written by Lee Wiser McIntosh
Randall Cole & Friends:
Having called the jewelry industry my professional home for nearly 20 years, I’ve learned that the friendships formed with vendors are different and deeper than those with our customers. Vegas is the most obvious example of “old home week.” Here is where the frank conversations take place, commiserations over industry concerns, and literal and virtual high-fives over the victories that take place in the retail trenches.
This article started with an offhand comment by Barri Singer (formerly with the Centurion and Select shows and now serving the industry with digital design through Lugh Studios, a boutique branding agency in Brooklyn)
“You don’t know Randy? Well, you really should.” She made the introduction and once that ball got rolling I ended up meeting more interesting people, friends of friends… that make our industry better with innovative thinking that produces slap-your-forehead “that’s brilliant” products.
Randy Cole is the CEO of The Diamond Vault of Troy in greater Detroit.
The store having once been a bank makes closing up shop a dream because it is indeed a vault. Close the vault door, set the alarm, and go home. This is the first example of one of his business credos: “We do things differently and always have.”
Randy started out in the rough… literally. His first job in jewelry was working with a cutter and the lessons he learned there are revisited daily. Their core business is 90% bridal and he really knows how to look at diamonds from various perspectives. And through an early, bad diamond buying experience on the consumer side, he understands the fears and concerns of his customers. He educates his customers on the 4Cs in depth, yet in an accessible way. They talk to, not down to, and earnestly listen. This provides the desired in-depth information that empowers. They interact with customers exactly how they would like to be treated. The Diamond Vault of Troy executes on the Golden Rule and with great empathy.
Randy has some powerful tools at his disposal, carefully chosen with the customer experience in mind. Tools that allay fears, utilize technology, and build confidence in the customer’s purchase. And tools that set The Diamond Vault of Troy apart from their competitors.
The first is essentially two in one: Gemprint and the Gem Certification & Assurance Lab (GCAL), a forensic laboratory that provides tangential visual products that helps Randy sell diamonds. GCAL has a 50 year track record and are obsessive about diamond grading. They have long been consumer protection advocates and offer the only money back guarantee on their certificates. Note, certificate implies liability on the part of the laboratory that issued the report. A caveat emptor report strikes GCAL as unethical and irresponsible. Their exclusive “Zero Tolerance” 4C’s Consumer Diamond Grading Guarantee is fundamental to GCAL’s concept of the independent, third party grading the provide discerning retailers.
Gemprint “fingerprints” diamonds by using an optical laser and then creates a silent registry starting at the polishing source or your store with your customer’s name as part of the immutable chain of custody. There’s no faking the stone’s fingerprint and the physical validation is right there for your customer to see.
Sounds a lot like blockchain, right? Gemprint actually pre-dates blockchain.
While blockchain insures immutability, Gemprint brings accuracy into the picture. This verifiable chain of custody led to a partnership with Everledger to provide a credible platform and this is an exciting development which provides more transparency of the diamonds journey from origin to store and to your customer’s phone… on demand. No questions are left unanswered.
Scott Austin, Senior Executive Vice President at Everledger recognizes that “increasingly, suppliers and retailers must ensure the quality and ethical sourcing for consumers who are more conscientious than ever before. While these elements are all regularly documented, access to authentic stories, validation of origin, and certification that demonstrates the uniqueness of each diamonds has historically been difficult to prove over the lifecycle of the stone.”
Everledger will pull photos of the certification data from GCAL’s API to sit on the Everledger Platform. Angelo Palmieri, the COO at Gemprint and GCAL stated the “Blockchain technology has already demonstrated the enormous positive impact it can have in the world of diamond sourcing, and we’re thrilled to be able to offer this cutting-edge technology to our clients.”
Palmieri further added that “Combining blockchain with the unique optical fingerprint produced by Gemprint creates significantly increased transparency, and an indisputable, unmistakable, identity for each and every diamond that passes through the GCAL lab. This partnership with Everledger will enable us to combine sourcing and grading for the best possible insight into the provenance and value of a diamond. It will provide end consumers with greater assurance and additional insight into their diamond’s history, and retail jewelers with more substantial information about the diamond to help close more sales.”
Randy met them at Centurion and has utilized this tool to not only sell the uniqueness of a each diamond, but to give the customer peace of mind. Gemprint is truly for retailers who know and care enough to share the whole story with their customers.
Gemprint also eliminates diamond confusion. Showing your customer three 3 carat cushion cuts that are barely discernibly different and accidentally mixing them up? Won’t happen. Another use is being able to properly identify your diamond inventory as collateral if seeking a loan. And using Gemprint lowers your insurance premium. That’s a useful offset to the $25K investment.
Insurance is the next solution The Diamond Vault of Troy provides the customer. “How can I ask them to leave the store, with one of the most expensive pieces of jewelry they’ve ever purchased, and not have it insured?”
Excellent question. Enter ZILLIONS, a disruptor in the insurance industry.
Adam Black, ZILLIONS founder and serial entrepreneur (this is his fourth successful start-up) focused on the point of sale and addressed that problem head on. With over thirty years in the insurance sector, his amassed skills and knowledge gave him a unique perspective on the need for disruption in an archaic business. The consumer’s expectations have been shaped by point, click, and it’s on your doorstep. The idea of “instant everything” applies to insurance for their jewelry as well. Black stated that “Randy likes to innovate in order to satisfy the customer.”
Let’s nutshell this… because common sense products lend themselves to that.
ZILLIONS provides immediate comprehensive coverage, no deductible, no application process and ten days for your customer to fund the policy through an app on their phone. The value is obvious to the mobile centric consumer of today.
Black summed up take on his common sense approach to insurance:
“We believe you should have the freedom to wear your jewelry for any occasion, without worry… whether it’s traveling the world, training at the gym, a romantic night out or just hanging at home. With Zillion jewelry insurance, you can wear your jewelry with confidence knowing it’s covered.” From the very moment you walk out of the store!
The whole, thoughtful bundle of customer service tools embedded in the customer’s experience keep his on-line reviewers plunking down five stars with effusive and genuine praise. And this new word-of-mouth marketing is vital to their continued success.
Randy Cole’s response to his hope for Vegas: “I’m looking forward to connecting with all of my suppliers. The relationships I have with almost all of them are special. We did business, became friends, and now we are friends doing business. I have been blessed with some of the best supply partners you could ever ask for. They are the foundation of our business.”
Vegas will certainly be memorable this year. No doubt the reunions will be sweeter and the bonds made stronger. You just might run into Randy at the Zillions’ booth (JCK #119) or when he hits Gemprint’s booth on the way in and out of JCk, as they’ll be in the main lobby just past registration. Do stop by and see how these companies will up your game by changing your customer’s experience for the better.