WHEN JOHN BUECHNER FINISHED COLLEGE AT LOYOLA UNIVERSITY IN CHICAGO, HE WANTED TO BECOME A DENTIST. SO BEFORE HE BEGAN CLASSES HE TOOK A SUMMER JOB WORKING FOR HIS COUSIN, A COLORED STONE DEALER, TO EARN MONEY FOR DENTAL SCHOOL.
“I’ll give it a try,” he told his cousin. “And that was it. After a few weeks, I was hooked.” He never went to dental school and found his passion instead in the jewelry business, traveling the world to and special stones that sure make people happier than a trip to the dentist.
Thirty- ve years later, Buechner is a powerhouse in the world of colored stones and natural fancy colored diamonds. Over the years, he has built relationships with some of the most exclusive and rare stone collectors from Israel, Asia and other parts of the world who often bring these exciting gems directly to him.
“In the early years, I secured a line of credit with help from some dear friends,” says Buechner. “I immediately went overseas for colored stones and began selling stones and creating jewelry pieces.” It was a gamble that paid off.
Today, Buechner is not alone in his endeavors. Partners Cliff Wallace and Michael “Mike” Money have joined his firm, John Buechner Inc., and add their own unique talents and discerning eyes. Together, their complement of ideas makes the rm hum with energy and success.
“We are a center stone, one-of-a- kind type of business,” says Buechner. “One of us will buy an important stone, bring it back to Chicago and together we will decide what the stone will be used for – a ring, a necklace ... whatever suits that stone best.” The team considers rst and foremost the eye appeal of the center stone.
Keenly attuned to what sells, Buechner’s is more of a classic line with traditional stylings than an artsy one. He considers his hand- crafted three-stone and “Lady Diana style” rings to represent his signature look. Designed with an added dash of air and sometimes a modern style, the Buechner line’s hallmark remains traditional ele- gance with ne colored stones. “We’ve been doing it for so long – placing important diamonds on the side of a special center stone, creating conversation pieces – and it’s been successful for us for over 20 years.” Targeted for clientele who desire to make a complete statement with their jewelry ensembles, Buechner is known for creating stunning suites: rings, necklaces, earrings, bracelets. After years of producing primarily individual pieces, they took up the challenge to create complementary suites in response to client demands and the increasingly frequent question, “Don’t you have anything that goes with it?” Today, suites are hallmarks of their thriving gem business.
“We spend eighty percent of the time buying, and because of this we know a good buy when we nd it. It becomes more of a calculated risk with the odds in our favor. Sometimes, though, we buy on emotion and that can either work out great, or back re and then we’re stuck with something that doesn’t sell quickly. That’s the risk you take.” Even through the current economic slump, Buechner says, he and his partners have been able to keep the business thriving because they know their clientele and which “holes” in inventory to ll because they consistently sell well.
That’s Buechner’s business model – making calculated gambles on acquiring unique stones at the right price with the expectation that, if timed right, they will sell well and be a great return on investment. And it is usually rewarded. Buechner has learned one thing for sure, “Nice things always sell.”
“We don’t advertise to the consumer,” says Buechner. “We’ve always advertised to the stores through industry channels and we work with ner, boutique, one-of-a-kind stores that t with our own brand.” Known mostly by retailers who market and sell the designs as their own, Buechner’s jewelry is used by some of the nest jewelry stores in the country as their house brand, marketed to consumers who recognize the jewelry store’s name instead of Buechner’s.
Buechner is happy with the arrangement. He enjoys providing beautiful designs to accounts he has worked with for many years. Today, though, business has shifted towards consignment-based sales. “Stores are purchasing less and less for stock,” says Buechner. “A lot of stores are struggling and don’t want to buy an important piece they may not sell quickly.” In response, Buechner has adjusted his business model slightly by offering jewelry on consignment to loyal accounts.
Long past are the days of summer jobs and ambitions of dental school. An important voice in today’s jewelry industry and an influencer in colored stone design, Buechner and his partners now stand behind a thriving Chicago-based business that showcases ne gems and maintains strong relationships with many of the country’s nest retailers.