Bejeweled Emporium is an online Etsy business owned by Andrea. It is a successful business full of a large variety of stunning, beautiful, and wonderful vintage jewelry.
Margie: Andrea, how and why did you get started an online business?
Andrea: In June of 2000, my second oldest son was born very premature (15 weeks early!). Knowing that he had a long, expensive road to recovery, after his hospital stay, I began experimenting with online auctions as a way to supplement our family’s income.
I started out with a box of old costume jewelry that my grandmother had given me. Even though I had absolutely NO idea what I was doing, the bids started rolling in. Once I started receiving positive feedback, I became a little more confident and it didn’t take long for me to realize that this was something I was good at.
For the next several years I sold anything that was worth selling and about 60% of my sales were consignment sales for other people. Cars, collectibles, telescopes, campers, antiques, everyday household items, you name it, I’ve sold it!
Margie: So, how did you settle on vintage jewelry?
Andrea: It was in 2004 that I discovered the online auction that would take my business down the bejeweled path.
A man from Pennsylvania had inherited his parent’s estate. His father had been a (mostly) costume jewelry assembler and supplier for various stores like Woolworth’s in the 40s, 50s, 60s, and 70s and what was left from his business was a massive horde that had been sitting in the garage rafters for 30 years. The seller considered this stuff to be junk! After a bit of negotiation and a long discussion about how we’d get this purchase across the US, the seller drove the entire truckload right to my door.
It took years to sell everything from this lot and even though my beginning was definitely a blessing, I would have to say that this purchase was the biggest game changer. It gave me the opportunity to turn my business from a mostly consignment based business into my own personal empire and the process of sorting, organizing and researching taught me all about jewelry as a whole!
Oh, and that 1 pound, 10 ounce preemie baby – he will be graduating from high school this May!
Margie: What a wonderful story with lots of happy beginnings! What pathways led you to open Bejeweled Emporium on Etsy?
Margie: What is currently your favorite piece of jewelry in Bejeweled Emporium?
Andrea: That’s a hard one! I love all of the items in Bejeweled Emporium LOL. I buy what I love. If I had to choose, I’d be torn between two.
One is a turquoise set by Navajo Fred Guerro. I love everything about this set. The color and cut of the turquoise stones. The overall design. The way each piece fits. It’s an attention grabber.
The other is this gorgeous cuff bracelet by Navajo Leroy Thomas. I love the color combination and love how captivating it is. I also like how Leroy stamps designs on the insides of his bracelets – it’s like having a little secret that only you can see.
Margie: What other things would like us to know about you and/or Bejeweled Emporium?
Andrea: I’m a one-woman show. I’m the procurer, organizer, researcher, photographer, lister, packager, shipper and customer service provider all in one. My shop really is a business for me and not just a hobby. As do most of the vintage sellers I know, I wear many hats and I try to wear them all well while balancing my family life. I would say one of the biggest challenges in having a home business is finding that delicate balance between mom/wife and business owner.
Margie: Have you ever found any surprises after you bought something for Bejeweled Emporium?
Andrea: I’ve found a lot of surprises over the years.
One of my favorite finds is in reference to that huge jewelry lot that I purchased in 2004. As I said, the seller considered this lot to be junk and what he had taken photos of was just the surface of four or five of the nearly 100 boxes! I knew I was getting a lot of unfinished jewelry parts and pieces but the reality was, either the seller nor I knew what the lot contained as a whole.
I discovered so many interesting and surprising things – cards that contained the instructions/illustrations on how to assemble many of the jewelry pieces. There were boxes upon boxes of new/old glass rhinestones, crystals, and beads of every color, shape, and size, all in their original packaging, beautiful settings, chains, and findings of all kinds. All of his original assembly tools were in their little plastic cases and he even packed away the books that recorded his costs and pricing. But the most rewarding find, by far were the hundreds of finished brooches from the 50s and 60s in mint condition. How all of that stuff stayed so gorgeous when being stored in a garage in regular cardboard boxes, I will never know!
Andrea: The second surprise is actually quite funny. At a church white elephant sale, I bought a small lot of jewelry. Among the lot was this really strange looking brooch. It had a filigree brass back and the gaudiest plastic button on the front. Turns out it was not your average brooch! It was a gold coin condom that someone had decorated. I always wondered who within the congregation donated that thing and whether or not they knew what it really was. Did they ever actually wear it to church? I guess I will never know.
Margie: Oh, mine, that was really a surprise! LOL!
When you look for an item for Bejeweled Emporium, what are you looking for and where do you look? Where do you find most of your best items?
Andrea: When shopping for inventory, I try to keep an open mind. I buy things that give my shop variety and also, I buy what sells and I am less about designers and more about quality and eye appeal. I shop at pawn shops, second hand/antique shops, online retailers, flea markets, Facebook, Craigslist and estate sales. It helps that I have a network of people who always keep an eye out for things. Estate sales are where I tend to find my best items.
Margie: What is your best funny or heartwarming story that happened on your site?
Andrea: I’ve had the privilege of selling a lot of awesome stuff to some really amazing people. I’ve sold jewelry for every possible special occasion – birthdays, engagements, Valentines, Christmas, you name it. People have purchased things from me that reminded them of a loved one that they’d lost or to replace jewelry that had been lost or stolen. I’ve had jewelry end up in movies and on Broadway. I’ve sold to many celebrities and people of interest. Oh, I even had a couple of my rings show up on an album cover this past year.
But my all-time favorite sale was a white gold posy style band ring. It was engraved with initials and date (just the year) inside. I didn’t know if it would ever sell because it’s hard to sell things that have been personalized for someone else.
To my surprise, a gentleman purchased it just a couple of days after I’d listed it. Later he wrote to tell me that he’d purchased it as a wedding band to match his soon to be wife’s antique engagement ring. She had lost her mother to cancer just a few weeks prior and it just so happened that the initials inside the ring were her mother’s initials and the year her parents had been married. He surprised her on their wedding day by switching the originally purchased wedding band with the ring purchased from me. He said it was a beautifully emotional moment when he told her to look at the engraving inside the ring. I wasn’t there, but I can imagine it in my mind’s eye.
How fate and destiny must have come together in order for him to find that ring among millions of other band rings online!
Margie: What is your favorite type of jewelry, period of jewelry and/or designer? Is there an area you specialize in?
Andrea: What I love often depends on the day as my interests in jewelry are vast. I am naturally drawn to jewelry that is unusual, unique and/or one of a kind. I really like the idea of having something that no one else has regardless of whether it’s in my personal jewelry box or in Bejeweled Emporium.
Long ago I decided that I would focus on jewelry of all kinds. Having a variety allows me to cater to more people with more interests. I really don’t have a specialty.
Margie: What items do you buy that you have to keep for yourself?
Andrea: Although I’ve kept a few things over the years, when I’m shopping for inventory, I’m shopping for inventory. I try not to mix business and pleasure even though that is sometimes hard to do! There is a definite difference between what I love for my shop and what I love for myself. I hope that makes sense.
Andrea: That’s a hard question. I try to excel at everything I do but I think the one thing I do well is working hard. I never give up. If I have a slow day where sales are concerned, that just gives me the motivation I need to list more, post more, etc. so I have more sales tomorrow.
Margie: What do you like about having Bejeweled Emporium on Etsy?
Andrea: I love everything about having an online business and I like the fact that I can work in my pajamas. LOL! In my life “before the internet”, I missed milestones and worked through holidays. I don’t have to worry about those things now since I set my own hours and work at my own pace. It is a great feeling to be completely in charge of my life.
I like Etsy specifically because of the people here…I have developed a lot of really great relationships with people that I’ve met on Etsy, both sellers and buyers.
Margie: What have you found is your best source for information when you are researching an item?
Andrea: The internet, definitely. I do have a collection of books on Mexican and Native American jewelry, the rest of my information comes from the internet. The members of Vintage Jewelry Team have gathered some of the best references on the internet!
Margie: It is hard to develop good customer service online. Is there something you do special for your Bejeweled Emporium customers and if so, what is it?
Andrea: I don’t know if I would consider what I do to be special but I try to answer emails promptly and professionally. It is important to me, to be honest, and kind in all of my correspondences even when situations may not be ideal. I work hard to address any issues that may arise with grace. I ship the same day or next day unless its a postal holiday. In addition, I use packaging that is safe and presentable.
Margie: How do you use Social Media to promote Bejeweled Emporium?
Margie: What is the best advice you can give to someone else about selling vintage items?
Andrea: Ooooh, I have a lot of advice. LOL!
Never pass up a good deal on inventory even if you don’t need new/more inventory at the present time. Eventually, you will experience a dry spell and be unable to find new inventory. New listings are how we as vintage dealers survive in an over-saturated market.
Create policies for your shop and stick to them.
Do not let buyers bully or scare you into breaking your own policies or giving refunds without proving their claims and/or returning the item(s) they’ve purchased.
Negative feedback is not the end of the world. If and when you receive a less than stellar rating, first try to work it out with the buyer (with #3 in mind). Respond to reviews and messages calmly and professionally. Remember that other buyers are reading your review responses and what you say matters!
Don’t take things personally. While every customer deserves to be treated with kindness and respect, sometimes you have to understand that it’s not you; it’s nothing you did and there is likely nothing you could have done differently to make some situation turn out better.
Package and ship your items in a way that you, yourself, would like to receive them. Do not wrap jewelry in a napkin or toilet paper and just toss it in a mailer! Do not use so much tape that it takes 40 minutes for your buyer to open their purchase. Use enough padding to make for a safe journey. Use clean packaging materials and if at all possible, materials that don’t absorb smells
Whenever possible, research potential inventory before you buy it – especially “designer” jewelry. There is nothing worse than buying something you think was a great deal only to find out that there are 197 other listings of that same exact thing on Etsy right now.
Margie: Etsy is made up of independent businesses. How important do you think it is to keep your own business identity?
Andrea: In my experience, what works for one shop, may not work for another. It’s important to find your niche and your own way of standing out from the crowd. It’s fine to emulate shops that you admire but in doing so, make sure that you’re still individualizing and staying true to yourself.
Certainly, it is not a surprise that Bejeweled Emporium excels in sales and service. Above all, Andrea is living proof that hard work does pay off and that sometimes you hold your destiny squarely in your own hands.