National Jeweler Network

Trade Shows

Live from JA New York: Capitalizing on custom

By Brecken Branstrator

March 03, 2014

New York--Custom design has been one of the bright spots throughout the recession for many in the industry, and is a trend that jewelers can continue to rely on once they learn how to capitalize on consumers’ interest in personalized pieces.

One store that continues to do the majority of its business in custom design is Peter Indorf Jewelers, with stores in New Haven and Madison, Conn.

As part of Jewelers of America’s education program held at the JA New York Winter show on Sunday, MJSA Director of Public Affairs Peggy Jo Donahue moderated a panel called “Capitalizing on Custom” to talk to Peter and John Indorf about how the store successfully operates its custom design business and how other jewelers can do so as well.

According to Peter Indorf, about 60 percent to 70 percent of the store’s business comes from custom-made pieces. Peter takes the initial meetings with clients to understand what it is they’re looking for and to create the initial drawing of the piece while his brother John is responsible for putting it into the CAD program to create a better mock-up image and to figure out gems and pricing.  

For Peter Indorf, he said that it’s important to have a separate space in the store, off the sales floor, where he can have one-on-one meetings with the clients to really take the time to hear their story and figure out what they want to design the perfect piece.

“It’s just like the saying, they don’t care how much you know until they know how much you care,” he said, adding that he strongly encourages jewelers to have a place for that conversation to happen, and where they also can keep tools on hand to easily create the initial designs for the jewelry.

He also noted during the panel that he prefers to schedule appointments rather than accepting walk-ins so that he can be prepared to meet with a client. He is, however, very flexible in scheduling, saying that he’s even done consultations over email and on computer or phone video chat programs, such as Apple’s FaceTime, to help a customer figure out what they’re looking for in a design.

When asked by an audience member if he had any guidelines that he liked for his clients to have figured out prior to the consultation, Indorf responded that he didn’t because he liked to have a clean slate, saying that it’s his job to narrow down the information to come up with the best piece of jewelry.

“It’s all about eliminating. I try not to confuse people. You have to minimize the choices to get them to a solution,” he said.

As is the case in sales across most consumer categories, there’s a risk of losing the sale if the customer is presented with too many options.

Additionally, when approached by a customer to copy the creation of another designer, Indorf Jewelers doesn’t even entertain the idea. “I don’t handle it delicately; I just tell them that I don’t copy,” Indorf said. “I copyright everything we do as well. We try to respect the artistic integrity of other creative people.”

While it usually doesn’t take more than three renderings before a client is satisfied with the look of a piece and the creation process can begin, there is no limit to how many times the team at Indorf will re-do a piece until it meets the client’s satisfaction.

“The customer is always right. And I only want good reviews on Google,” he said.

Donahue said, and Indorf confirmed, that while yellow gold is coming back into popularity, white gold is still very popular when it comes to custom jewelry.

He also noted that the most popular colored gemstone continues to be sapphires, though because so much of custom design is for bridal jewelry diamonds and colored diamonds still reign supreme over all.

While he did take a two-week class from the Gemological Institute of America years ago to learn how to paint on velum for creating custom designs, most of his skill in creating is self-taught.

“The critical part is making pieces for (your store.) It gives you the background and confidence to then work with clients,” Indorf said.