Interview with Alexander GROVER
How did you become a jewellery enthusiast?
I am actually not so much a jewellery enthusiast as a gold and design one. I believe that gold is the ultimate store of wealth and jewellery is a means to allow one to wear their investments. Nevertheless, I have always been fascinated by design and architecture: more so the minds and people behind the design. Therefore, jewellery is a wearable form that expresses human creativity. In the past, every year, I commissioned a pair of 18K gold cufflinks (see the folder). My view is that design and art are what defines us as human beings – self-expression.
What was the start of a website https://norwegian.jewelry ? What is the mission of this project?
Originally Norwegian Jewelry was a directory of jewellery designers. Our goal was to showcase 3-4 designers from each of the original 19 Fylkekommunes (counties/region divisions in the country). The logical region divisions in the country have since been consolidated. We wanted to give foreign customers a broad overview of Norway's jewellery traditions on a single site. Later we evolved into a marketplace, selling jewellery on behalf of the designers after receiving many inquiries. The mission is to showcase leading artisan Norwegian jewellery designers and goldsmiths to the world. Perhaps the secondary mission is to boost exports of handmade items abroad.
How many jewellers do you represent?
We represent 12 with three more coming onboard for a total of 15 by the fall.
How do you choose the jewellers?
We have several criteria:
1. Commitment to handmade fabrication and ethical supply chain.
2. Commitment to the profession and proof of consumer demand – in business for at least four years with steady sales. We do make exceptions for exceptional people as we recognize there are prodigies in this trade.
3. Designer’s personal story – we want a diversity of designers from those who are in the business via family for generations to those who came later into the trade from another profession. We have designers who started right out of jewellery school,
a medical doctor, a lawyer and a chemical engineer (recently joined). We believe that life experience influences design. We seek diversity in our offerings and therefore diversity in the designers’ life stories.
4. Situated in Norway. We require that our designers reside in Norway.
How does the jewellery community in Norway accept that an American does this as a side project? Did someone try to compete?
There was scepticism at first but now that the business model is proven, we are gaining acceptance. We are focused on selling products and avoid the organisational politics associated with many non-profit trade groups. There are competitors out there: the established jewellery shops with their own websites. However, we are more easily found in the English language via Google Search due to our content. Our competitors simply list items, we tell a story, building a personal connection with the customer.
You mentioned that this project helps to export Norwegian artworks. Which countries do you sell to? Is there a customer type that you noticed?
Our customers, believe it or not, are almost 50/50 male and female over 35 with a connection to Norway. Either ancestry or they have visited before as tourists. Mostly we sell to the USA. I would have thought Minnesota would have been our largest market but most sales have been from the East Coast USA: New York, New Jersey and Massasschutes. We also do brisk sales to Australia and the UK. Yet our first sale was to Poland and our most recent to Mexico.
How do you promote your website?
Search – we write blog posts to maintain our SEO ranking. Most of our customers come via search and we rank first on searches related to Norway and jewellery.
Facebook Ads – we run ads a few times per year, receiving a 2:1 return on investment.
Blog Collaboration – we collaborate with other blogs, exchanging stories and getting the backlinks. That helps build our SEO.
What advice would you give for a jeweller in the current situation when going online is a necessity?
Hire a specialist to build and maintain your site. There are only 24 hours in a day and it should be devoted to your profession, not distracted by learning all the nuances of a new one (web design and marketing). Another option is to join a marketplace like ours, benefitting from collective marketing and synergies of being in a group. It is like having your own store out in the country vs. being in a jewellery district in a busy part of town.
Building a website is only 5% its marketing it and getting the word out that is 95%. The website is just a brochure, but then you have to distribute it. Get it in front of all the right people and that is much more expensive and difficult than just making a brochure. The same is with a website getting it out there on top of the search rankings and getting people to know about it is quite difficult. But there are professionals who can take away all that marketing responsibility.
How as an outsider do you see the taste of Norwegians? Do they like author jewellery or are they more of brand jewellery buyers?
The same Norwegian can have many style requirements. They need jewellery for the office, for their bunads (a traditional outfit to be worn on May 17th), and perhaps something more striking for the party. She may also have tattoos (Norway has a very prevalent ink culture,our tattoo artists are among the best trained and regulated in the world) and enjoy black metal concerts, requiring something goth.
I noticed that the younger people gravitate towards the branded jewellery, following the social media influencers. The older people and working professionals appear to like the local artisan jewellery more.
How is your platform different?
Our platform differs in the following ways:
We tell the designer's story so that the customer can build a connection with the designer and perhaps understand the origins of the item.
We openly give the designers contact information so that the customer can make a direct connection with the designer. (So far the designers have given me commissions on sales originating but not processed through the site).
Our marketplace is curated – we carefully select members and items.