By Michelle Graff
Ninety-one percent of poll respondents said that they’ve increased or maintained their level of custom jewelry sales in recent years.
New York--The majority of jewelers who took our latest poll reported that custom jewelry is a category that’s growing, as they recognize it as a way to set their business apart while maintaining margins.

National Jeweler/Jewelers of America conducted its Product Pulse survey between Oct. 24 and Nov. 2, with a total of 173 respondents.

The poll opened by asking jewelers if they sold custom jewelry in their stores. Out of the 173 respondents, 166 (96 percent) said yes.

Of those 166, the highest percentage, 30 percent, said that custom accounted for 10 percent or less of their overall sales.

20161117 percentage-of-sales-chart

It is, however, an area of increasing sales and opportunity for independent jewelers, poll results indicate.

More than half of survey takers--53 percent--said custom jewelry sales have increased in recent years, while 38 percent said they have stayed the same. Only 9 percent reported a drop in custom sales.

When it comes to the types of custom pieces jewelers are creating, the vast majority of respondents reported that they make more rings, specifically engagement rings, than anything.

Many of these rings, poll results indicate, are created using diamonds that customers either bought online or inherited.

“I had three (customers) last week alone (who) brought in diamonds they bought online for me to set into their rings,” one jeweler wrote.

Another said most of his or her custom business is “redesigns of grandma’s items into a wearable piece,” with “an upswing of young men having grandma’s diamond and resetting it into an engagement (ring).”

One respondent said their custom orders are mostly for anniversary gifts and special occasions, adding that the “(importance of the) anniversary is drastically understated in our industry. This category is the largest percentage of my overall business.”

20161117 Margin chartJewelers said one of the main advantage of custom jewelry is that it gives them a product that customers can’t shop online, allowing them to make better margins. The greatest percentage of survey takers, 43 percent, said their margins on custom jewelry are 50 percent or better.
When asked to list the main advantage custom work gives the independent jeweler, answers included better margins, relationship building and the fact that making a piece highlights what it is that makes jewelers, well, jewelers--the ability to make jewelry.

One survey taker summarized it nicely by saying this: “Custom work gives the jeweler the advantage of ‘one-of-a-kind’ pieces that can’t be discounted by the internet and chain stores. Design skill and quality becomes a part of the equation. It allows the jeweler to build a relationship with the customer.”

Another said that taking custom orders makes them feel like they are part of another profession entirely.

“We are hired to create a one-of-a-kind design, as opposed to selling from our case or catalogs. Sometimes, I feel a bit like a contractor building or renovating a house!”

September Sales
In the poll, respondents also were asked about sales for the month of September, and the results were mixed.

20161117 September-sales

A total of 43 percent of survey takers said sales were up year-over-year in September while 36 percent said they were down.

National Jeweler/Jewelers of America conducts its monthly Product Pulse poll in conjunction with the Business Pulse survey.

This month’s Business Pulse asked jewelers about the biggest challenge facing their business today. Their response was published Tuesday on National Jeweler.

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Since 1906, National Jeweler has been the must-read news source for smart jewelry professionals--jewelry retailers, designers, buyers, manufacturers, and suppliers. From market analysis to emerging jewelry trends, we cover the important industry topics vital to the everyday success of jewelry professionals worldwide. National Jeweler delivers the most urgent jewelry news necessary for running your day-to-day jewelry business here, and via our daily e-newsletter, website and other specialty publications, such as "The State of the Majors." National Jeweler is published by Jewelers of America, the leading nonprofit jewelry association in the United States.