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Last updateTue, 07 Jul 2020 11pm

Diana Jarrett

CThe Story Behind the Stone: Anatomy of a wholesaler

Jarrett leadThe jewelry trade is a global body with myriad moving parts. And while we can make some generalities about the roles each of us play, in the end, every participant has a unique story all their own. To explore this idea more, I recently sat down with jewelry wholesaler Nate Mannstedt, of Oakmont Jewelry (www.oakmontjewelry.com) and turned the loupe back on him to discover the route he took to find his place in our industry.

One of the assumptions we can fall victim to is assuming that others in the gem and jewelry trade have family connections. So naturally, they just come down the pike and jump in when they’re ready to embark on that preordained career path. In reality, not everyone has a dad or uncle or aunt in the business.

Unscripted Pathway

DJ: Nate, tell me what brought you into the jewelry trade.

Nate: My road into this business was a bit odd. I had no family in the industry and it never even crossed my mind until my senior year of high school in Minneapolis. I was randomly put in to an introductory jewelry class when my school informed me that I couldn’t take 4 physical education classes! It took me about three days to fall in love with this industry!

DJ: Not having any mentors for guidance could have resulted in a dead end for you. But you must have had to learn on your feet to keep going. What stands out in your mind that kept you focused?

Nate: One thing I learned just about 6 months into my jewelry career was that the entire industry was built on relationships. Everything from manufacturing, wholesaling, and retail - it’s all about the relationship with your suppliers and customers.

DJ: How did that revelation work out?

Nate: I have met some incredible people along the way and made some great friends.

DJ: Not having connections, or ready-made customers that you would have had in a family business must have made gaining traction a steep uphill climb, right?

Nate: Of course, I started from zero. Being on the road, the only way you actually meet clients is by walking into stores, introducing yourself, and creating the foundation that your future relationship will be built on. So, I did it one store at a time.

Jarrett vintageVintage style gemstone white gold ring available in sapphire, ruby or emerald; Oakmont Jewelry

Know When to Hold ‘em, Know When to Fold ‘em

DJ: Have retailers ever said “no” outright, but you still gave them another shot later on?

Nate: Oh sure. I’ve actually had three or four stores that gave me a stern NO! but became customers after my 2nd or 3rd persistent attempt.

DJ: So, you’re self-tutoring as an entrepreneur, then?

Nate: One thing I’ve had to learn is knowing when to quit, and knowing when to push a little more. There are some times when it just isn’t going to work. Wholesale jewelry sales is not all about selling. It’s just as much about being there for your client, and helping them succeed in the retail space however you can.

DJ: What do you want potential clients to understand about your customer service that would make them want to add you as a supply source?

Nate: I would want all new clients to know that my role is to help them succeed. For instance, I will tell them honestly if something does not sell well that they picked out, and instead push items that I know will make money for them. Someone who just sells to a store and leaves won’t be me. I can help stores with their displays, or even online presence if they want.

DJ: So, your customer-centric sales calls are geared to each client individually?

Nate: Absolutely. Every sales call is different. Most of my appointments last between 1.5 to 3 hours. It’s really dependent on what they need from me. Honestly, I have had sales calls that lasted over 7 hours!

Jarrett bridalRose gold and diamond bridal ring set; Oakmont Jewelry

Sometimes a Home Run; Sometimes a Strike Out

DJ: What was a ‘stand out’ piece that you sold to a customer and why did they love it?

Nate: I recall a really stunning 14K gold vintage-style pendant I got from a closeout company. It featured a .78ct natural yellow cushion cut diamond. It had colorless melee diamonds around it and a GIA report. One of my Michigan stores saw it and within five seconds, simply fell in love with it. They bought it straight away and I’m fairly certain that piece of jewelry never made it into their display case!

DJ: Not all sales are success stories though. You must have had some tough pieces to sell, because that’s part of the learning process. What comes to mind?

Nate: Yeah, I can recall one closeout item that I shouldn’t have ever bought! It was a huge lady’s diamond dinner ring with almost two carats of diamonds, and it was ‘a looker’. The problem was, it was about as ugly as jewelry can be. It had a sharp point and was a pear shape. The entire design was horrible. I ended up selling it to another wholesaler at a steep discount.

DJ: Since you’re still fairly young in this business, what do you do to keep yourself motivated?

Nate: Well, I guess you’d say there are a few parts to my self-motivation. First of all, I love what I do. If I won the lottery on Sunday, I’d still be excited to go to work on Monday! Secondly, helping and seeing people grow and succeed is so much fun for me. I also get to meet some incredible people and that is always a blast. I’ve made hundreds of new friends in this industry in a short time.

Jarrett pendCushion cut morganite pendant with diamond halo in rose gold; Oakmont Jewelry

On the Road Again

DJ: At this point your sales region doesn’t cover all over the US, but where exactly is your beat, currently?

Nate: Right now, for personal customer calls, I’m focusing on a broad sector of the Midwest; including MN, KS, MO, MI, IN, KY, TN, OH, WV, NC, and SC. But I’ve got international customers, and now that my new website is up, I’m getting sales from everywhere online.

DJ: So, do you have favorite stops that you look forward to?

Nate: Not really, all of my states are great to be in. But I do love driving through Michigan, as it is quite gorgeous there. But I don’t have a favorite in terms of business.

DJ: Someone who has not made that leap into an entrepreneurial venture like yourself may be hesitant to take the big step. What would you tell them?

Nate: I would encourage any jeweler or entrepreneur to chase their dreams. I heard a motto a long time ago, “Chase your passion, and money will chase you. Chase money, and you may never find your passion.”

DJ: Where do you see yourself 5 years down the road?

Nate: I see myself doing the exact same thing I’m doing now with more customers, and also hiring people to create a team just as passionate as I am.

Just the FAQs Please

Oakmont Jewelry is a wholesale company offering retailers a wide range of fine jewelry, including bridal, diamonds, and colored stone goods. Retailers enjoy exceptional value, Nate tells me, because he specializes in sourcing stylish close-out goods that he can then pass on to his customers at “unmatched prices,” he says. Products range from a store’s “bread and butter pieces, up to higher end goods,” he explains. Find many items priced in the $60 - $2,000 range with lots of them retailing for $400-$999. Visit www.oakmontjeweler.com to browse through their fast-moving inventory.

Award winning trade journalist and gemologist Diana Jarrett is a Registered Master Valuer Appraiser and a member of the Association of Independent Jewellery Valuers (AIJV). She’s a popular speaker at conferences and trade shows. Jarrett writes for trade and consumer publications, online outlets, her blog: Color-n-Ice, and www.jewelrywebsitedesigners.com. Contact her at This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it., visit her website at www.dianajarrett.com, and follow her on Facebook and Twitter (Loupey).

 


The Story Behind the Stone: Transcending Time

Jarrett 1Pink tourmaline, 1ctw diamond, platinum; Courtesy Chadwick’s Jewelers.Many people have delicate lady’s gold wristwatches languishing unloved and never worn in the back of their jewel box. It’s not for lack of its personal history, or even for its lack of sentimental attachment. Watches from a certain time, likely from the late 1950s until the early 1970s were delicate little confections prized by their owners.

Times changed, and so did the preferences of watch aficionados. Brand named, oversized, and bejeweled watches pushed smaller ones out of the limelight and also out of vogue. But we can’t get rid of these cherished relics which hold so many memories, can we? By the 2020s many of the original wearers were now gone, making them even more precious. But nobody wears them anymore. If one wants to know the time, they check their handheld device.

A Watch Revolution

It’s time for a watch revolution, according to Matthew Valentine, goldsmith at Chadwick’s Jewelers on St. Simons Island, GA. Valentine has been quietly creating watch conversions for at least a decade. He swaps the chronometer element for sparkling diamonds or gemstones which breathe new life and new utility into the dainty timepieces. Now, they don’t tell time, but they do tell a new story of personal style for the wearer. They transcend their outmoded use for a dazzling second act as an adored and highly personalized piece of jewelry. And really, they still carry with them all the emotional influence that they once did in their heyday. 

Unsuspecting Trendsetter

Jarrett 2London blue topaz, 14k gold; Courtesy Chadwick’s Jewelers.“The first watch conversion I ever did was probably 10 years ago,” Valentine says. “It was a client’s Lady Hamilton watch and we put an oval blue sapphire in it,” he recalls. But Valentine couldn’t imagine he was starting a trend. “I didn’t really think anything of it at the time. Fast forward to a year and a half ago, and we had a client come in with a watch and I did another,” he claims. Valentine explains that because the client was so thrilled, he posted it on social media.

That item quickly garnered so much commentary, he knew they were on to something. Chadwick’s began doing these watch conversions for stock. “One sold out of the case,” Valentine shared, “but they actually made more money for us being in the case, as they sparked interest.”

Upcycling & Reimagining

The solution for what to do with these sentimental pieces evidently struck a major chord with Chadwick’s clientele. “The great thing is that the client gets to preserve a piece of family history and they get a gold bracelet without having to pay extra for the gold, along with upcycling it.” And today’s jewelry consumers are more drawn to upcycling now than ever, he finds. “It’s also profitable for us as it ends up creating revenue in labor as well as in colored stone sales,” Valentine says. “Even the smallest face lady’s watch can be expensive putting a single diamond in it, but we do cluster styles as well.”

This genius conversion offers countless variations. “Colored stones are much more affordable in larger sizes than diamonds, so if they want a larger single stone, it drives colored stone sales very well,” he tells us.

Perfect Timing

Jarrett 3Hand fabricated bead-set diamond plate, 14k gold; Courtesy Chadwick’s Jewelers.It’s a trend ripe for the times, Valentine believes. “I think it will continue to build, especially with rising gold prices.” Demographics plays a key role in the popularity of this trend, of course. “We have a larger population of older, well-to-do clients,” Valentine points out, “who have generational jewelry and watches that they want to keep in the family.”

Award winning trade journalist and gemologist Diana Jarrett is a Registered Master Valuer Appraiser and a member of the Association of Independent Jewellery Valuers (AIJV). She’s a popular speaker at conferences and trade shows. Jarrett writes for trade and consumer publications, online outlets, her blog: Color-n-Ice, and www.jewelrywebsitedesigners.com. Contact her at This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it., visit her website at www.dianajarrett.com, and follow her on Facebook and Twitter (Loupey).

The Story Behind the Stone: Yellow like garnet

Jarrett yellowParcel of yellow rough Merelani Garnet. Courtesy Gems of East AfricaThe public is certainly familiar with some garnets. Many varieties are inexpensive, offering a big look for a relatively affordable price. But consumers and retailers may be surprised to learn that as a mineral species, their color and type-range are legion.

The Story Behind the Stone: Diamonds do this?

Since diamond’s early discovery in India around the 4th century BC, they’ve continuously garnered throngs of devotees. Until the early 18th century, India was the sole source of these precious rocks. By 1725 they were being found in Brazil. In the 1870s, the rush to South Africa marked diamond production’s explosive increase to satisfy a global appetite for the goodies.

The Story Behind the Stone: Parti Over Here!

We know that every jewelry fan wants something completely different from their friends’ accessories. After all, jewelry is one very beautiful outlet for self-expression. And jewelers want to help their customers find an evocative piece that says, “This is me!” Here’s a captivating option to consider; parti color sapphire (or simply parti sapphire).

The Story Behind the Stone: Only in California

There are a lot of things to which the expression “Only in California” is a good fit. Some are sarcastic, some tongue in cheek, and the rest may be positive or positively amusing. There’s also a sparkling addition to the ‘Only in California’ category.

The Story Behind the Stone: Carving out history

Jarrett Cocle pedestalCoclé (c. 600-800 AD) ceramic dish displays classic stylized shapes in symmetrical patterns. Photo: Walters Art MuseumCameos are an ancient art form with even the earliest examples exhibiting tremendous grace and technique. The Great Cameo of France, (Grand Camée de France) for instance, a 31cm tall sardonyx, circa 23 A.D., is the largest surviving cameo from antiquity.

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