HAMMONTON — During 28 years in the jewelry business, David and Jacqueline Bruno have seen different industry swings tied to economic conditions.
When the economy is good, people are more apt to spend on fine jewelry; when the economy is down, less so.
But the downturn starting in 2007 has been different from the rest — deeper and longer than others — prompting the family-owned-and-operated Hammonton business to adapt to economic conditions, as well as major changes in the prices of metals.
“What’s happened in the last five years is nothing we’ve ever seen before,” said Jacqueline Bruno, 51, who owns David Charles Ltd. with her husband, David, 52, of Hammonton. “So we’ve had to reinvent ourselves.”
Jewelry has witnessed two major trends that have affected many others in the industry as well — how much people spend on discretionary purchases and how gold prices have soared, making traditional gold jewelry much more expensive than a decade ago.
As recently as 2000, gold was selling for less than $300 an ounce, according to the World Gold Council. After peaking at more than $1,900 an ounce in 2011, gold is trading now at about $1,575.
David Charles Ltd., while still specializing in fine jewelry, has since added high-end silver jewelry to its products.
An ounce of silver was trading at slightly less than $30 in mid-February, according to SilverPrice.org.
“People love jewelry, but when the prices are up, they can’t afford to buy the things they like. So what we try to do is still offer upscale type jewelry like we’ve always done in another price range,” Jacqueline Bruno said.
The business also diversified by carrying some costume jewelry and handbags.
The store also uses computer-aided design to manufacture its own custom jewelry at a small shop it operates in Philadelphia.
The business, a member of the Independent Jewelers Association, sells Chamilia beads and is also a pre-owned Rolex dealer.
“We diversify. Our main things have always been customer satisfaction and quality,” she said.
David Bruno first got into the jewelry business in 1983 in a somewhat unlikely way — he bought his future wife a pair of stud earrings from a jeweler who was operating from his house and wanting to sell the business.
At the time, he was working at the family’s local oil business and his wife was in the administration department at an Atlantic City casino.
Bruno bought the business, the house and some of the inventory and spent two years learning under the former owner.
“I figured I was young enough, it had potential, and I figured what do I have to lose,” he said. “I have a house, I have some inventory and I’m learning a trade. And I was young enough that if I fell on my face, I could go back to the oil company.”
The business grew, particularly through hard work and very long hours, Jacqueline Bruno said.
“We ate, slept and drank jewelry,” she said. “We were working all the time. Every new business, every young couple that tries to build a new business, you have to be able to put the time in, and that’s what we did.”
Contact Brian Ianieri:
David Charles Ltd.
Location: 516 12th St., Hammonton
Owners: David and Jacqueline Bruno, of Hammonton
Revenue: Not disclosed