A Conversation with Luigi at Arnoldi Jewelers
We’ve always been curious about other local jewelers in the Bay Area – how they grew their businesses, what fuels their passion, their views of the diamond jewelry industry and much more.
We were fortunate to be introduced to Luigi from Arnoldi Jewelers in Downtown Palo Alto by our common friend Rami. We walked into his store mid-morning and were welcomed with warm smiles from his wife Catia, son Michael and Luigi himself. Within minutes of us stepping inside his store, we stepped outside for a few shots of Italian espresso coffee down the street at Cafe Venetia.
We wanted to share this amazing interview with Luigi which took place on the sidewalk of University Ave. The interview is packed with behind-the-scenes information about Arnoldi Jewelers.
From left Michael, Rami Wazni, Catia, Antonio Luigi and Kunal Sampat
Entering a conversation with Luigi.
Kunal: How did you get started?
Luigi: When I started in 1978, I was manufacturing for lot of retailers and jewelers. We were not selling anything from the shop. Everyone wanted something special for themselves. In custom jewelry the customer has to wait for the jewelry. Now I am at a point where I have a selection of jewelry for customers to look at and make immediate purchases. I still do manufacturing, but not a lot of people know about it.
Kunal: What are you best known for?
Luigi: Service! I work with designers from Italy and we carry Italian jewelry in the showroom. Our designers like to be paid well, just like any other designer. Italian jewelry is expensive, so you pay top prices. When I came here I was only importing things from Italy. I used to knock on people’s door. People looked at my prices and said, “I can buy that chain from China for a third of the price”. You are paying for quality. In the long run you are better off owning Italian jewelry. If cheap jewelry breaks, you end up paying more to fix it.
Kunal: Right now, are you mainly doing imports?
Luigi: We have to constantly re-invent. I had watches before; a shop full of watches. People try the watches in the store, get information from us and make an online purchase somewhere else. In recent years, I have half the store with estate jewelry and the other half has new jewelry. Estate jewelry has a lot of history and uniqueness. We also offer GIA certified diamonds for our new jewelry pieces.
Kunal: How did you find your designers?
Luigi: I have been working with them since a long time. I cannot restrict our designer to not work with other jewelers. They design and sell jewelry to other people but not in my backyard.
Kunal: What are the biggest mistakes you have made?
Luigi: Whatever you think is rare, doesn’t mean that it’s going to sell. In the 1980’s a new gemstone was discovered. First thing I did was, boom, I bought. It was a new gem. I bought a ton of it and I still have it to make my tombstone. Conversely, “Hearts and Arrows” and “Hearts on Fire” diamonds came out, they are 30% more expensive. I didn’t want my customers to pay that much. I always keep my customer’s interest first. What I learnt is, give people what they want. If there is a demand, you need to sell it. I lost so many sales through “Hearts and Arrows”. I can no longer get in as I am no longer a rep for them.
Kunal: What should the customers watch out for, how do they trust the jeweler?
Luigi: 99.9% all jewelers are trustworthy, but customers should do their homework. Where would you go buy your jewelry? I have been lucky to have customers from different ethnicity – Jewish, French, Indian and others. My margin so small in diamonds. Risk are very high in this business. If it does not smell good, stay away from it. Greed is the biggest enemy a jeweler has.
Kunal: How do people find out about you?
Luigi: Mainly word of mouth and these days via Yelp.
Kunal: What do you do about the jewelry that you are unable to sell?
Luigi: One thing you can never predict, you don’t know what people are going to buy. People have to see the variety and selection. The problem with watches is they go out of style, and get old. Big companies don’t want you to liquidate or discount it.
Kunal: What do you do when you wake up?
Luigi: I think about my business. In the middle of the night, I always think about. How I am going negotiate, how I am going to buy this, sell this. Money management is my priority. I am not good at reading, writing…it’s all in the head.
Kunal: Do you offer customer discount?
Luigi: 90% of the time I offer a discount to my customers. For wedding stuff, I offer no discount, not a penny, That’s the only time when a man is not cheap. If she likes the setting, he will be paying full price. Sometimes I do discount after they agreed to pay the full price. I experiment. One time, I contacted my regular customers and asked them what they thought they paid for the diamond. They all said more than they paid for. Now I understand one thing – when customers walk out of the store, they understand the value of what they bought. Relationship is very important with the customer.
Kunal: Luigi, thanks so much for talking to us today! We are truly inspired and grateful for your time. We will have to do round 2 sometime.
Luigi: You are welcome! Now let’s get back in the store.
Hope you got much value from this interview. If so, let us know if you would like us to publish more interviews in the future.