First-generation Texas jeweler finds niche in custom design
Gemologist Joseph Villarreal is the owner of Villarreal Fine Jewelers, a retail appointment jewelry business in Austin. Ninety percent of her business is focused on engagement and marriage. The remaining 10% comes from affluent collectors, who prefer to buy by appointment. “The best compliment I have ever received is, ‘Wow, Joe, you exceeded my expectations.'”
Q&A with Joseph Villarreal
THE JEWELERY DETOUR. My interest in rocks evolved into geology and I thought I wanted to work for oil companies. But the oil was not doing well at the time. It was a fluke that made me go from geology to gemology. My brother and I both attended the GIA in Santa Monica.
IDEAL DAY OF HOLIDAY? Play golf on a weekday. I also have a lot of friends who are business owners and I don’t know how they find the time to play so much golf. I’m lucky if I play twice a month.
PLEASANT CRITICISMS. We are constantly asking our customers how they heard about us. Ultimately, they come to us because of the reviews from Google. And then they say, “After talking with you, Joe, we felt you were a better match for us.” You had the experience and the knowledge.
KNOWLEDGE IS POWER. You have to know what you are talking about. It’s all about education. Jewelry and precious stones are blind items for consumers. This is why they are very hesitant to buy. They see the prices everywhere. They see fictitious prices, like a constant 50% reduction. This kind of practice made me want to do better and it made me want to be very pro-consumer, in particular by educating the consumer. Not that I thought I was a fat guy, but once you have that education you certainly know more than the average consumer.
BIG TICKETS. I was the first in Austin to create a custom design from scratch. My average engagement ring sale is $ 7,500 to $ 10,500. We sold more in 2020 than we sold the previous year by 30%. There were a lot of bigger tickets. I wholesaled a stone worth half a million that belonged to a private collector which I sold to a private collector.