Guy Ballard talks about his Antwerp Belgium Diamond Buying trip leaving October 12th to hand pick diamonds for clients and for the store. The Antwerp Diamond Buying trip is your best chance to get top value: the largest diamond at the most competitive price!
Guy: Yeah, Business Growth Innovators’s pretty near and dear to our family. My wife, we went to high school together, just had a couple of classes, graduated, five years, no contact at all. And I was in a Business Growth Innovators chapter up in Glendale when we had a store in Glendale.
I went to a business mixer and there she was. The rest was history.
Man: That’s awesome.
Woman: There she was. She’s got a big diamond?
Guy: She’s got a big diamond now.
Woman: Like I said, now.
Guy: I’m Guy Ballard, Ballard & Ballard Jewelers.
We have a beautiful showroom, Brookhurst and Ellis. Full-service jeweler. I started 28 years ago, right out of high school. Went and started at the jewelry bench, right there at the bottom: sizing rings, doing chain repairs, kind of learning the craft.
And it was pretty much a trial-and-error to where my dad said, “Okay, we’ve got a store down in Orange County. Go live with Glenn for two and a half years.” At the time, he was single, I was single.
So he kind of took me into the wing. Glenn actually learned from an old craftsman in the same way, kind of an apprenticeship. So my dad said to Glenn, “Well, have Guy live with you for a year and see what he’s got.” Went through six months and did all kinds of projects. Actually my very first project was at the age of 13. I cut my mom’s name out of a gold plate and gave it to her for Mother’s Day. So that was 13.
Downtown L.A. in the jewelry shop, one of the jewelers that was working for us pulled me into the shop and said, “Hey Guy, come here.” Sit down and I’m cutting my mom’s name out of the gold plate. Went through about probably 50 saw blades, but that’s how you learn. That’s how you learn.
One of the other big projects I did, I’m not wearing it now, but I made myself a chain that consisted of about 700 to 800 little, tiny loops. And I actually sat down and started from scratch, melted the gold down, pulled the gold into thin wire, wrapped it around, made about 700 to 800 little, tiny rings. Assembled this chain and put the rings together, and you gold solder it. That’s how you learn how to use the jeweler’s torch. I probably melted probably about a hundred rings. By the end of the project, I knew how to solder jump rings. So that was just one of the many projects that I did.
Fast-forward to today, we’ve got a full jewelry shop, we’ve got a full jewelry showroom. In the shop, we do all kinds of jewelry repairs as well. Obviously, yes, you have new jewelry, but you’ve got to maintain your jewelry as well. So bring it on in to us anytime, no appointment necessary. We’ll check it, clean it, and kind of give it a clean bill of health. If there’s repairs to be made, we’ll go ahead and take it on in.
Our repair take-in process is pretty extensive. We see what’s wrong with it. We give you options for the repairs. Usually there’s the best way, and there’s an economical way of doing it. So we’ll kind of lay the menu out for you, and let you choose how you want to repair your jewelry.
Once you decide, then we go ahead and put it all in the computer. I’ve got a digital camera system, where we take detailed pictures of all the jewelry that we take in, so we can identify it in the shop. It protects us. It protects the client. So that’s kind of been the probably the past five years, really kind of homed in on the repair take-in.
Also, what’s been important with take-in is, we’ve all heard the horror stories, we’ve all heard the TV stories, “This jeweler took my diamond ring in, and this jeweler switched out my diamond for a fake one,” or whatever it may be. Doesn’t happen as much as the public, I think thinks it does, but it only takes one person to really screw it up for our industry. So we’ve been really proactive.
I’ve got another camera that actually magnifies your diamond. So when you’re leaving your piece of jewelry or your family’s piece of jewelry with us, we go ahead and blow up that center diamond on a 42-inch TV screen. We blow it all up so everybody can see what’s inside that crystal. It’s a birthmark. It’s a fingerprint. We take a picture of it. We go ahead, they leave the piece with us. When they come to pick the piece up, we want to make sure everything matches up. I take the piece we just repaired. I take the photograph that we took on the computer and we make sure it matches 100%. I want to have everybody leaving the showroom 100% satisfied, 100% certain that is their piece of jewelry.
We do not want to have anybody thinking, “Well, maybe they didn’t, maybe they did.” So I want to be 100%. So we’re really proactive about letting people know what they’re dropping off with us. So that’s jewelry repairs, all kinds of jewelry repairs. From $10, just simply soldering chains together, to maybe a couple thousand dollars for an extensive rebuild. We do it all. We do it all in house, by the way.
Then what we do is design jewelry. That’s one thing that Glenn and I really love doing. Just this past year, we’ve really kind of beefed up our design studio. We’ve got a beautiful, little design room, and we’re going everything on computer CAD/CAM modeling now. To where I can twist and turn anything on a computer screen and let them see it before we go to production. Glenn used to do colored pencil sketches just to show people what it looked like. Now, it’s right there, real-time, on the computer screen. It’s phenomenal.
I think last night, I was putting some photos on Instagram, and I went ahead and made the caption of “New-school technology meets old-school skills equals the perfect jeweler for you.” And what that means is, I’ve got my skills that I learned years and years ago, which will still be in use for hundreds of years, but also we’ve stepped up to the latest technology. Got the laser welder. We’re actually doing laser repair and construction by laser beam nowadays. It’s great. We’ve got a computer engraver. We can engrave on just about anything.
So we’re going old-school and new-school, combining them, for designs, repairs, whatever you may want. We also do appraisals. We do appraisals for insurance purposes only. If you’re looking to sell something and you need an appraisal, I do have a referral to another appraiser that can supply you with the paperwork to help you sell it.
So in a nutshell, we’re a fourth-generation, 98-year-old company, using new technology, old-world skills, to really help everybody that you refer to us.
Any questions? Jim.
Jim: Two questions. One, you had a bicycle chain link. Did you design that? I think Dennis had one of those.
Guy: Dennis had one. Don had one. Years ago, we had a gentleman come in with just a steel chain on his wrist. It’s like a bicycle chain. And he said, “I’ve been to about five different places. No one can make this for me.” I was, “Heck, we’ll do it.”
So in a bicycle chain, there’s all kinds of different components and parts. So we designed it, made molds on those parts, and we put it together just like a bicycle chain. Takes about 10 hours to make one bracelet.
Jim: Yours are gold?
Guy: Yeah. Now when gold shot up, we saw obviously a decline in those gold bracelets, but we’re still selling silver. We do it in silver, gold and platinum, but we’re doing it more in platinum. We’re still making them. Just not as much as we used to. That was a fun project.
Jim: The other question is, I think it was your last shop, a third floor walk-up, what was the marketing approach? That was a very successful shop, not easily something you just see on the street.
Guy: That is something. We used to be upstairs on the third floor of a medical building. Never would have even know we’re there unless you found out about us through certain associations or newsletters or company newsletters, as well. Years ago, going back probably 25 to 30 years, my dad ran with the marketing model of being a “membership” jeweler. Everybody remembers Gemco, Fedco, Service Merchandise? Back then Price Club, now Cosco was popping up in California.
So you ran with the membership. And it worked very well for us. We were upstairs in the third floor of a medical building, doing well. Glenn and I bought the business from our father in 1995, and we looked at each other and said, “Let’s get the hell out of this medical building. What are we doing here?” So that’s where in 1995, we got down to the street level. He ran with that marketing plan being a membership place.