Are these also stores you have had a relationship with throughout Suna’s 70 year history?
Yes. Many of the stores we sell to are 2nd or 3rd generation clients. Our business is built on long term relationships and we’re very proud of our “extended family.”
Do you ever decide to limit the production of certain pieces in order to make limited editions?
We don’t normally have limited editions because from a business stand point we hope to sell a great deal of them. But it doesn’t always work that way. For every ten designs, probably two or three are really popular. It’s the old business saying: 20% of your product creates 80% of your sales. So I guess you might say that we do have some limited editions.
Have you ever had a line for men?
We have never had a full men’s line but we do make some beautiful cufflinks that complement some of our collections.
I wear a pair of cufflinks from our Parquet collection. We also have Parquet studs for formal wear, and some nautical knot cufflinks and stud sets. What separate our cufflinks from others are the findings. Our wingbacks are not just a wingback. Ours have the parquet or other appropriate design. This is all part of the attention to detail that I have been talking about. We make our own cufflink and stud findings, so the findings are made of spring hard gold. Its a little detail that you wouldn’t think much of but it makes it so that the first or 1,000th time you click it’s going to work perfectly. You will never have a problem with our pieces. That’s the Suna difference.
How about One-of-a-Kind Items?
We often create a One-of-a-kind item, especially when we acquire an unusual stone. For example, in the early 1990’s we purchased an exquisite Mintabie Black Opal of rare color and shape. In fact, it was a triangle. When we were invited to enter the American Gem Trade Association’s contest for colored stones, we presented the stone to our designer. She designed a six stone ‘pie’ design held in place by an onyx base. The piece was exquisite and won first place.
How many people do you employ?
We employ about 35 people including factory and office staff. We also have independent contractors who perform certain outside functions. Otherwise, we would be well over 50. For example, a lot of our casting is done outside. Casting is a specialty where our standards are very, very high especially in regard to porosity (pinpoint holes or cavities in the metal). If it is not done correctly the results can be disappointing. We find that by going to a specialist, we’re able to eliminate that department from our internal operations.
Next the piece will be cleaned. In our case, we the model maker who made the piece be responsible for this. That becomes the actual model for the piece. If the piece is made directly into metal then the first one is the model. Once you have finished the model, and it’s approved by the design group, a mold is made which allows us to duplicate the piece. Then the casting is done in gold, silver or platinum.
If a woman could only have one piece of jewelry in her wardrobe what should it be?
That’s a very difficult question. However, I would have to say a classic pair of earrings because my wife tells me that she doesn’t feel fully dressed without her earrings.
I would suggest gold with diamond accents, something that a woman could wear to work and then to dinner. The cliché that a woman shouldn’t wear diamonds during the day doesn’t hold anymore.
Is Suna a good investment?
If you are talking about equating it to stocks and bonds, I would never suggest you buy jewelry to put away in a vault and wait for appreciation. Jewelry is a good investment from the standpoint that there are very few items that you can buy and enjoy while you own it and with the likelihood that it will also increase in value throughout the generations. If you think about it, in twenty or thirty years most cars or furs are not going to be worth more. In most cases jewelry will.
Is the piece then ready for shipping?
No. Once the casting comes back, we have it inspected. Then highly skilled jewelers will continue to “bring it out.” This is difficult to describe in generalities because each piece is different and some involve many component parts. Sometimes, we will get a more precise casting by creating individual smaller parts. Then the components need to be cleaned properly inside and out and assembled. What separates our pieces from many others is that when you examine the piece, it ‘s as well finished on the inside, as the outside. By assembling component parts and pre-polishing before the stones are set you can perfect areas that would be impossible to reach after the entire piece is assembled. Finally, the item is set, polished and registered in our inventory books. A unique number is ascribed to each piece so we have a complete record that includes exact weight, amount of stones and so on. Then it goes through our quality inspection, and if it passes it’s packaged and shipped.
Lets talk about trends. Are you observing any at this point and can you identify them? Is there a look of the 21st century? Where are we headed?
Today’s trend is a return to classic design and classic settings. We have seen a resurgence and demand for clean classic pieces. Also, the demand for platinum is extremely high right now and this is a tremendous comeback from what it had been. Thirty years ago yellow gold was the king, much more popular than platinum. Today we manufacture probably at least as much platinum as yellow gold. Also, pavé settings have come back and frankly I don’t know the reason. It just seems that we have more and more demand for everything pavé.
People also seem to enjoy whimsical designs. We have a starfish collection, fish designs, dogs and cats. All of our designs are tasteful, fashionable and striking and like other unusual pieces, very popular.
Let’s talk about being a family owned business. What do you see as the benefits?
I work with my mother, Perle Suna and my brother Jonathan. A family business does have its challenges so the best way to meet them is to divide things into specific areas of responsibility. For example, my mother oversees sales, deals with the stores, and the inventory. My brother supervises the manufacturing of the product, our factory and buying loose diamonds and precious stones. Everything else falls under my jurisdiction. We find that by being a family business we’re able to respond more quickly to trends and customers more readily than a bigger public entity. We have the flexibility to make a change on a dime. The three of us can sit down, make a decision and that day or the next it’s implemented. So I definitely think that’s part of our strength; the ability to respond quickly and to maintain the relationships that we have built over 70 years.
Tell me about your retail outlets. What stores do you work with nationwide?
We sell to a cross section of retailers throughout the United States. Our product is found in major independent jewelry stores such as Shreve and Co. in San Francisco and Shreve, Crump and Low in Boston. It is also found in specialty stores like Neiman-Marcus and Saks Fifth Avenue and in New York’s Fifth Avenue jewelry stores. In addition, we are also sold through hundreds of independent jewelry stores, many of which have been family run for several generations.
What about the popularity of colored stones versus diamonds?
At this point we still see a trend for diamond jewelry as opposed to colored jewelry. At various times you might see some leaning towards the cabochons, the colored stones and semi-precious stones but the overwhelming trend is in diamond jewelry.
What advise can you give the consumer that can help them avoid common mistakes when buying an important piece of jewelry?
Often, people buy a look over quality. This applies not only to expensive jewelry but all jewelry. They don’t really do their homework before making a purchase For example, a consumer would not buy a car without researching what brands are available. But very often a customer makes a purchase only to regret they didn’t invest more wisely in an item of higher quality which, in turn, has more intrinsic value.
What is the particular reason that platinum seems to be your metal of choice?
We have worked in platinum for more than 70 years. Prior to 1950 most high end, expensive jewelry was manufactured in platinum. Platinum is the most precious of all metals. It is 90% to 95% pure. It is has substantial weight and a strength that is unmatched. This makes it the most sought after metal in the world. It’s also more visually appealing and enhances the high color of Suna diamonds.
What should a young couple about to purchase their engagement rings and wedding band consider?
I think again that it goes back to the quality and longevity issue. They should consider the overall quality of a piece rather than the specific weight. Many young couples purchase diamonds based on their size not their quality. Often they become disappointed that they did not invest more wisely in their first major purchase as a couple.
They should also consider the longevity of the style that they chose. Often, brides are reluctant to re-mount or re-design their original engagement ring.
Who is buying jewelry? With more woman in the work force are women buying for themselves?
Absolutely! Women are definitely buying more for themselves. Everyone loves to reward themselves for a job well-done and women are not waiting for someone else to acknowledge their success. Jewelry makes a personal statement; it’s an expression of a woman’s unique style, taste and inherent passion for excellence. And who doesn’t feel great when they are wearing something beautiful?
Isn’t it true that jewelry is the perfect accessory because a piece can change the look of a woman’s outfit?
Absolutely, I think that’s part of what makes a lot of our collections great. For example, we make a very dramatic dragonfly pin that can be worn on a shoulder, a lapel or even in a woman’s hair. Depending on the placement of the piece it can be whimsical, dramatic or understated.
Suna jewelry, especially our gold with diamond accent pieces, can be worn throughout the day and easily makes the transition into evening. And our more dramatic pieces can dress up any business suit into nighttime wear.
Who is involved in the dialogue of the creative process from conception to completion of Suna's collections?
The main voices are myself and our designer Maria Canale. But we also like to get input from our sales team who actually deals with the retailers. Some of the best ideas we get are from the retail stores because they can identify a new trend or concept by talking to their customers. With all this information assembled, we transform these verbal ideas and mental images into a pencil sketch.
What is the next step?
In the pencil sketching process our designer will create maybe 25 renderings of the concept. It’s an evolution that also changes and develops through dialogue. Ultimately, we end up with a color rendering from the designer that’s a much more accurate picture of the proposed piece.
Next, our model makers will construct the prototype in our factory working from the renderings. Depending on the piece, some models are made in wax while others are more suitable to be formed in metal. This all depends on the nature of the piece.
So the degree of complexity will make you decide whether you should proceed in metal or wax?
No. It depends on the nature of the piece. Some pieces have a lot of carving and modulation and they are more suitable to remain in wax. Other pieces, if they contain a lot of wire work, may be more suitable to be made in metal. If the piece is ultimately to be made in platinum, we may lean towards making it in metal because you can make everything slightly more precise. If you make the piece in wax then the piece has to be cast and normally we would cast the first wax in silver.