Archive for September, 2010

Beautiful Silver Jewelry in Bali : Meet Barney Fife, (Part 4)

Monday, September 27th, 2010

Within a few minutes, the Factory Manager, Mr. Sanadrij Dong, appeared.  Wearing the male version of the colorful Bali sarong, Dong (first names are last and last names are first in Asian culture), bowed instead of shaking hands. Another element of Asian tradition. (Dong is pictured on the left.)

Dong sat down next to Barney Fife’s look-alike (the factory owner), and faced Susan and me, Jan Brassem,  from across the table. He smiled. He was a short man, (5’2” I would guess), with a well-traveled wrinkled face. With 580 jewelry people working for him, he must have been a skilled and experienced jewelry manager.

Turning to Barney, he said something in Bali. Evidentially, Mr. Sanadrij doesn’t speak English. Barney would have to translate.

Working with translators, has a few important features. First, since the conversation goes through a third party, everything, obviously, takes twice as long, allowing you more time to think. Second, since longer sentences have ‘fuzzier’ meaning, they quickly become shorter. (It’s amazing how precise people can be when they have to be.)

Finally, it is important not to interrupt when sentences are being translated (That was hard for me, since “interrupting” is one of my irritating habits.)

After both Barney and Dong signed our formal Nondisclosure Agreement, I handed the blue lapis sterling silver iDesign — a watch – to Dong. The watch was one of our simplest. (It’s pictured on the right, below) He turned to Barney with the surprised look that Susan and I had seen before. I asked Dong, via Barney, if his people could design a series of those – but with the same technology.

“The person who came up with this idea is either crazy or a genius,” Dong said.

Dong was going to look under the hood — so to speak. He held the lapis  iDesign watch in his gnarled fingers and studied it. Deep in thought, I waited while he studied. Wait! Wait, I told myself, Dude, let him think.

Dong asked a few technical questions, (What’s this and why’s that?), while absorbing and processing the answers. Every time he understood something, he smiled. “…very clever.”

“The person who came up with this idea is either crazy or a genius,” Dong said. “I’m not crazy,” I said in a huff. Susan said she wasn’t sure. I wasn’t smiling.

“Yes, we can design a series of these and simplify the internal movement a little,” Dong said. “It’ll be fun and challenging for me and my jewelers. …something different after all these years.”

Barney asked if we would supply some watch movements and the “Patent-Applied-For” tech-components. Susan said she’ll ask the factory to FEDEX enough pieces for the six-each samples, plus a few extras.

Susan reached into her briefcase and handed Barney a copy of our bright-red formal Quality Control “Movement Tolerances and Delivery Standards Manual.” For the second time today, Barney was surprised. “There is no point,” Susan told him, “In making great designs without perfect quality. Without excellent quality, everyone looses.”

To Be Continued…….

It was suggested that some of our hundreds of readers might agree, disagree or even augment this — or our other — posts. She was so right. We would love to hear, (er, read), your constructive comments.

Also, please be sure to read all our posts. Just click on one — or all — of the categories on the right side of the page. You may find the post on China, Hong Kong, silver jewelry, etc. interesting as well.

Bali: Cue the Trumpets. Introducing Our Silver Styles. (Part 3)

Friday, September 17th, 2010

After two hours of analyzing, fine-tuning and buying over 80 samples, Susan was mentally exhausted. In her best New York accent, she asked one of the pretty assistants for a cup of tea.

She turned to me and gave me an approving nod. So, in her professional opinion, this factory had good styling and quality. Since Susan didn’t want any second-guessing on her final selection – not a word from the ‘peanut gallery’, (Another harrumph) – I was getting bored.

It was finally my turn. The boss, Jan Brassem, gets his turn.

The factory owner – kind of a grizzled Barney Fife look alike with cigarette stained fingers – turned his attention to me. Now came the tricky part.

A few years ago, we had developed an extremely popular silver jewelry brand. We were wondering, I asked Barney, if his factory could design and produce a few, (two or three), original designs for us. If successful, we could potentially sell thousands. They would have to be exclusive to us and made from scratch.

“Of course. We would love to,” said Barney.

Cue the trumpets. Our brand, known as Eclipse iDesigns, contains a unique, small, micro-mechanical component.  The brand’s name shortened to iDesigns, allows the wearer to change the silver style’s look, color even character – with only the slightest touch.

Each design contains a self-contained ‘movement’ – much like a simple watch movement. Many of the movements have patents pending. “Simply put,” I told Barney, “iDesigns combines two current and big-time consumer appeals, beautiful silver jewelry with simple technology. … never been done before.”

Barney gave me that ‘deer-in-the-headlights’  look. Susan smiled — she had seen that before.

The brand, known as iDesigns, allows the wearer to change the silver style’s look, color even character – with only the slightest touch.

To make it even more confusing, Susan chimed in with some more details. “The wearer can’t see the movement, the cost of the style doesn’t change and you don’t need a crowbar to make it change.”

“It was developed with ‘outside-the-box’ thinking,” she continued.

By this time, Barney was thoroughly dumbfounded, even mystified. I reached into my briefcase and pulled out three popular iDesigns. The first, a silver lapis bracelet that transforms into a watch. The second, a silver filigree pendant that converted from onyx to turquoise. The third was an earrings that changed from puffed heart to blue topaz.

Oh, did I mention, I told Barney that the iDesign ‘technology’ uses bearings, hinges, computer codes and algorithms as well as other tech components under extremely close tolerances. Most factory managers find iDesigns challenging and enervating — especially after working in a  tedious jewelry factory for years, generations.  Just ask your factory manager,” I said. 

Barney, amazed, took a deep breath, and asked one of the assistants to get his factory manager. She ran to the phone.

To be continued…

Bali: Buying Silver Jewelry (Part 2)

Thursday, September 9th, 2010

The sun-lit room smelled like Orchids. My buyer, Susan, and me, Jan Brassem, were sitting next to each other along side a long dark wooden table facing the factory owner.  One assistant was standing behind him while the other rolled in a cart loaded with trays. Each tray must have held at least 100 jewelry styles.

Our first day in Bali was nothing more than a paid vacation. It was finally time to get to work. Susan took out a raft of computer generated sales, profit, style/type reports. She had done her homework.

Like many jewelry buyers, she was under the gun — so to speak. It was time for her to apply her taste, design knowledge, manufacturing know-how, cost breakdown, experience, negotiating skill, financial knowledge, you get the idea. Her work could spell the success or failure of my jewelry store’s season.

Concentration was key. She had to analyze each design, its cost, markup, quality, customer tastes and who knows what else. She asked me – I was just an observer now – not to talk or banter with the owner or flirt with the pretty assistants. Hummphhh.

• She knew what styles, types and price-points our customers preferred.

• She knew what kind of designs, (basic, fancy, ornate, etc.), our customers bought.

She had to analyze each design, its cost, markup, quality, customer tastes and who knows what else

• She knew what margins, (at least keystone), we had budgeted for the season. Susan would look at each style she had ‘pre-selected’, (these were put in a special tray), and once she went through their entire line, she would ‘review’ the pre-selected tray to be sure each design could ‘carry’ the necessary retail price. If it couldn’t it was returned to the cart.

• Known for its special designs, (she had done her homework here too), she selected styles that had the Bali ‘look’. There was no point in selecting styles that could be bought in other parts of the world — or even in the US. We were, after all, trying to differentiate our store from the competition.

Bali styling was indeed unique. Whether due to the island being remote, the silver jewelry artisans having special skills or who knows what, Bali jewelry had two special features.

Classical Bali Chain Bracelet

The first was Bali’s hand-made rope/chain look. Highly labor intensive, (machine made rope/chain jewelry looks like, well, machine made jewelry), the man-made designs were beautiful and unique to Bali.

The Bali artisans were also skilled at carving faces and animals on small semi-precious stones. These faces were then set in silver creating beautiful pendants and brooches. Almost one-of-a-kind works of art.

When Susan finished, (all her choices were now in one previously empty tray), she would total up the cost of her selection. Since she had budgeted a certain dollar amount for each of the four factories we planned on visiting, she could add a few pieces to the tray or take a few out.

The buying process, however, was far from over.

To Be Continued……