Full Circle: Olufson Designs

Olufson Designs is family owned and operated in Corvallis, Oregon since 1999 and home to custom-made jewelry in 14K and 18K gold and platinum. While the store offers an extensive selection of diamonds and fine quality gemstones, their passion lies in fine natural colored gems, and their staff holds the knowledge and resources to find customers their perfect gemstones.

Owners Elisa and Sean Olufson discovered their love for jewelry in high school when they took an elective jewelry class. Since then, they’ve opened their own store that includes a large workshop with cutting edge technology including laser welding, wax milling and growing, platinum casting, and state-of-the-art wax injection, allowing them to do all design and repair work in-house.

This month, we got in touch with Elisa, co-owner of Olufson Designs, to discuss their purchasing standards, special events and visual merchandising, the importance of new technology and continuing education for the jewelry industry and more. See what she had to say:

What is your background in the jewelry industry, and how did you get your start?
Sean and I, the two owners, were lucky enough to have a jewelry class offered as an elective at our high school.  Sean went on to apprentice at a local custom jewelry store after graduation and I earned a bachelor’s degree in Earth Science/Geology.  I joke with customers that I still get to play with rocks but I can do it in heels if I want to.  We took the leap and opened our own store in 1999.

How would you describe your store using only three words?
Colorful. Comfortable. Custom.

The designs you carry are very unique. Can you give us a glimpse into your process when purchasing pieces to include in your store collection and your decision-making strategies?
When we are looking for designers and jewelry to put into the store we look for well-made pieces that are consistent with our own custom design quality.  We focus on designers that are current on their knowledge of gem treatments and disclose those treatments in writing.  We also focus on Northwest designers like Columbia Gem House, William Henry and Toby Pomeroy.  A number of years ago we bought out a competitor in our town that had been in business since the early 1970s.  We have incorporated many of their early asymmetrical, yellow gold, styles and do very well with them because they are unusual and different than today’s jewelry.

Are there any particular stones, colors, or styles that you are partial to and prefer to carry more of in the store?
Beautiful color in classic styles.  We are in a small Oregon city so bold, edgy fashion jewelry is not always a great seller in our town.

We noticed your impressive visual merchandising efforts, such as the holiday and birthday window displays and the holiday store decorations. What are some other things you do to make customers’ visits more memorable? Do you hold any special events?
We hold an invitation-only Gem Night every year.  We invite a loose gemstone dealer to come in and present to our selected clients.  We provide a dinner and showing of the gems with special pricing for that night.  Our top clients love this exclusive invitation each year.  It cultivates collectors of fine gems and plenty of custom designs for our shop.

Your workshop has a lot of cutting edge technology. Why is this so important and how has this helped you stay ahead in the jewelry retail business?
Staying current on new techniques and technologies has given us a competitive advantage.  Our store was one of the first in the northwest to purchase and use a laser welder for repairs.  This was a very big purchase for our new 2-employee store but it gave us an edge over competitors in that we could do repairs faster and cheaper.  We soon added CAD and milling technologies.  An important aspect of our business is custom made jewelry and quality repairs.  All are done in-house.  Technology helps us make customer dreams a reality.  Our newest piece of technology is the GemmoRaman spectrometer.  It is a welcome addition to our certified gem lab. 

You’ve stated that continuing education is very important at your store. How do you continue to ensure that your staff is educated about market changes, gem treatment, and jewelry quality?
As American Gem Society and AGTA members we want to make sure we are giving our customers the best and most honest information we can so they can make confident and informed decisions about their gem and jewelry purchases.  We attend many educational conferences throughout the year and stay connected with our suppliers to know what is going on in the supply chains. Our staff is encouraged to read articles in trade magazines and journals to stay on top of current events.

What are you most excited about for JCK Tucson 2019?
I love the venue of this show with the great views and comfortable hotel.  My feet also love the smaller size of this show!

What was one of your most memorable moments at a JCK show?
That one time I got to hold a 50ct, D, IF diamond in the palm of my hand.  It was early in my jewelry career. I still get goose bumps when I think about it!

What types of pieces/collections will you be looking out for in Tucson?
I always look for something I’ve never seen before.  Last year I added a few trapiche quartzes and designer Baiyang Qiu’s wire jewelry.  A number of our customers come in after the major shows to see what is new and exciting.  I love to have something to wow them with.

Learn more about Olufson Designs here.

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