insist they at least would like me
to go as they know nothing. A couple have offered me money, which I
graciously refuse as they are friends, and I just didn’t feel I
could justify taking it.

My attorney friend said he is going to buy a 15th anniversary ring
for his wife this coming April and plans to spend around 15 grand on
it. He said he would gladly pay me a couple hundred just so he knows
he is not getting ripped off. I told him if I have my GG by then, I
would be happy to go along and help, just no charge him for it. He
said he would pay me anyway. And then he actually suggested an idea
of a business. He said, realestate agents come in sale, and buyers
agents, don’t they? He said, if no one wants to give you a chance,
why not be a buyers agent for jewelry. He said there are many people
who don’t have the time, but have the money. They want to buy and not
feel ripped off. He suggest after I get my GG, to offer the services
of a full fledged GG as a buyers agent.He said I could base my fee’s
off of the amount the buyer wanted to spend, a percentage, but he
suggested taking no less than a hundred as lower than that just
wouldn’t be worth the time. Understanding he is a lawyer, I figured I
could charge less and pick up maybe more people, but I think he might
be on to something here. If I cant work for the jewelers, why not the
customers? Anyone else ever hear of this? Im sure there are pluses
and minuses, but at this stage, its seems to be all pluses. Even the
attorney said it would be a relatively problem free business as you
don’t have to tell the selling jeweler anything about why you are
there with, or for the customer, so the jeweler couldn’t sue you
cause he wouldn’t know if the sale was lost, or made, because of you,
or because of the customers own decision, if he even knew I was there
for a customer.

I don’t think I would get rich, and being a gimp without anything
promising on the horizon, it would sure beat the heck out of what my
future looks like now!

Who knows, it might turn out to be the beginnings of a decent
business, and the start up cost would be minimum because Ive already
paid for me GG course in full and have all the equipment. What would
I have to loose? No one seems to wants me anyway.

maybe I could franchise ? LOL dreaming there, I know.

Anyone? Any thoughts on this?

Daniel


#2

Daniel,

I think it sounds like an interesting idea. You should, however,
listen to your lawyer friend when he suggests a minimum fee and
percentage. You have spent considerable time and money to become
knowledgeable in this field. This is the reason someone would come to
you for assistance. You must also consider taxable income and the
percentage you’ll owe the taxman.

Time is money. Figure out how long it might take to go with a client
to check out a piece of jewelry, travel time included. Will there be
any follow-up necessary? Will the fee cover one visit to view the
jewelry whether or not it results in a purchase? Remember that some
people are a pleasure to deal with while others can be a royal pain.

In lieu of the fee from your attorney friend you might ask that he
draw up a simple contract for you to use with future clients. Your
fee structure and what services it includes should be clearly stated.
There should be no room for misunderstandings when it comes time for
clients to pay their bill. This is especially important if your
working with a client results in their not purchasing a piece of
jewelry.

Best of luck!
Pam Farren
Newburyport, MA


#3

Hi Daniel,

Appears to be a great idea. A comparison:- in the past I have
purchased a car through a private broker. I received precisely what I
wanted, in my price range at a good price. My input comprised an
interview to determine my exact needs in detail, and approving the
first selection presented to my door. Prior to that I would have
spent days scouring the car yards and classifieds, doing test drives
and listening to spiels. The broker cut through it all and delivered
a valuable service.

In jewelery my first thought is that high priced jewelery will often
have a valuation certificate and your job will be to verify it, and
if not ceritfied then provide an on-the-spot assessment. Much can be
done with just a loupe and basic checks on the certificates provided.
Very few non-jewelers take a loupe to a jewelery purchase, and I am
sure that the simple act of producing one’s own loupe will ensure
more dilligent service from the seller.

In order to provide a complete service consider finding out the
exact needs of your client, giving advice on the practicality of the
item, the integrity of it’s consrtuction, durability,
artistry…(there must be more). Work on negotiation skills, in
time you can accumulate an inventory of items that you have assessed,
and become known as the man who magically finds the right product at
the right price.

In a ground-breaking venture: do it, start small and learn as you
go.

Regards, Alastair


#4

Daniel,

As a person who has studied gemology for many years, yet opted for a
GIA G.G. diploma a mere four years ago, I do feel your pain. The
reason people are reluctant to hire brand new G.G.s is because, after
all that training, we are only armed with enough book to
be dangerous to them. To be honest, even with years of buying,
selling and cutting/recutting gemstones and gem rough before
obtaining my G.G., I was never qualified enough to be anything more
than an entry level gemologist when it came to practical gemological
application in a jewelry store environment.

After all, that is what you’re talking about here, isn’t it? You’ll
need to be able to evaluate and appraise jewelry as an agent for
buyers to fit the bill you’re talking about and that requires a lot
more experience than GIA gives us. I’m sitting here thinking about
all of the diamonds I’ve seen over the years with laser drill holes,
fracture filling, strain from HPHT treatment, coatings, etc. GIA
never showed me a single one of these in a format other than
photography. If there were not a Master Gemologist Appraiser who has
25 years’ experience within arms’ reach of me, I would very likely
have missed all of these factors, which could easily have made me
look foolish indeed. Although some don’t agree with it, these
enhancements reduce the value of the stones even though some of them
increase their clarity or color. If I had graded them by their
apparent characteristics as opposed to their actual, I would have
valued them completely wrong, which would have totally blown my
reputation, not to mention time lost in court trying to defend my
professional opinion.

It took me two years to find a small, B&M “mom & pop” type store
with an MGA who is nearing retirement to take me on (supervisory and
management experience, along with lapidary and goldsmithing/setting
skills didn’t hurt, either), so don’t give up just yet. You haven’t
even finished the diploma program and already you’re claiming that
nobody wants you. I know we all need jobs, but I am concerned that
you may ruin your reputation through entry level mistakes before it
ever really gets started.

Then again, you may hit the ground running as the most incredible
entry level gemologist in history. Anything’s possible. Whichever
direction you choose, I wish you the best.

James S. Duncan, G.G.
James in SoFL


#5

I honestly think that this is at least partially a question of
branding and PR. Yes, in an ideal world, someone should have decades
of years of experience in order to be considered “expert” enough to
be paid to be a jewelry buyers agent. Unfortunately, I dont think that
it works that way in reality. Look at the “talking heads” that we see
on TV talking about this or that topic. Some of them are well-versed
on the topics and are indeed experts, but that is not true in many
instances.

I am not saying that you should not keep increasing your knowledge,
but I am saying don’t be discouraged and think that you cannot be a
jewelry buyers agent and start making money on this right away. I know
a number of young women living in my city who are charging people
thousands to help them to buy art and priceless antiques. Do they
have Phds in Art History? Usually not, the PhDs are locked away in
the back rooms of museums and educational institutions and are being
paid pennies – relative to these art agents. These agents are
basically dealing in art without taking on the risk of owning a
gallery or auction house and keeping costly inventory safe until it
is bought. Sure the PhDs are getting satisfaction in the knowledge
that they have PhDs, which is definitely an amazing accomplishment,
but satisfaction does not put food on the table and keep the light
on.

My advice to you would be to make sure that you know your stuff
before going out and doing this, so that you do not make the mistakes
that the Doctor pointed out.

However, I think that you should also position yourself as an expert
by:

  1. Setting up a website. Make sure that you have a biography of
    yourself that is related to what you are trying to do – in this case
    act as a jewelry broker/agent.

  2. Publishing regularly wherever you can and sending this information
    – whether it be newsletters or things that have actually wound up in
    publications – to potential clients on a regular basis. Keep your
    list of published articles on your website

  3. Writing and publishing a book – I cannot tell you what a big
    marketing tool this is! I have a number of clients that I have placed
    on national and international television shows and publications with
    million+ readerships who I nagged to publish more or finish a book
    they were working on. Why? It’s an opportunity for them to get even
    more publicity for their personal brands and their work. This gives
    you an opportunity to go on book tours and get publicity and continue
    to brand yourself as an expert on a particular topic – in this case
    jewelry.

So, don’t be shy about doing this. Just think it through and take up
the advice of the Orchidian who told you to have your lawyer friend
pay for your expertise by drawing up a contract for you. This will
make you more money in the long run than the fee that he might give
you for helping him.

Good luck with this.


#6

Hi Daniel,

Sounds like an interesting business idea…

If I were you, I would consider charging for your time INSTEAD of a
percentage fee arrangement. This is a more professional approach and
eliminates a perceived conflict of interest – i.e., if you are
working on percentage what is your incentive to help your client get
a better deal/maybe less expensive piece? (and isn’t your time and
expertise still valuable whether your client spends $4000 or
$40,000? )

And, it may be that the MORE you charge per hour the more "valuable"
your expertise may appear to potential clients.

Good luck with your idea! I’d be really interested to hear how it
turns out…

C. Rose
Houston


#7

All,

It blows me away to think that a person might think that he would be
qualified to be an expert on jewelry buying after completing the
G.I.A. G.G. course. A gemologist is a person who is theoretically
expert in knowledge of gems. Nonetheless he or she may not be
experienced in the commerce of processing, selling, buying, mounting
or valueing of gems.

In order to effectively evaluate a piece of jewelry it is absolutely
essential that a person has some experience and knowledge about
jewelry manufacture. The market is flooded with glamorous looking
crap. I really don’t think that G.I.A. makes much of an effort to
train students on spotting shoddy workmanship and/or chintzy make.
G.I.A. has a vested interest in placating the industry and probably
shys away from contentious industry practices.

Without being prejudiced, I would suggest that the role of jewelry
buying agent would best be served by a person who is semi or fully
retired from the industry. And yet, how many older jewelers would be
partial to becoming “consumer advocates” ? It borders on becoming a
professional whistleblower !

The jewelry business is so emotional and sentimental that it
probably will never become anything approaching rational and it will
also probably never become an article in Consumer Report…it just
can’t be readily quantified!

Ron Mills, Mills Gem Co. Los Osos, Ca.


#8
And, it may be that the MORE you charge per hour the more
"valuable" your expertise may appear to potential clients. 

I completely agree! And people will be less likely to waste your time
if you charge more!


#9
Without being prejudiced, I would suggest that the role of jewelry
buying agent would best be served by a person who is semi or fully
retired from the industry. And yet, how many older jewelers would
be partial to becoming "consumer advocates" ? It borders on
becoming a professional whistleblower ! 

This morning, an awful scenario popped into my mind. A nearly
retired local jeweler not far from me is the kind of guy who is known
for giving little, old ladies a pittance for their old diamonds (I
actually heard him brag about buying a 2ct+ diamond from a
fixed-income widow for $200 just before Christmas last year). The
scenario involves this guy (or someone like him) setting up a
business as one of these theoretical “jewelry buyers’ agents.” I
mentally cringe as he holds out his hand for the kickback he’ll
require before advising his client to buy from me, regardless of the
quality or value of my goods. In other words, if I don’t grease his
palm, I don’t make the sale. shudder

If the world’s most prominent gemological laboratory can get away
with accepting bribes for diamond grading considerations for years
and years, I can easily imagine the above scenario…and I don’t like
it. No, not at all.

James S. Duncan, G.G.
James in SoFL


#10

All right, my two cents…

As someone who has made my living as a “consultant” in various areas
(mostly related to writing and publishing), I believe this is a
potentially viable business. However, I would call myself a
consultant, not an agent, and I would have my contract state the
limits of my expertise very clearly. Not only that, I would write an
educational piece that explains exactly how much expertise is
required to be 100% certain that e.g. a sapphire hasn’t been treated
(my time in Orchidland leads me to believe that such expertise may
not exist), and have the client sign off on that, too. And, yes, I
would charge by the hour, as I always have.

In my experience, there is a huge difference between being an
infallible expert and a consultant. I occasionally worked, for
example, with people who wanted to self-publish books. I would never
have called myself an expert, but I had a whole lot more knowledge
than the babes in the woods who came to me with their manuscripts. At
least I could warn them not to let Distributor X talk them into
signing an exclusive contract (as X liked to do), when X was
notorious for slow delivery.

I think these situations are parallel. If I had enough money to buy
myself a “right hand ring,” I’d be thrilled to pay a little extra to
have a GG come along as my “jewelry consultant,” especially if that
GG also had metalsmithing experience and a good eye. If nothing else,
s/he might keep me from making a truly egregious error.

Lisa Orlando
Albion, CA, US