Tom Shane's World

Bangkok at the end of the rainy season

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As Labor Day weekend took place in the US, here in Bangkok it was just another weekend.  Not that the Thais don’t have plenty of holidays, but not last weekend.  I spent 3 days last week buying sapphires, and will repeat that for each of the next two weeks.  It is really hard to find nice stones, given the slowdown in the jewelry market worldwide.  There is less being mined, and the cutters would rather hold the rough (un-cut) stones in their safes than add a lot of labor costs and produce them cut and polished (the way we typically buy them), until the worldwide market conditions improve.  So there is not a lot of inventory for me to select from.  I won’t lower our quality standards, which means certain sizes or shapes of sapphires will be in less supply in our stores for a month or six weeks, until I return here.  I would rather be proud of what I do buy than worry about completing my list, and winding up with product that is not perfect.

It is raining here many afternoons, which means it is too dark to properly judge the colors of the sapphires, so I can’t buy for a few hours each day.  This is so frustrating.  It is not a problem with the yellow or orange sapphires, but it is brutal for the greens, lavenders, and all shades of blue.  When there is no good light, the mistake I could make is not what I buy that is wrong, but what I reject that looks to be off color, in lousy light, but in fact is perfect!  As there is so little really great product on the market at best, the last thing I need to do is be rejecting beautiful stones for the wrong reason.  So I spend my downtime getting caught up on my emails, etc.  But it is so frustrating!

I have also been in our jewelry manufacturing center, where we produce some of our unique product.  This is an hour away from the stone center of town, where I buy the rubies and sapphires.  Traffic is so bad anyhow, the worst in the world.  But most of the things in Bangkok are fantastic, it is a great city to visit or live in, so I accept the traffic issues.

We have lots of new bridal sets (engagement rings with matching wedding bands, and a man’s band that compliments her set) being produced.  I actually did some of the jewelry designs myself.  Usually I let our jewelry buyers design the products for their respective areas of product responsibility; but sometimes I love to jump in and do it hands-on.  That does beg one question that I must ask my readers … Should we identify in our stores those rings that I designed, or should we let them just blend into the rest of the inventory?

In two weeks, I will leave Bangkok and go to the jewelry show in Hong Kong.  I have half a dozen of our jewelry buyers and merchandisers that will be flying in from America and meeting me there.  The shows are a great way for me to let these ladies know the overall look and feel that I want them to buy, which new trends to pick up on and which to avoid, and it is an excuse to set a cohesive image for these merchants.

This weekend is the first birthday of our head sapphire buyer’s son.  I think I busted his bubble when I explained that the party is for the parents, not the child.  The second year is primarily also for parents, but he must wait until the third birthday to get any enjoyment of the understanding that it is the anniversary of his birth that we are all celebrating.  Anyhow, at least my friend respects me as a father, even more than as a businessman.  And his kid is cute, so it will be fun for all.

Tom Shane is the owner of Shane Co., the largest family-owned retail jeweler in the United States. For four decades Tom has traveled the globe buying gemstones, including diamonds, rubies, sapphires, and pearls directly from the gem cutters for Shane Co. He is the third of four generations of the Shane family to work in the jewelry business. Tom started learning the jewelry business at his father's side at age 12, assisting his father in his store. Tom opened his own jewelry business in 1971, establishing Shane Co. He was 22 years old at the time. In 1996 Tom was knighted into the order of Leopold II in the Kingdom of Belgium in recognition of his lifelong achievement in the diamond business. Tom currently resides in Colorado, but spends a great deal of his time abroad purchasing gemstones for Shane Co. You might know his voice from the Shane Co. radio ads which are the longest running radio ad campaign in history, or you might have caught him at a party with other Colorado celebrities in an episode of South Park.

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