Steve Duke: I try to find good deal for my customers, and what I’d do is I’d go out there and I’d run around and look for what I could find — the best deal — because I could turn around and pass that on to my customers.
And a lot of people who’ve been into my store at Westchester Gold & Diamonds will say, “You know, Steve, I’ve seen the same stuff for $200 and $300 and you’re selling it for $80 or $90. How come? What’s the difference?”
The difference is I don’t put a huge markup on my jewelry. I make a quick percentage on it, and move it out and make new customers because they’re happy with the prices.
The other thing is I can find the same piece of jewelry… as I walk up and down the isles, one dealer is selling a set for $75, one is selling the exact set for $95, and three isles over a fellow has got a nice, flashy looking booth. It’s pretty. It looks nice.
He’s got pretty girls who are waiting on the customers, and he’s selling for $125. Well, you know what? I’m going back after I’ve done my scouting and buy that set for $75 or $80, and saving everybody, right off the bat, $45 and passing that savings on to my customers.
And I do this as I walk up and down the isles picking all my jewelry. I’ll stop at a lot of the gold shops. I needed some real fancy, nice looking, unusual 14-carat gold earrings — stuff that you don’t see everywhere else — and I found a company out of California who has some great styles.
I bought stuff from them at the last show and sold all that out at Christmas. I waited for this show, ran over there and bought a bunch of their new stuff again, and it’s funny. I said to him, “You know, we do a pretty large business in gold. Do you have a catalog?”
And he said, “We really… and it was funny because people will say to me, “You know, I’ve seen stuff on your Web page. Could I order it?” and I go, “You know what? We can’t really keep up with our Web page; it just gives you an idea of some of the stuff that we have.”
But the merchandise moves so fast that it’s hard to get pictures, put it back on there, and it’s just, you know, we’re not catalog store, and it’s really difficult. We’re a mom and pop store. We’re your neighborhood jeweler. Come in and see us, and you’ll understand what we’re talking about.
But they said, “No, you know, we go through so much stuff, and we get all new styles in every day that it’s hard for us to do a catalog, and if we had a catalog, it would be the basic stuff that everybody has in all their catalogs.”
And I could understand exactly what they said, and in the meantime I’m elbowing my way through the other vendors who were buying, and I’m picking up all kinds of different styles and things like that, and I’ve got an open account with them.
So what I do is, you know, when I bring it back I put it out immediately and a lot of people know that I’ve gone to the jewelry show. They stop in and see what kind of new styles we’ve picked up, and we’ve already started to go through a lot of the pieces.
We bought a lot of white gold, which is very hot. We bought a yellow gold, which is a standard, and believe it or not it’s starting to come back again. They went through the white gold phase, and now they’re going back into the yellow gold phase.
But what we’ve really noticed a lot of this year was pink gold, the rose gold, and people say, “Well, you know, how do they make it? Is rose gold really gold?” Well, what we do when they make jewelry, they take 24 carat gold, which is pure.
It’s a very brassy looking yellow, and they put 42 percent copper in with it… or actually a little bit less because they use some silver and nickel in with it, as well. They mix that all together, and the addition of copper to your regular gold is what makes it pink.
Now, some people are allergic to certain alloys. You know, if you know that if you wear anything that’s got copper in it and you break out, pink gold is probably not going to be for you because there’s a high content of copper in it.
And lot of times the other thing people don’t realize, if you have high acidity in your body, and you say, “Well, how do I know if I do?” Sometimes if you wear gold jewelry it starts to turn a dark color on you, where it leaves a blackish, greenish color on your skin is what we call “gold smudge.”
What’s happening is the acid in your system is reacting to the alloys in gold. You know, if this happens to you, then you definitely do not want to wear pink gold jewelry because you’ll turn it almost black.
You’ll put a gold smudge on yourself, and it’s going to look really funky so you’re definitely not a candidate to wear pink gold, regardless of whether you like it or not, but we brought back a lot of pink gold jewelry this year.
Another thing that I noticed as I walked through the booths, a lot of the styles that they’re showing now were with yellow diamonds. Now, last Christmas, blue diamonds, green diamonds, black diamonds, Cognac or chocolate diamonds were very, very popular. This year a lot of the jewelers that I saw from all around the country, their merchandise has a lot of yellow diamond stuff in it.
The yellow diamonds were irradiated, which means they were bombarded with… and it changed the isotopes in them to a yellow color, so they’re much less expensive than a naturally occurring yellow diamond.
If you’re in the market for yellow diamonds, you know, and you’re buying some at a substantial price, you want to ask the merchant, as I did with a lot of my vendors: “Are these treated diamonds? Are these color-treated diamonds?”
And some of the merchants would look at me, and it’s like they were on the hot seat, “Well, uh… uh…”
It’s a yes or no question. Are they color enhanced, or are they natural?
“Well, they’re natural diamonds.”
Okay, are the colors natural yellow?
“Well, they were off-color, and we had them treated so they were yellower.”
Okay, so the answer was yes, they’re a color-treated diamond, and there’s certainly nothing wrong with that. You know, it’s beautiful jewelry. They’re yellow diamonds. They’ve been enhanced to give them that bright yellow color, be proud of your jewelry.
You know, and it’s funny, I talked to a couple different guys, and they hemmed and hawed before they would actually give me the answer to my question, which didn’t make a whole lot of sense to me.
Because you’re not dealing with the public, you’re dealing with another jeweler, who is going to have this merchandise, and if the public should ask him, they want to know the answer.
And so if you’re looking at colored gemstones and colored diamonds, and you’re not sure, ask. You know, don’t sit there and say, “Well, I don’t want him to think I’m an idiot.” You know, you’re spending your hard-earned money.
Ken Lovejoy: And like you’ve said before, it’s tough to tell.
Steve: Well, you can’t tell. I mean, on the majority of these you can’t. I mean, I brought back some intense yellow diamonds, some pieces of jewelry. They’re beautiful, and I said to the manufacturers are these natural, or are they enhanced?
And they said, “I’d never use enhanced, and these are all natural.” And they were priced like they were natural, so of course I’m going to ask, and if my customers come in and they say, “Well, why is this so expensive?” I’m going to say to them these are natural, intense yellow, canary diamonds.
They’ll go, “Well, I saw that in the mall for… you know, you’re $4,000 and at the mall they were $200.”
And I’ll go, “Okay. Well, you know what? If the $200 one is in your budget, and you think you’re going to buy intense, yellow diamonds for that kind of price, ask and find out.”
You know, because to some people, it’s important for them. They want the best: they want to know that they’re buying natural quality, intense yellow diamonds.
If you’re buying a piece of jewelry, and you just want the look and you want something that’s beautiful in your budget, there’s certainly nothing wrong with buying enhanced yellow stones.
I mean, we’ve got some at the shop. I’ve got them in yellow, blue, green. Red was a big color this year, which I saw it last year. Some of the dealers were doing some jewelry pieces with red diamonds.
It’s a little tough to tell. Last year, the colors were very dark — almost an orangey color, and you really could tell quite what they were — we bought a few pieces last year. Most of the time they’re mounted in pink gold because the pink helps enhance the color of the diamond.
This year I saw quite a bit more of it. Still most of it was in pink, but they sort of perfected the color a little bit better, and we found a lot of it in white gold, as opposed to the yellower pink. The white, sort of, with a really nice colored red diamond, we find that it really sets it off. I mean, there’s a big contrast and it was very pretty.
Again, if you’re going to see a red diamond in a piece of jewelry, 99.99 percent of the time it’s going to be an enhanced colored diamond. Again, there’s nothing wrong with an enhanced colored stone. It’s cool that you can say “no, I’m wearing a red diamond,” and that’s the conversation. You know?
Steve: People go, “Wow, a red! I’ve never seen a red diamond before.” Your friends are going to be flabbergasted. They’re going to think that’s so cool. They’re not going to say, “Oh… Well is that a color enhanced red diamond?” no, but your jeweler should know.
The person who’s selling it to you across the counter, behind that counter, should know, and you should know enough not to be afraid to ask.
But, again, if you see a red one, then I’m going to say to you most of the time it’s going to be a color enhanced diamond because there’s very, very few red naturally occurring red diamonds out there.
There’s pink and we have some pink diamonds out there. We just built a pendant where we put pink diamonds around the outside of the white diamond, and pink is expensive… it’s a very expensive color.
Even in the color-treated pink diamonds, they’re quite expensive. Pink is a very rare color. Most of the colored diamonds are expensive, if they’re naturally occurring.
The least expensive per carat would be your yellow color because this has nitrogen gas in it, and you’ll find it more in nature where the yellow color occurs more frequently in nature than the blue diamonds or green diamonds, or the red diamonds or pink diamonds, things like that.
So, we walk down the aisles some more, and a lot more silver jewelry, a lot of colored gemstone things. Pave′ work was very big, and we talked about Pave′ at Christmas time. Pave′ is where they’ll take a piece of gold or silver and set the diamonds flush into that piece.
It looks like a big flash. It’s a big wall of diamonds, and it’s really, really a pretty look. That way you can use a lot of smaller diamonds and get a big look without spending as much money.
Pie cut diamonds were very big this year, and about four or five years ago this was the look, and what I mean by pie cut, they’ll take a bigger sized diamond, put it in the middle, and then they take irregular cut diamonds and put it around the big diamond.
They set it in the gold, usually in either a square cut or what we’re finding, mostly, are round shapes because what they do with the round shapes, they cut the diamond in almost like a piece of pie, like a slice of pie. They set these all together, and it gives you a gigantic look.
I brought back some bracelets like that that looked like they’re set with 2-carat diamonds. When you look at it, it’s a small cluster of diamonds that are pie set. I brought back some earrings that look like you’re wearing 4-carat total weight — for a fraction of the price.
We brought back some pendants that are really cool looking. It looks like a 5-carat diamond for the cost of a 1-carat diamond. I mean, it’s a great way to get a really, really big look.
We saw a lot of this last year in rings, more with what we call the princess cut diamonds. The square diamonds that were invisibly set, they’re pushed together. They’re actually cut with a laser, and it’s like tongue-and-groove flooring. They slide these diamonds together. They lock into each other because one’s got a groove, one’s got a little piece that slips into the groove, and then they build the gold around it, and it gives you a big, big look for a whole lot less money.
Well, now they’ve done it again with earrings. They’ve done it with pendants. They’ve done it with bracelets. But rather than doing the square cut diamonds, the princess cuts, you’re using these pie cut diamonds.
And you say, “Why would they bother doing that?” Because it all goes back to when that miner found that piece of rough — that diamond that was uncut yet — we find a lot of slivers.
We find a lot of irregular pieces, and if you could polish them into these pie cut diamonds and make them all uniform sizes, now you could turn around and sell these to manufacturers who say:
“You know what? These cost me a whole lot less money than the princess cut diamonds. I can build a big look with it that’s going to sell because big is in this year, and it’s going to cost a whole lot less money.”
So, this is the reason that the pie cuts have come back, and this was really something that I noticed at the show this year, just tons of people. Tons of manufacturers had these in stock.
This is the reason that they’re back in style, because people want the big look without having to spend the really big bucks this year.
Another thing that I saw were, again, big hoops — dangle, chandelier style earrings made out of gold — a lot of them made with small diamonds, very, very small diamonds, what we call Micro Pave′, and these, again, are in the semi-mounts, as far as resetting your diamond into a ring.
A whole lot of the Micro Pave′ look is out there, and the Micro Pave′ is setting very, very small diamonds into the prongs, all into the shanks of the ring, so it looks like the whole ring is just covered with diamonds.
The problem, again, you know, we’ve got a great selection of them at the shop, but the majority of Micro Pave′ jewelry at some point in time, some of these little diamonds are going to fall out.
It’s a fact of life… they’re going to go come out because when they’re made, the prongs are not really, really large, the pieces of metal that hold the gold in, the gold that holds the diamonds in place.
At Westchester Gold & Diamonds, you’ve got our word. We’re not going anywhere. If you’ve bought the piece of jewelry from us and a stone falls out, bring it back. We’re always happy to replace it at no charge.
You know, we sell the pieces of jewelry. We know it’s going to happen. We’re going to give you the fashions that you like, and we’re going to stand behind — even though we didn’t manufacturer that piece, you trusted us enough to buy it from us — we’ll be more than happy to replace those diamonds at no charge.
Now, I’ve had a woman come in three or four times with stones that have come out, and she said, “Steven, I’m not happy with this piece. You know, I keep having to replace diamonds.” I said, “Have you paid for any of them?”
Steve: “No.” I said, “If you bought it someplace else, would they charge you for the diamonds?” She said, “Yeah.” I go, “Then what’s not to like? You enjoy the piece of jewelry. I told you right up front that the Micro Pave′ sometimes these diamonds are going to come out.
You know, it’s not great to do all your gardening in your diamond ring. It’s a little tough on the diamonds, especially the Micro Pave′. If they come out, we replace them.
So, stop by and see us at Westchester Gold & Diamonds if you’re interested in the Micro Pave′ stuff. We’ve got a pile of it. We’ve got all kinds of it, and I brought back some Micro Pave′ diamond hoops that are really, really cool. They’re oval shaped with just very, very small diamonds.
I’m not going to tell you they’re inexpensive, but they’re a great look and for the amount of labor… and that’s the biggest thing you’re paying for on these types of things.
The Micro Pave′, it’s expensive to have these diamonds set as far as the manufacturers go, so you wind up paying a little bit more than you’d like to for these pieces, but they’re really, really cool, and they’re not extremely expensive. But you look at it and go, “Well, why is it so much? There’s hardly any diamonds in there?”
There are a lot of diamonds. There is a lot of diamond weight. You just don’t realize it, and like I said, the labor charge to make these things is much, much higher than someone setting a bigger diamond and just working the prongs over because these diamonds are minute.
You know, I don’t want to sit there and have to sit piece after piece after piece and set 300 diamonds in one little earring that you can hardly even see — it’s a lot of labor involved in it.
So, the other pieces, again, tanzanite was still pretty hot. Rubies, we saw a lot of enhanced colored stones, gemstones, where they had enhanced rubies, enhanced emeralds, heat diffused sapphires were very big, which means there’s a process where they enhance the color of sapphires.
They make them a gorgeous color — beautiful, beautiful color — and a sapphire that would normally cost $1,000 for one carat was now $300 or $400 for that same gemstone, even though it was a fantastic color.
And what happens with heat-diffused sapphires, they treat them: the color does not go all the way through the sapphire. I had a heated discussion with one of the manufacturers there. I said:
“You know, I love your stuff, but if one of my customers hits this sapphire and it chips, it’s going to be white underneath it, so now I have to replace the entire sapphire. Now, I have to apologize for this jewelry.”
And I still couldn’t bring myself not to buy some of it. I brought some of them back because they’re beautiful. You can walk out the door with a fantastic looking sapphire ring at a faction of what it would normally cost.
I’ve tried to explain this whole process to my sales staff, so that when they sell it to you they can say to you, “This is a heat-diffused sapphire, which means it is a genuine sapphire that’s been color enhanced to make it look great and give you a bigger bang for your buck.”
So we find, like I said, when you go to the jewelry shows, I wind up doing a lot of shopping for my store, as well as for you folks out there who listen to me, who come in and shop with me, who give me your trust, and for the past 40 years, we’ve certainly appreciated every bit of it.
And we’re going to go on, continuing to try to earn your trust by making my staff more knowledgeable, by making you knowledgeable for listening, for coming into shop and seeing some of the great stuff that we have.
I’d like to just take the time to thank all of you out there who’ve not only shopped with us, but you’ve told your friends and your neighbors. Hey, you know what? I’ve got a great deal. I’ve got the biggest bang for my buck. I’ve got the most for the diamonds and gold that I sold.
You know, and we’re not going anywhere. We’re going to still be there regardless of what my wife tells you. No, I’m not taking more time off and going to retire. I’m still here working. I still look forward to going to work every day, talking to you folks across the counter, meeting you and seeing you.
Please stop by and see us over at Westchester Gold & Diamonds. We’re in the Baers Plaza. With that, I’m going to say thanks of listening, and we’ll talk to you next week.
Have Questions about your antiques, estate jewelry, collectibles or old treasures?
If you have questions for Steve Duke to answer about your jewelry, antiques or collectibles, just send a photo of the item and your question directly to Steve Duke at WGDiamonds@HotMail.com and Steve will research it for you and you may be contacted to participate in an upcoming Tradio episode. Be sure to include your name, email and phone number along with your question and email it to: WGDiamonds@HotMail.com
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Westchester Gold and Diamonds is one of the largest buyers of gold, silver, diamonds, Rolex watches, antique and estate jewelry in southwest Florida.
As the premier jewelry store in Port Charlotte since 1974. We do custom design and we are able to duplicate many designs that you may have seen in your travels; often at a fraction of the price.
We accept your old diamonds and jewelry in trade, the same as cash.