The Interview: George Getschel

August 20, 2010|By Andrea K. Walker, The Baltimore Sun

George Getschel's wife might be one of the luckiest women on the planet.

As a trained gemologist who grew up in the jewelry business, he understands diamonds and exactly why they're a girl's best friend. And he has given his wife quite a few, he says.

Getschel, 33, should know his gems. His great-grandfather started the Albert Smyth Co. — one of the area's most popular jewelry retailers. He left the family business after a few years — he calls the move "a natural progression" in his career — to attend graduate school and then work for Tiffany & Co.

His latest venture is director of the Tiffany store to open Sept. 3 at Towson Town Center in the mall's luxury wing. The 3,700-square-foot store will feature many of the architectural elements of its flagship boutique in New York. It will include polished marble, a stone arch at the entrance and large glass show windows.

Getschel talked recently with The Baltimore Sun about his new gig, how he came to love jewelry and what customers can expect at the new store.

Question: What is a gemologist and how did you become one?

Answer: I'm a graduate gemologist. I went to the Gemological Institute of America to receive that. And basically that is somebody who can define and evaluate gemstones. I have a lifelong history in jewelry. I grew up in the family business. I was there at a very young age, and I worked in all elements of the jewelry business. I was taking gemology classes as a teenager. It's not exactly what every teenager does.

Q: What drew you to being a gemologist?

A: Everything, but I particularly liked diamonds. I don't know if it's something I would have chosen otherwise. But since my family was in the business, it made sense. And when I did it, I found that it was interesting.

Q: How did you come to work for Tiffany & Co. and end up leaving the family business?

A: It was just a natural progression for me. There was a certain level when there wasn't much more for me to do [at Smyth]. I did go back to school and get my MBA from Georgetown. I was unsure what direction I was going to go next. The summer between the two years of the program, I spent some time at Sotheby's Auction in New York identifying and evaluating rare estate jewelry. When I graduated, that is when I came to Tiffany & Co. I went to Philadelphia, where I worked in the store on Walnut Street. But this is coming home for me. My friends and family are all in Baltimore.

Q: You didn't want to run the family business?

A: I love the path that I'm on.

Q: You'll be competing against the family business; how will that be?

A: We'll be in the same market. But my family is very supportive, and they are excited to have me back in Baltimore.

Q: Were you surprised Tiffany decided to open a store in this market?

A: We're very diligent in doing the proper research. And there's really no other location between Philadelphia and Bethesda, if you look at where our customers were traveling. It really does make sense. The more I look at it, I think it's going to be a great situation.

Q: What do you like best about your job?

A: Working with the customers who are celebrating special moments. Engagements are always exciting. We've actually had in-store engagements we've been a part of. I also like milestone moments, like 40th anniversaries where people are buying a gift of jewelry. When you get to be involved in that moment, it can be exciting for us. I've sold engagement rings to just about every one of my friends.

Q: So you have to keep the secret?

A: [Laughs.] Yes, that is part of my job.

Q: Do you have a favorite kind of jewelry?

A: Diamonds. I am very passionate about diamonds. I just love everything about them. Their rarity.

Q: What is hot in diamonds?

A: We are launching a yellow diamond collection. I think that's huge and exciting for us as a company. That is something that is going to be a fashion trend. But a lot of what we focus on is timeless design. Like the Tiffany classic solitaire — a round brilliant diamond in a six-prong mounting. We were really the first company to do that. We came up with that design in 1886. We were the first to set it up in prongs. Prior to that, they were set down flat. We did it to showcase the quality of the diamond. If the diamond was not cut well or had a yellowish tint, you would notice it.

Q: What can people expect from the new store?

A: They can expect to have an amazing Tiffany experience. There will be architectural elements like the flagship store in New York. It's going to be very upscale, very classy. We'll have a full assortment of jewelry that includes all of our designers.

Q: What are some of the more affordable pieces for consumers, especially now as many try to cut back on spending because of the economy?

A: We have price points from under $100 to more than $100,000. Sometimes we have a certain area where we put silver jewelry items that are under $100 and gift items that are $100 and under.

Q: Why do you think Tiffany's has such lasting cachet with customers?

A: It is really the quality design and the services; the quality everyone knows around the world. We were the company that brought fine jewelry to the United States. I think people trust us when it comes time for those important life moments — engagements, weddings and anniversaries.


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