Bali: Buying Silver Jewelry (Part 2)

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……

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