Rapaport Magazine
Retail

Simple pleasures


Elizabeth Gibson, owner of Eliza Page in Austin, Texas, focuses on minimalist, everyday styles and the creations of local artisans.

By Joyce Kauf


Ask Elizabeth Gibson about the state of independent jewelry retail, and her response is unequivocal: “Honestly, it’s exciting.” As the owner of Eliza Page, she has successfully carved out a niche for her own jewelry and curated collections of minimalist, handcrafted and sustainable designs. In November, the store in Austin, Texas, celebrated its 15th anniversary.

“I really felt there was a need for a unique, independent jewelry store that focused on high-quality jewelry created by local artisans,” explains Gibson, a former marketer with experience working at start-ups. Encouraged by Austin’s “entrepreneurial” spirit, this Dallas native saw an opportunity amid the city’s jewelry lovers, who were looking for pieces they could wear every day in keeping with their casual lifestyle.

“People in Austin have a strong appreciation for design coupled with an individual sense of style. The city is more like Los Angeles or New York rather than Houston or Dallas in the fashion sense,” she elaborates.

Located in the city’s thriving downtown district, the store is a destination stop for both locals and tourists. Gibson describes the gallery-like space as “open, inviting and not intimidating to customers.” But she is also quick to recognize other retailers in the area who “thankfully send us their customers who are looking for minimalist designs.”

Lifetime commitment

Gibson acknowledges that she has had to respond to an evolving customer base over the years. When she first opened her store in 2004, fashion jewelry accounted for most of her sales. In contrast, engagement, wedding and ceremony rings dominate sales now; 10% of her work is custom.

“The majority of our customers are looking for more heirloom — lifetime — jewelry, and we have adapted to accommodate their demands. Jewelry is a multigenerational product that is passed down or recycled.” It’s a concept that aligns with Gibson’s design directive for sustainable and ethically produced jewelry.

She only selects designers who share both her design philosophy and the desire to establish long-term relationships. “We love working with Austin- and [other] Texas-based designers for our brand. It is really important for us to continue to develop these relationships, but at the same time, we’re always looking to fill a product void.”

As a result, Gibson has expanded her geographic base to include national and international designers. While she travels to trade shows and welcomes suggestions from her customers, it’s the “social media-Instagram rabbit hole that’s really fun for discovering new collections and designers.”

As a designer, Gibson sees “jewelry in shapes everywhere. I design for wearability and simplicity, and focus on timeless, everyday styles. I’m inspired by architecture, ironwork, graphic design and ornamental design elements used within.”

‘Yellow gold is king’

Stacking rings are the strongest-selling category, in 14-karat yellow gold with diamonds. The average bridal center diamond ranges from 1 to 1.50 carats. “In 2019, we sold a lot of salt-and-pepper and black diamonds, in 2 carats to 3 carats and even higher. It was fun to bring in champagne diamonds set in rose gold and let our customers decide what they liked,” Gibson says. In settings, “yellow gold is king,” she adds. “We barely ever sell white gold.”

The Eliza Page collection is the top seller, followed by Shaesby and Jen Leddy, both Austin-based designers. Gibson’s other strong sellers include New York-based Dilamani Designs, Anna Sheffield and Adel Chefridi. There are also Zoe Chicco in Los Angeles, California, and Jamie Joseph out of Seattle, Washington, as well as more Texans: Liza Beth Jewelry (Austin), ILA (Houston) and Megan Thorne (Fort Worth).

Describing herself as a lifelong learner, Gibson believes a business owner must always be open to new opportunities, especially in a challenging retail environment marked by a “constant struggle to maintain margins.”

“I hear all the time that business is grim, but the nature of the business is that you have to adapt,” she asserts. “Jewelry retail is a special category that touches so many people — all ages and shapes and sizes. We as retailers are so lucky that we have a product that customers want to come in and touch and try on.” It’s an old industry, but young in so many ways, she adds. “There is so much opportunity in independent retail. I’m glad to be a part of it.”


Remaking memories A big proponent of sustainable designs, Elizabeth Gibson thinks it’s “fantastic” when a customer wants to repurpose a piece of jewelry, especially if it is an heirloom piece that gets a new life with an updated look.

She recalls one remake she did for a customer in her 40s who brought several diamond cross necklaces she had received as childhood gifts.

“She was attached to the jewelry, but she wanted something simple and modern that better reflected her taste and lifestyle,” Gibson says.

Taking into account the customer’s preference for classic, stacking jewelry that could be worn and layered every day, Gibson set the diamonds in two gold cuffs, each with a different design. One cuff featured a line of scattered diamonds flush-set in 14-karat yellow gold. The second was thinner and in 14-karat rose gold. It was forged and finished with a hammered texture and bezel-set accent diamonds at each end.

The biggest challenge in creating the new design was not the process itself, according to Gibson; it was overcoming the customer’s emotional connection to the original piece.

“There is always that feeling even when the customer loves the new jewelry,” she observes. “While the customer wanted something different and knew that the diamonds would be part of the new pieces, it was still hard for her to part with the stones as they were originally. They held treasured memories, and sometimes that is hard to overcome.”

Image: Eliza Page

Article from the Rapaport Magazine - March 2020. To subscribe click here.

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