According to sisters Maria Benavides and Irina Ferry, the success of SOHO GEM—a fine yet modern jewelry store in downtown New York City with an emphasis on gemstones—is credited to their dynamic partnership. The sisters’ heritage is deep rooted in fine art, antiques and jewelry, and they quickly learned the family business alongside their parents, collecting, buying and selling unique pieces. It is the synergy of their passions, talents, business senses and visions that has established the store as a New York jewelry landmark for many years.
We got the inside scoop from Irina Ferry on how they keep up with market changes, their purchasing decisions, some business advice and more.
How would you describe your store using only three words?
Intimate, knowledgeable, friendly
How has the store evolved since its opening in 1998?
We have since created an online presence as have most jewelers. More importantly we own mines in Madagascar and source many of our gemstones directly, mine-to-market. This makes us a unique retailer. We also provide a value added approach to the people of Madagascar with our local cutting facility.
Have you noticed a shift in consumer preferences since the opening?
Absolutely. Customers used to “shop” in SoHo, now they “google” and then come in. We have become a destination store.
How do you keep up with modern market trends and changes?
Exactly that…changes. You have to always look to improve and grow. If you are not changing you are gone. We have had many successful developments and some not so successful. Either way you’ve always got to try!
SOHO GEM offers a wide variety of jewelry, from delicate and feminine to bold and colorful. How would you describe your target audience?
We target millennials for bridal and professionals for the other jewelry we have in our store.
What do you look for when purchasing jewelry for your store?
Something new, unique but in sync with what we carry. It should be delicate and fine or if it’s bold – it still needs to have an air of delicacy and elegance.
Are there any particular stones, colors, or styles that you are partial to and prefer to carry more of in the store?
We love sapphires and emeralds and as far as semi-precious we have been working a lot with Demantoid and Malaya garnet.
What makes SOHO GEM unique to other jewelry stores?
Mine-to-market – we actually own the mines and are completely vertically integrated. Most store owners just visit mines and then call themselves mine-to-market.
What is one piece of advice you would give someone who is just starting out in the jewelry industry, or even for someone starting a business in a big and competitive city like New York?
Nothing comes easy or quickly. Be prepared to work long and hard and always educate yourself on what’s new, whether it’s related to the industry or accounting. It all helps in the end.
What are you most looking forward to at JCK Tucson 2019?
To find something new and exciting!