After working for a diamond company for many years in the Midwest, I moved to California. I drove for days, and arrived in Orange County. While unloading my belongings, I saw a beautiful, dark-skinned girl with long hair. She said her name was Carmen. After some small talk we made our first date. The next twenty-three years would be filled with adventure.
I earned the title of gemologist from GIA, then soon learned how to negotiate prices on jewelry and diamonds. I dreamed of a store where people could own quality jewelry at below normal retail prices. I soon fell in love with Carmen and asked her to be my partner. The economy was poor. Success was uncertain. In exchange for her help, I vowed to pay Carmen with diamonds.
In 1991, with little funds and inventory, Gallery of Diamonds was born. Carmen and I married shortly afterward. Carmen studied diamonds and gemstone sorting. The small boutique began its search for vintage jewelry while also creating innovative pieces. Today, Gallery of Diamonds offers a large array of jewelry from antique to modern, at 20-40% below normal retail prices.
We know each of you by name. For the past twenty-three years, your happiness has been our happiness. Whether we were there when you picked out your first diamond engagement ring, or when we helped you select your fortieth anniversary necklace, you have been a big part of our lives.
I continue to give Carmen diamonds.
Happy Anniversary, Carmen! July 23, 1993.
As I type these words from my electronic device, I realize that this same instrument has stifled my life to the confines of my garden chair. Our bodies are agile and are designed for motion. How many butterflies have I missed that fluttered by me today? Did I ignore a child who tugged on my arm to play?
Nowadays, we try to escape human interaction by burying our heads into these square illuminated screens. Do we really need a device beside our plate for the latest message as we eat our family dinner? Our kids will grow up to get a great job. But what if they never learned basic human skills, like how to offer a firm handshake or give a confident smile to their prospective employer?
I love technology, but we must know we are the masters of technology, not slaves to it. One of these days I will become too immobile to escape this chair. As I stare into this device, I can become lost in an ocean of numbers, pixels and photons. Life, on the other hand, lies on that blurry border beyond the screen.
It is funny I never had the burning desire to be a diamond broker until I was hired at the Shane Diamond company in Louisville, Kentucky. I just received my degree from Indiana University and was ready for the world. None of my college classes taught anything notable about this miracle gem that was created by intense heat and pressure, nor the happy memories they created when given and received.
To this day, I still ask myself if I needed that degree. Most of the other co-workers did not have a college education. Although it looked impressive on my resume, maybe it was my firm handshake that landed me the job.
After two years of college, it became embarrassing to tell my family or friends that I didn’t have a major. What would my diploma say, Successful Completion of Electives? By the third year I crammed economics, accounting, law and marketing. My diploma reads Bachelor of Science in Business. Indiana University in New Albany did not offer a degree for neither aspiring rock stars or jewelry store owners.
After the first week in the jewelry business my passion soared. I was actually making money for helping others purchase a symbol that would bring joy for the rest of their lives. I gobbled up books on gemology and sales techniques, and worked my way from vacuuming the carpet to managing a division in Kansas. I was still not convinced my now dusty diploma brought me there.
I was good at something. Giving guitar instruction, writing jingles, and performing in local bands never paid the bills. Even today, many artists perform for free, and not everyone will pay money for a music download. On the other hand, whether it be for pride in ownership, to express affection, or to symbolize a loving commitment, a person may invest tens of thousands of dollars on a precious object of beauty.
I moved to work at a California jewelry store in 1989. In front of a customer, I asked my new boss for expert advice on an engagement ring I was presenting. I had embarrassed him, for he later said he knew nothing about diamonds, and the business had simply been passed to him from his parents! He owned a chain of several jewelry stores and a black jaguar but had never looked at a diamond!
That was the motivation I needed to launch Gallery of Diamonds. I did not possess real estate, jewelry inventory, or the million dollars I felt was a comfortable amount to launch a jewelry store. I did have confidence, knowledge, and the determination to succeed.
Every successful person, I believe, has a glowing ember that encourages them to accomplish amazing things. Thank you, mom, for being that ember. The words “impossible” and “failure” have never been in my consciousness, and have always therefore been unattainable. Thank you, Carmen, my first love upon arriving to California. You have been my spark if a doubt ever entered my mind. Thank you to everyone who has ever worked for me. You have all been so faithful and instrumental in creating a place where thousands of families now visit every year.
I still glance at my diploma that hangs on a wall at Gallery of Diamonds. I also still wonder if I simply created my reality from that firm handshake, and by keeping wonderful and positive thoughts in my brain. It is notable that one great idea usually leads to another, and it is difficult to speak of Gallery of Diamonds without mentioning the Why Mom Deserves a Diamond contest. Dreams with good intentions and persistence always create great things.
“That’ll be $4.99,” the cashier said as he slid the cans of Big Red soda to the grocery bagger. “What flavor is that stuff, anyways? Cherry? Strawberry?”
“I don’t know,” I answered, “but I haven’t drank one in twelve years. It’s hard to find Big Red in this part of the country, but I sure loved it as a kid.”
“Whoops!” the female bagger shouted. “Slipped right out of my hands.” The thin cardboard container split and three cans fell on the hard floor. One can squirted red foam while spinning like a top. The fumes of the fragrance spewed everywhere.
“Yep, I think its cherry flavored,” the cashier confirmed.
“That is so awesome!” I couldn’t help experiencing the scientific beauty of the carbonation acting as a nuclear fuel to perpetually spin the can. The red, slippery liquid splayed a bright pool of pink on the cement. One can was lost, but there were still eleven left. I was already dreaming of pouring one over a tall glass of ice as soon as I got home.
“I’ll mop it up,” the bagger said. “Victor, can you run back and get this customer another box of Big Red?”
“Don’t worry,” I said. “How ’bout just deducting the cost of one can and we can call it even?”
“No problem,” the cashier said. “We can’t sell these bent cans to you. Watch your step and don’t slip.”
“Give me a towel,” I said. “I don’t mind helping.”
“Don’t worry, sir,” Victor already returned with a fresh box of sodas. “Thank you for shopping Friendly Pete’s. Have a nice evening.”