The diamond business is a lot of fun. Yes, it has its challenges – like the last two years, for example – but it gives each of us a chance to be a part of something rare and beautiful. And it’s a pretty cool world that we get to occupy in this business.
I’ve had the honor and privilege of knowing many of the great diamantaires of our time, even working with and for several of them.
On my very first day of work for perhaps the greatest of them all (sorry I can’t use his name, but those who know me know who he is), we took a call at the office from a jeweler with a storefront down the block on 47th Street. He had a customer in his store from Southeast Asia who was interested in a 25 carat D-FL, any shape. The answer was, no we don’t have a 25 carat D-FL, but we do have an 86 carat D-FL radiant for $100,000 per carat, or $8.6 million net. The 47th Street jeweler said to send it over.
My boss handed the diamond to me and said, “Put this in your sock and take it down to so-and-so on 47th.”
“Come on! It’s only my first day,” I balked.
But I did as instructed, and as I walked down the block I would occasionally give my calf a little kick with the other foot, just to make sure that the stone was still in my sock. When I got to the store, I rolled up my trouser leg, pulled down my sock, and had the guy sign the memo. All good. When I got back to the office my boss said, “It’s Friday afternoon; let’s call it a week and make Shabbos”.
On Sunday evening, he called me at home and said, “Guess what? You sold the stone! Congratulations!”
“I didn’t sell the stone; I put it in my sock and walked it down the street. Nothing more,” I said.
His response: “That’s all we do here. It’s that simple!”
He had a penchant for understatement.
Yes, at times it could be that simple, as it was about two weeks later when I was in Hong Kong showing some goods to a very elegant customer from the Philippines. She was a soft-spoken woman in her 70s whom my usually laconic boss called “a killer” when describing her negotiating skills.
There I was with about $1 million in jewels on the table. A million dollars! I was excited and prepared to do battle and make the big sale. And what did she say to me? “One-million in goods? That’s it?” And as she patted my arm she said, “It’s okay; you’re new. I’ll take it all.” That was it. No negotiation. A million-dollar sale! And she bought us dinner too! Yes, it could be that simple.
There was a lot that I learned from that great man, the famous diamantaire: Keeping things simple and treating people with respect – he would say to be nice – are not incompatible with being successful in business. We might live in a complex world, we might work in a complicated industry, but it can be that simple.
He also taught me that I must never stop learning. And on that note, I recommend to you a fantastic documentary called Dealers Among Dealers, co-produced by my good friend Harvey Lieberman. Dealers tells the story of the diamond business as it was in New York City about 20 years ago. It’s a must-see movie for anyone in our industry.