I have been wanting to interview Victoria Gomelsky Editor-in-Chief at JCK magazine and freelance writer to the New York Times, for a while now. Yet, I just couldn’t get myself to push the send button with my interview. It’s a big deal for me to interview Victoria, who I met very briefly during the trade shows. After all she is one of the most highly sought after editors in our industry.
Josette: You have been writing about jewelry and watches for almost 15 years. How did you get started? Did you think that your interest in the jewelry industry would be as strong as it is?
Victoria: In May 2000, I was finishing up my graduate studies at Columbia University and looking for a writing job that would allow me to stay in New York City. I saw a posting on Monster.com for a luxury goods site seeking an editor with 2-3 years experience; there was a button on the ad, inviting me to “click here to forward your profile to this employer.” I clicked and a few days later, I got a call from a woman at GemKey.com, which, as it happens, was the earliest incarnation of InStore Magazine. I knew nothing about gems or jewels, or watches for that matter, but I was hired as GemKey’s pearl and watch editor on the strength of my writing clips. Within a month or so, I was on my way to Australia to visit a pearl farm off the coast of Darwin. On the way to Oz, I paid a visit to Bangkok to meet my new colleagues (GemKey was headquartered in Thailand) and on the way out, I stopped in Hong Kong to attend the pearl auctions. I could hardly believe my good fortune. My ongoing love affair with the business is tied to my love for travel; in many ways, I consider jewelry and travel one and the same—which helps explain why, 15 years later, I’m still thrilled to be writing about the trade!
Josette: As an editor of luxury goods you are constantly exposed to a plethora of things. Wether it’s jewelry, designers, art, travel, tradeshows, seminars just to name a few. What is the best part of your job? or what part of your job is the most satisfying?
Victoria: To look at the world through the prism of the jewelry industry is a remarkable way to make a living. As an editor, I get to see the entire supply chain in action, from the mines to the markets to the retail salons, and through this lens, I get a very unique perspective on the world. I’ve interviewed miners in Tanzania, artisanal gem cutters in Jaipur, wealthy dealers in Geneva and Hong Kong, and the fact that they are all members of this fascinating business is what fuels my interest. I sometimes liken landing in this industry to slipping through a black hole, into a parallel universe I never knew existed. And like any universe, it’s much bigger and richer than it seems!
Josette: A lot of your posts are geared towards innovating an industry that is very conservative,helping retailers to adjust to millennial trends. Who are the millennials and how should we cater to them?
Victoria: One thing I know about millennials is that I am not one of them. I’m squarely in the Gen X range and Gen Y confounds me, as it does so many people. Then again, I have tons of millennial friends and they’re not all that different from me or my Gen X friends, when I think about them as individuals. That’s the key. What the marketers always emphasize is how many people there are in the millennial generation, and how crucial it is for them to feel unique. That seems to be what’s driving so much of the demand for customization: Young people who take it for granted that they can tweak or create designs to suit their own style. Because in a generation that big—I’ve seen estimates that say Gen Y comprises 75 million people, outnumbering even the Boomers—it makes sense that individuals would feel the need to stand out.
Josette: Anyone who has been in the jewelry industry long enough has noticed how this industry has changed. It is harder today for a young, talented designer to start like we did. Belonging to a multivendor showroom seems to be de rigueur, even if it comes at a very high price with pressure to grow from financial backers. What do you think of this change?
Victoria: Jewelry will always draw young designers. I firmly believe that. I also believe that face-to-face meetings are the best way for young designers to nurture their businesses and to cultivate fans and followers, but for the youngest and newest designers, social media is a far more effective and obviously less costly way to connect with potential buyers. Trade shows are a great way for established designers to grow their businesses, but they’ve never been all that great for young people just starting out. So I’m not sure all that much has changed. What I do see changing is the emphasis designers place on doing trunk shows. It amazes me that they can be away from home for so many weekends without burning out (or maybe they can’t). That desire for face-to-face contact is stronger than ever.
Josette: In a very challenging bridal market with a lot of competition from abroad, what’s more important for a small American designer who makes his product in the U.S. – is it quality of craftsmanship, customization of design or speed of production?
Victoria: Quality—hands down. If the quality isn’t there, the speed or customization won’t matter.
Josette: With all the changes that we are seeing it is hard not to notice an influx of luxury e-tailers. While it might be true for established brands, are we ready to spend a large amount of money without touching a piece or looking at the craftsmanship?
Victoria: If you believe the stats, about 10 percent of fine jewelry sales are made online. That means 90 percent are done in store. I can see online sales growing a little more, but I don’t expect brick and mortar jewelers to suffer, especially if the merchandise they sell is intricate and expensive and one of a kind. There’s no way to price shop that kind of jewelry, and the Internet is still (mostly) the domain of price-sensitive buyers. A slew of new jewelry websites like Stone & Strand are trying to change that, but only time will tell if they’re successful.
Thank you Victoria! I am honored to have on the blog.