Rapaport Magazine

Bigger is Better

Diamonds in the 4-carat to 6-carat range are top sellers at Cathy Eastham Fine Jewelry in Midland, Texas.

By Joyce Kauf
Ray Griffiths
“I’m very passionate about making people happy — that’s why I sell beautiful jewelry,” says Cathy Eastham, explaining the cornerstone of her retail philosophy. The owner of Cathy Eastham Fine Jewelry in Midland, Texas, she admits, “I get just as excited knowing a woman is getting a piece she will love as if I were getting it as a present myself.”
   Eastham is extremely proud of being a first-generation woman jeweler who built a successful retail business from the ground up. A stay-at-home mom in Clovis, New Mexico, she would go on buying trips in the Southwest with her mother Katheryn, who owned a giftware business. “Friends would always ask me to get jewelry for them,” she recalls. Eventually she decided to go out on her own in 1981, cashing in a $5,000 insurance policy as seed money to buy gold chains and gold beads. Bringing a good friend along to help carry the cases, she began selling at trade shows, while taking classes offered by the Gemological Institute of America (GIA).
   In 1998, Eastham moved to Midland, where she already had an existing client base, opening a leased department in a clothing store. “The store took a percentage of my sales, which sometimes was significant. I realized I needed to be in my own business,” says Eastham, who opened a store two doors down in the prestigious Plaza Oaks shopping center.

Big and Bold
   Located in West Texas, Midland is between Fort Worth and El Paso. Although the city’s once prosperous oil-based economy is experiencing a downturn, Eastham explains that her store is still a destination for people with disposable income, who are primarily 55 years and older. “People know immediately if they can afford to shop here. I’m known for big, bold pieces. We don’t sell 1-carat diamonds; larger stones — 4 carats to 6 carats — are our bread-and-butter. I’ve also sold several larger pieces, 10, 15 and 20 carats,” she points out, citing an extremely strong second-ring business. Known for her discretion, Eastham deliberately selected a store that offers customers the privacy of entering and leaving without being noticed.
   “I started my business buying jewelry that women will buy for themselves and graduated into diamonds and colored gemstones,” says Eastham. After rings, the store’s best sellers are bracelets and necklaces, especially in diamonds. “Traditional” colored stones like emeralds and sapphires are not as popular as rubellites and tourmalines. Norman Silverman, William Levine and Kwiat rank as the top diamond jewelry designers for fashion and bridal, although Eastham points out that bridal is secondary to her business. She also identifies Armenta, Cynthia Ann, Gurhan, Ippolita, JudeFrances and Doves as popular designers. “I absolutely adore selling Ray Griffiths’ one-of-a-kind jewelry that my customers love,” she adds. Eastham merchandises primarily by designer and then by category.
   Ensuring that the jewelry is a fit for her business tops Eastham’s criteria for selecting designers, followed by establishing a strong partnership. “There are some designers whose work I always admire, but I have to be honest with them that sometimes their pieces are too small,” she notes. While big sells, Eastham acknowledges that younger customers — many of them the children of existing customers — have “guided” her in the selection of “smaller” pieces, which she qualifies as “not too small.” Always focused on serving her clientele, Eastham keeps an eye out on the jewelry that customers wear when they are shopping. “If I like it, I’ll make an appointment with that designer,” she says.

Candy and Flowers
   A combination of contemporary and traditional, the 1,700-square-foot store is blooming with fresh flowers that sit on top of an antique desk and grace the custom museum-style display cases. Creating a comfortable ambience that is “like home” is extremely important to Eastham. Customers can relax and enjoy chocolates and caramels in sitting areas with tables that are perfect for holding trays of jewelry or glasses of Champagne.

Community Spirit
   Eastham still goes out on the road to promote her store. For the past 20 years, she has held six shows each summer at Ruidoso Downs Race Track in the mountains of New Mexico. But her ties to Midland are extremely strong and giving back to her community is a “privilege” for Eastham. “If I have a store full of jewelry,” she explains, “why can’t I share a piece with an organization to help them?” She donates to 40 different nonprofit organizations, many of which focus on children, the elderly and medical research. Selecting the donation is a collaborative effort among the staff. ‘We choose about five pieces and then decide which the organization can benefit from most,” Eastham explains. And with a nod to karma, Eastham recalls how she “rescued” a charity with a diamond ring. In gratitude, the committee chair’s husband purchased 5-carat diamond earrings.
   Just as she likes nice things, Eastham is adamant that jewelry be worn and not kept locked in a safe. “I love it when they mix diamonds and denim — jewelry is to be enjoyed both day and night.”

Article from the Rapaport Magazine - June 2016. To subscribe click here.

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